I know you care about the environment, Rep. Mike Garcia, because you championed the Rim of the Valley Preservation Plan for several years, and last year you voted for the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, which includes that plan. You also introduced the FIRE Act, to improve wildfire detection and forecasting, and you voted for the Great American Outdoors Act, to protect and preserve our great national parks. These are important and needed actions, and I commend you for them.
Now, however, I challenge you to rise to the more urgent needs of today. You have many issues to consider, but the threat of nuclear war and the climate chaos caused by overheating the planet are the most dangerous existential crises of our time. These two issues alone put our entire global civilization in jeopardy and should be foremost among your priorities. This letter, though, is focused only on the climate.
According to scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which includes 195 member states, we have less than a decade to get greenhouse gas emissions under control to avoid permanently altering our climate systems (not in a good way) and prevent the worst extreme weather events. To cut emissions soon enough, we have to go beyond baby steps and address climate change aggressively and directly at its source: the burning of fossil fuels.
When you’re fighting a five-alarm fire, it makes sense to stop piling on the fuel. That means we must stop giving $6 billion per year in subsidies to the fossil fuel companies, and instead use every lever we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground; tax fossil fuel companies for their polluting emissions and give the money collected back to the people; and ramp up our support for safe, cheap, renewable energy from sun, wind and geothermal sources. Start by shifting the $6 billion in subsidies to renewables.
Pseudo-solutions like carbon capture, geo-engineering and nuclear energy will not help. Carbon capture is only a dream at the moment; none of the current methods can be scaled up enough, or in time, to do any good. Most forms of geo-engineering are untested and have the potential to cause even more damage to the environment than the problem they aim to fix. Nuclear energy, if its entire life-cycle is considered, is the third-highest carbon emitter after scrubbed coal-fired plants and natural gas, according to Beyond Nuclear. Furthermore, it takes too long (10-20 years from planning to execution) to build a nuclear plant. They aren’t even close to being cost-effective and we have no safe place to put the radioactive waste they generate, which is hazardous for literally millions of years.
You’re proud of being a fighter pilot. Now we need you to be a fighter for the planet, to keep our world livable for all our children, including yours, and all future generations. To start, you could join the Conservative Climate Caucus, and together figure out how to keep our city, county, state and country from drying up and burning, or at the other extreme, flooding and washing away communities and agricultural lands. You could co-sponsor the Growing Climate Solutions Act, to encourage farmers to regenerate their soil so it sequesters more carbon. Or you could introduce even better, more comprehensive bills.
You represent everyone in this district, and every person is affected in some way by the climate crisis. Lack of water and scorching heat are the biggest issues. The availability of fresh water from snowpack is decreasing, our aquifers are being overdrawn, our reservoirs are drying up, and the Colorado River isn’t providing enough water anymore. Some of our crops can’t produce in the extreme heat, outdoor workers are struggling in the triple-digit temperatures that go on for days, and kids’ sports teams can’t always practice and play because it’s just too hot. Yet we go on with business as usual, blind to these changes that are not temporary and are in fact worsening.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Washington, D.C., is one of the coastal cities that will be inundated by rising seas if we don’t change course, or poisoned by radioactivity should one of the nearby nuclear power plants be flooded. Think Fukushima Daiichi. We are not immune.
It’s past time for an all-hands-on-deck approach to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Congressman Garcia, and I’m challenging you to apply your intelligence and creativity to this most urgent task. We’re all depending on you.