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Stop blaming yourself for the climate crisis

Stop blaming yourself for the climate crisis

Posted: Aug 13, 2021 4:20 PM
Updated: Aug 13, 2021 4:20 PM

I live in a valley surrounded by jagged mountains -- the kind that attract the Winter Olympics. This weekend, wildfire smoke was so thick that it blotted them out completely, making Utah look like the Great Plains. The sun was reduced to a pinhole of hellish red. Anyone who stepped outside felt their chest close, and some went to the hospital.

This isn't breaking news. Smoke is now a quotidian feature of summer in the American West. These semi-apocalyptic scenarios -- not just fires, but rising seas, floods, drought, extinction -- will become a horrific "normal" unless governments move at breakneck speed to not just reduce but eliminate fossil fuel pollution in our lifetimes.

That fact, which the leaders of the world's biggest economies and governments have been talking about for decades now, was blatantly obvious in the pages of a report released Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientists from around the world found that burning fossil fuels already has pushed the planet more than 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We could cross the critical 1.5-degree threshold of warming around 2030, and we are on pace to unleash a catastrophic 3 degrees of warming by about 2100.

These numbers sound abstract, but they are the keys to how the world looks and feels for us and for future generations -- the keys to whether New York is underwater or whether the Amazon dries up; to whether the West remains habitable and whether millions globally continue to die each year from fossil-fuel pollution. Climate change is a complex game of probability, but the underlying truth could not be clearer: We must stop burning fossil fuels -- coal, oil, natural gas -- as soon as possible. Less pollution equals less warming and less danger.

None of this is truly new. The first IPCC released its first report on global warming in 1990, two years after NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the US Senate that global warming had begun.

What's new is that the global public is waking up to these dangers. We feel them in our day-to-day lives.

We also are smart enough to realize that this isn't our fault.

For decades, fossil-fuel companies and politicians have pushed a false narrative that if we change our habits -- drive electric cars, fly less, cut beef from our diets -- that they won't need to make wholesale changes to the economy. Individual actions matter in that they can reduce emissions, and they do connect each of us to a massive global crisis. All of that's good. But, alone, it is nowhere near enough to battle the climate crisis on the scale that's required.

The narrative must shift from one of individual responsibility -- if I turn off this lightbulb, I'm saving the planet -- to one of governmental and corporate accountability. In the United States, this means the voting public must force Congress to enact sweeping climate legislation. The Biden administration says it aims to make this country carbon-neutral by 2050, which is in line with what the science requires. Lawmakers will have to get us there, however, and to date they have not shown that they are willing (or able) to make the kinds of changes needed.

The United States must make significant legislative strides to signal its commitment to change in order to have any relevance at the international climate negotiations taking place later this year in Glasgow, Scotland. The current focus is a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that includes a Clean Electricity Standard, along with other strong climate provisions. Better still would be passing a national carbon tax that could make polluting far more expensive.

It does appear that most Americans understand the urgency here. An estimated 52% of Americans say that global warming should be a "high priority" for Congress and the president, according to a 2020 national survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

More of us must join this struggle in ways that put institutional accountability ahead of individual behavior. Without more constant pressure from citizens, governments and corporations will continue doing what they have been for decades now -- saying they support clean energy while continuing to spew deadly pollutants into the atmosphere.

It's natural to step outside into wildfire smoke or record temperatures or extreme storms and think "this is hopeless." It's not hopeless. And it's not your fault. Please try to banish those thoughts from your mind.

Instead, pressure your government to end the fossil fuel era. Depending on your politics, you could do that by joining national or local groups that are pushing for a carbon-neutral future. Read up on solutions like those assessed by the non-profit Project Drawdown. Write to or call your US senators and tell them that you vote on climate and expect them to do so as well.

This is a "code red" moment for humanity, as the UN secretary-general put it recently. It's also a moment when humans can prove we're capable of creating a safer and healthier future.

The-CNN-Wire
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Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
Out of AL00
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Tupelo
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Hi: 57° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 54°
Columbus
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54° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 54°
Oxford
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52° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 52°
Starkville
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Hi: 58° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 52°
We are starting off cold once again this morning with temperatures in the 30's, some below freezing and with a slight north wind it is feeling even colder. High pressure builds back into our area today with more sunshine.
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