What will you tell your children?

September 22, 2018

Re: “Warmer world boosts storms’ dangers,” Nation & World, and “Texas did just fine without coal plants,” Business, Chris Tomlinson, Sept. 15:

These two articles draw into stark relief these problems. While climate deniers are quick to assert that hurricanes, wildfires and droughts have always occurred, evidence clearly shows that human-influenced climate change exasperates the natural system, making these events both more frequent and more intense.

Coal is a major culprit. Coal not only adds significantly more carbon to the atmosphere than cheaper, cleaner, Texas-produced natural gas, coal also contributes to respiratory illness by releasing co-contaminants into our air, impacting our health, especially that of the very young and the elderly.

The fear tactic of stating we can’t stop using coal to generate electricity because costs will skyrocket are clearly refuted in Tomlinson’s commentary, which reveals that despite the decommissioning of three coal plants by Vista Energy Corp (enough to power 2.8 million homes) and a record hot summer, ERCOT was able to meet demand with wind, solar and natural gas generation of electricity. The sky did not fall and prices did not hit the moon.

The city of San Antonio is engaged in a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan in an attempt to meet the Paris climate accord’s goal of not exceeding a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise. CPS Energy has promised to shutter the J.T. Deely coal-fired power plant by year’s end. It must keep this promise if there is any hope of meeting our climate goals. But as important as local action is, the climate question must be addressed at the national level.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an international grass-roots organization, and the Climate Leadership Council, a largely industry-backed organization (e.g., BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, GM, to name a few) with deep Republican roots (Republican elder statesmen George Schultz and James Baker co-authored the council’s carbon pricing plan), have put forth very similar proposals — tax carbon and return the funds as a dividend to the American people.

Such a proposal is revenue-neutral, market-driven and financially responsible, especially to those who may be negatively impacted by a rising cost of energy. Taxing carbon will also make other technologies more competitive as rising fossil fuel costs make solar, wind, carbon capture and storage, and other emerging technologies more economically advantageous.

Complaints of subsidizing clean energy are laughable when one considers that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry proposes subsidizing “uneconomical coal and nuclear power plants,” as Tomlinson reports, to the tune of $3 billion.

So, what will you tell your children? What did you do to help prevent the ravages of climate change?

Our representatives in Congress have a responsibility to look to the future, not just the next election cycle. Congress needs to enact legislation to address the threat of more frequent and severe storms, droughts and wildfires.

Stuart Birnbaum lives in Helotes and is a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby in San Antonio.

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