On Saturday afternoons, I visit the farmer’s market in New York City’s Union Square: walking my dog, dropping off my compost, and picking up our regions’ finest produce and goods. And every week I pass the climate clock as it continues to wind down, a regular reminder of the stark reality of the climate crisis on the same streets Superstorm Sandy flooded over eight years ago.
As mapped out in the 2018 IPCC special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, we are already experiencing 1°C of warming, and we have less than a decade to turn around the worst of the climate crisis.
So here we find ourselves, in midst the climate decade. As our communities face the compound crises of COVID-19, economic and racial injustice, and climate disasters, transformative climate action offers the opportunity to tackle the root of these pandemics: moving off fossil fuels toward community-led 100% renewable energy solutions.
Every single institution — from Lehigh Valley community organizations and institutions to the Biden administration — has a responsibility to ensure that we tackle the root of the climate crisis and build a world that puts people and planet first.
As far back as the 1970s, fossil fuel companies like Exxon knew about the reality of the climate crisis. Instead of telling the rest of us, company executives ignored their own scientists’ warnings, buried the science, raised the height on their oil rigs anticipating sea level rise, and embarked on a decades-long and ongoing campaign of deception, delay, and doubt.
We lost four pivotal years of potential climate action under the Trump administration, faced with a deluge of attacks on our climate and communities as they lined the oily pockets of the already-ultra-wealthy at the expense of our health and safety. Our work now is to reverse Trump’s targeted environmental destruction, go beyond to secure bold and inclusive climate action, and rebuild a truly just and representative democracy, responsive to the will of the people — not of privilege, greed, and racism. Fossil fuels companies have profited off climate destruction, and it’s time to make polluters pay.
Our communities — particularly Black, Indigenous, poor, and communities of color — are bearing the brunt of those lies. From climate impacts like deadly heat, extreme winters, year-round fires, and record-breaking hurricanes, to the environmental injustices of pollution and extraction, communities are owed climate reparations — direct resources and services to rebuild and recover.
There’s good news: over half of people in America support bold and transformative governmental action, as well as making polluters pay for their destruction. The fact that fossil fuel companies are purposefully destroying our planet means that an alternative is possible — one centered in collective community care.
Our communities elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be real climate leaders. They’ve already stopped the Keystone XL pipeline and re-joined the global Paris climate agreement, and now it’s up to all of us to make sure they follow through on climate action at the scale that science and justice demand.
We can’t just build back better, we need to build back fossil free. This means immediate action: (1) pass a climate test on all new fossil fuel infrastructure; (2) reject permits for the Line 3 and Dakota Access Pipelines; and (3) ask Attorney Generals to investigate the Fossil Fuel industry.
Now is our time to leap toward a just recovery and fully transform our society into a true democracy where the will of all the people determines the actions of our leaders.
Lindsay (she/her) is a third-generation Jewish New Yorker currently serving as the U.S. Communications Manager with 350.org, a global climate organization and movement working to end the era of fossil fuels and usher in a 100% renewable energy economy. Lindsay graduated from Lehigh University in 2014, where she studied the intersections of Economics and Environmental Studies. She worked with the Alliance for Sustainable Communities to have the Bethlehem Area School District’s adopt a comprehensive Climate and Sustainability Commitment. You can find her on twitter @lindsaymeim14.