COMMENTARY | A View of the Climate Emergency

Tim Whitehouse

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A View of the Climate Emergency

barren tree representing drought and desertification as a result of climate changeWith a mega drought and record heat wave engulfing much of the western United States, one question we often get is how we plan to work on climate change issues with so much dysfunction in Washington.

The good news is advancements in wind, solar and battery storage technologies mean a decarbonized electricity supply may be within our grasp despite the political gridlock in this country. However, given the power of the fossil fuel industry and the far-right, we can’t take this transition for granted and must step up our efforts to support laws and policies that move us to a clean energy economy.

However, as an organization with deep roots in the conservation movement, we know that just replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy will not stop the climate crisis. Renewable energy production requires the use of precious natural resources, causes pollution, and results in habitat destruction, species loss and greenhouse gas emissions. While this destruction is less than that of fossil fuels, these impacts cannot be ignored or discounted.

That’s why we will be so heavily invested in putting teeth into the President’s vision to conserve 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 (see page 1). Opponents of this vision are calling it a land grab, and the President’s initial roadmap for realizing this vision steps back from his ambitious campaign promises and simply calls for support of ‘voluntary’ local efforts to ‘conserve’ working lands and waters.

That’s not enough. This moment in history calls for bold action on conservation as part of any climate plan. Our work this coming year will include increasing the amount of park wilderness in the National Park Service, implementing a green parks program, reforming the BLM’s grazing program, reining in destructive recreation on federal lands, increasing the number of Marine Monuments, and reviewing proposals for new energy projects for compliance with environmental laws. All of these steps are necessary to address climate change and save our planet.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and stopping species extinction, land degradation and deforestation are monumental and interrelated challenges. Time is too short, and the climate math is too rigorous, for us not to engage as heavily as possible in helping our country address all aspects of this national climate emergency.

This article will be appear in the summer edition of PEEReview, our quarterly newsletter. Donate today to have PEEReview delivered directly to your home or inbox. 

Tim Whitehouse, Executive Director of PEERTim Whitehouse is the Executive Director of PEER. Among other things, Tim formerly served as an EPA enforcement attorney.

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