The Earth is burning and Republicans are doing nothing to put out the fire

By Rich HeilandColumnist, The Times

IT IS HOT here in West Chester, the place we now call home. It’s not hot by the standards of our old home in East Texas where heat indexes for the past week or two, and projected into the future, are somewhere around 110. No relief in sight.

It’s not hot like it is in Vegas, or West Texas or any number of places. Our daughter checked in from Prague, where she and her family now live, and it was 96 degrees on the way to 98. That is in a place with much less air conditioning than in the States. In China heat indexes across major cities have been topping 100, with no relief in sight.

Over the past few weeks here in downtown West Chester we have alternated between orange and red air quality alerts. The difference is it is higher when all the smoke from the Quebec wildfires comes down and turns our vistas into a yellow-brown haze. When it is just low-level car emissions and other pollution, it is red, which we have come to accept as tolerable since we don’t have lung ailments.

Fires are burning around the world. Storms are getting worse. Our old home place in Vermont was in the middle of the raging floods that hit that state this past week.

It’s time for everyone to realize what is at stake, and accept that sacrificing to save the planet does not mean giving up everything in our lives

And yet, Republicans continue to claim climate change is not real. In fact, in Texas their incredibly cruel governor, Greg Abbott, just signed a bill that says employers do not have to give water breaks to employees working outside in 110-degree heat index sun. And keep in mind, the heat index is not ground level. A reporter in Vegas put a scanner thermometer on the sidewalk and it registered 162 degrees. A man who fell and used his hands to try to get up and by the time he was on his feet had to go to the hospital with serious burns.

Yet, when I read the op-ed pages of local print and on-line papers they are filled with guest columns from Republicans and energy-related types bemoaning any attempts at regulation of fossil fuels. Anything, literally anything, that might slow climate change is viewed by them as hurting the economy, meaning it would hit their pocketbooks and impact their need for instant gratification.

I used to think that every generation wanted better things for their children. When I listen to the Republicans screaming about anything that might save the planet and keep it livable for future generations, I find it hard to hang onto that believe.

As for what constitutes “better?” That definition always has changed. At one time primitive man wanted a cave, then fire. Something that would make hauling large, dead animals easier would be nice, hence the wheel. We have always defined “better” as moving up, more consumptions.

Maybe “better” needs to be defined as using what we need, and doing so in a responsible way. Most people around the world do not crave massive square footage in a home, nor acres of lawn nor huge gas-guzzling cars. Yet, they live very nicely. We now live in a two-bedroom apartment and have everything in it we need. We have a big car, but it gets very good mileage for its size, the apartment allowed us to become a one-car family and we drive that car less.

To moderate is not to live in misery. I do not feel I have given up much, I just have rebalanced what I need in terms of what might be in the best interests of my grandchildren.

AND YET, THERE are the Republicans. Not content with controlling private lives, isolating the poor, the blacks and browns, the LGBTQ+ community, they now want to deny both history and science. History, so they can continue to feel that the only race worth mentioning is the white one, the only religion worth mentioning is Christianity. Sciences because that leads to crazy theories that man, since the Industrial Age, has poured billions of tons of stuff into the air that nature did not put there; that sex education involves more than just saying “no” and that evolution is fact.

It is not yet hopeless, but from where I sit now, I sometimes fear I can see the end of hope. We joined a local chapter in Texas of a national group, the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). It is a bi-partisan group devoted to getting a carbon fee bill passed in Congress that ultimately would benefit all Americans – physically and financially – and do so fairly. We are now involved in the Chester County chapter and are elated that we have an aggressive proponent in Congress in U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan.

But the Republicans are even trying to confused this issue. A group formed several years ago called the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) which has put forth a carbon free program very similar to CCL’s. But, and this is a huge but, its original bill would the repeal federal emissions regulations and the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon emissions at all. And, it would have led to “An end to federal and state tort liability for emitters.”

The CLC later took out the emitters’ liability clause but as one critic, Richard Wiles, the head of the non-profit Center for Climate Integrity, noted in a Guardian article “No one is fooled into thinking [that] because they took it off their website,” oil and gas companies will not continue to push for a liability waiver.”

The Citizens Climate Lobby has been taking the high road on the CLC saying any discussion of a carbon fee is helpful. I respectfully disagree. The CLC is an energy executive’s wet dream. It also takes up air, confusing the issue and possibly pulling the spotlight, and support, away from CCL and other groups that truly believe we need to start reducing the carbon footprint now. And giving the fossil fuel industry free rein to continue on as they have in the past is not going to achieve that.

As for doubters, those still buying the Republican big lie, here’s all you need to know to begin to understand the issue. “Weather” is what you feel in the moment when you walk out the door. “Climate is the ongoing, world-wide generator of weather over the long term. The “weather” we are feeling now will come and go, but the heat and storms will continue to ratchet up because the forces creating and influencing them, that’s climate.

So, don’t be fooled. Man-induced climate change is real. It’s getting worse. It threatens the well-being, and maybe lives, of future generations. Tamping it down will require sacrifice on the part of everyone.

Do we still have that in us? Dunno. Hope so.

Rich Heiland is a retired reporter, editor and publisher. He has been a part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team, National Columnist of the Year and a journalism instructor. He lives in West Chester.

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  1. VR says:

    By the way, the Montana children’s petition against their state’s support of fossil fuels gives me hope.

  2. VR says:

    Richard – I feel like that the train is driven by science-adhering people, and the brakes are being pulled by science-deniers.

    Progress is being held back by idealogues. Mostly R’s, sadly. I remember back to Jimmy Carter’s installation of solar panels on the White House. Ronald Reagan tore them down.

    It’s a shame. But progressives progress. Conservatives adhere to a comfortable past where they were ascendant. Time moves on. Dinosaurs go extinct.

    And so it will be. Again.

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