This week I am participating in a press conference on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Climate Ethics Campaign. This campaign is designed “to broaden the debate about climate change in the U.S. beyond economic self-interest and scientific uncertainty to also, at all times, include the moral and ethical obligations Americans have to: a) prevent unjustifiable suffering and death; b) honor the principles of equity and justice; and c) protect the natural environment that is the source of all life. “
I serve on the Board of Directors of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, and while I cannot and do not speak for them, I know that there are many legislators across our fifty states who believe as I do that taking action to reduce climate change is the moral imperative of our time.
Legislators come from different faith backgrounds, different political parties, different regions, different educational, economic, and social backgrounds. And yet we have much in common: I think we all take our responsibilities seriously to make this world a better place for our constituents and future generations. For myself, just thinking about my five grandchildren inspires me to put a top priority on our stewardship of the earth.
Although climate change is a global problem, the impacts are strongly felt at the state and local levels. Similarly, although policies to address climate change are needed at the international and national levels, most of the implementation will occur at state and local levels.
Already, we’re experiencing massive local impacts, such as the drought in Texas; the massive flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers this year; and the heavy downpours that severe storms like Hurricane Irene have delivered.
In fact, our state legislatures have not waited for the federal government to take action. While debate continues on a national renewable portfolio standard for utilities, for example, many states have adopted an RPS; some states have denied permits to coal-fired power plants; some have set higher more energy-efficient building standards; others require state fleets to purchase the most fuel efficient vehicles or to use a certain percentage of biofuels. My point is this: many states recognize the urgency of the situation and are taking action now.
Our cities, counties and towns are also moving forward on reducing carbon emissions. Arlington, for example, has adopted an ambitious Community Energy and Sustainability plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per capita from the current 13.4 metric tons to no more than 3.0 metric tons by 2050. Jay Fisette, former Chairman of the Arlington County Board called together a large task force of business and community leaders to formulate the plan.
Now is the time for citizens to speak up and call on all our elected representatives — federal, state, and local – to respond to the call of the climate ethics campaign, to step out and lead, and to actually fund the efforts needed to deal with the crisis of climate change.
Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]