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Columnist Marty Nathan: The temperature is rising, and so are we

  • People stand in the sun and look at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Thursday July 25, 2019, when a new all-time high temperature of 42.6 degrees Celsius (108.7 F) hit the French capital.  AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh

Published: 7/31/2019 3:20:10 PM

The globe is heating, we are feeling it, the possibilities and power for fighting it are expanding and the fossil fuel companies and their frontmen are dissimulating and attacking. It is a war for our future, and the struggle is fierce and mercurial.

The mid-July blistering heat on the East Coast made tangible for us in Western Mass the global trend. A second heatwave in Europe last week shattered records in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Alaska, a series of wildfires driven by record high temperatures consumed more than 1 million acres of forest. Similar fires in Greenland and Siberia have combined to make 2019’s Arctic wildfires unprecedented in recorded history. The fires and heatwaves punctuated climate reports that June 2019 was the hottest June ever observed, with July on pace to become Earth’s hottest month on record. Let me repeat that: hottest month on record, ever.

Years ago, my son liked to ask what would happen if a tornado occurred at the same time and place as an earthquake. Eight-year-old boys love to think about disasters and compound them in all kinds of configurations, like LEGOs.

But that kind of scenario is best left in the imagination of a second grader, not invading our reality: Arctic forest fires further heating our climate, destroying the forest that sinks excess carbon and releasing tundra methane, a super-greenhouse gas — all advancing global warming. 

The heat causes seas to rise. Scientists recently have reconsidered the thinking about glacier melting, again finding that things are worse than we had thought. Glaciers that meet the ocean in Alaska and Antarctica are being heated from both above (the warmer air) and below (the warmer sea), causing them to melt faster and move faster to the ocean than had been predicted.

In face of the bad news, though, our technology and political movement to confront the climate crisis are gaining steam.

Forbes magazine touted a deal by Los Angeles Power and Water officials “on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin.” The massive array will serve 7 percent of the city’s electricity demand at 1.997¢/kwh for solar energy and 1.3¢ for power from batteries, according to Forbes. Cheap, realistic and set to begin producing in 2023.

■In the midst of the heatwave, the sweltering technocrats of the European Investment Bank unveiled a plan to phase out financial support for fossil fuel projects by the end of 2020, for a “fossil-free EIB.”

■New York state just passed a sweeping emissions reduction and renewable energy measure, called “the most ambitious legal mandate for cutting greenhouse gases in the nation,” requiring an 85 percent reduction over the next three decades and a carbon-free electric system by the year 2040, as Politico reported.

■I think of Berkeley, California’s, resolution to become the first city in the country to ban the use of natural gas in all new low-rise residences as the logical progression of Northampton’s resolution to accept Columbia Gas’s moratorium on all new gas hookups rather than building a new pipelines to serve our region. The Berkeley idea is being favorably reviewed by other California cities.

■There is good news in Boston, too. After years of citizen lobbying for just climate bills, House Speaker Deleo finally responded with his “GreenWorks” legislation, which just last week passed the House. It will provide over $1 billion in bonds supporting new local climate resilience and mitigation initiatives, including support for microgrids, municipal sustainability coordinators and electric vehicles. Not on the same plane with New York, but it is a needed step forward. 

Meanwhile, in Washington, the White House continues to ram through its policies of drill, pump and burn, ignoring the rising temperatures, fires and melting glaciers. It lobs racist attacks on four brave Congresswomen of color, one of whom initiated with our Ed Markey the closest thing we have yet seen to a comprehensive and doable answer to the climate crisis, the Green New Deal. Behind Trump’s bigoted miasma, greed-fueled destruction rules the day.

Never has there been a more important time to act. It is a relief to join with our friends in New York state, Berkeley, L.A. and (who would have thunk it?) the EIB.

Boston has made a start. Let’s push it forward. Call Gov. Baker at 888-870-7770 and Transportation, Utilities and Energy Co-Chair Rep. Thomas Golden at 617-722-2263 and tell them each that we need stronger legislation to face the climate emergency. Massachusetts must pass the bill for 100 percent renewable energy (S.1958) and also establish a fair price on carbon (H.2810) this session.

Listen to 16-year-old Greta Thunberg who calls us to strike and protest for climate justice on Sept. 20. You will be joining hundreds of thousands of people around the world who refuse to lose the world we love without a fight. For more information, go to sunrisenorthampton.org.

The temperature is rising — and so are we.

Marty Nathan, MD, is a physician, mother and grandmother and serves on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW and the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She may be reached at martygjf@comcast.net.




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