Climate change a spiritual issue

Feb 16, 2020 by Aaron Dunbar Letter to the Editor in the Marietta Times

As someone who spent the first twenty years of his life as a devout Christian, I’ve long been baffled by the church’s unwillingness to confront the issue of climate change.

“The gospel call to love one’s neighbor is, in our time and place, most fully a call to do something about climate change,” says Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature,” which introduced many readers to the topic of global warming in 1989. “Because at the moment, we’re drowning our neighbors, sickening our neighbors, making it impossible for our neighbors to grow food.”

McKibben, who also founded the well-known climate campaign 350.org, is a long-time Methodist, and regularly draws on his Christian faith as a source of inspiration for his writing. Working alongside the likes of Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, author of “Climate Church, Climate World,” McKibben has fought for years to convince religious followers of every ilk the climate fight is, in fact, a spiritual one.

In my own experience, however, I’ve seen very little enthusiasm from most Christians when it comes to tackling the issue of climate change. At best I hear rationalizations that, if climate change is in fact really happening, then it’s all right, because it must just be part of God’s plan. On the more extreme end of the spectrum are those who welcome the collapse of the biosphere as a sign of end times, and the fulfillment of some oblique prophecy from the book of Revelation.

As far as I’m aware, there is nothing in the Bible that explicitly refers to the subject of climate change, as tempting as it may be to cite biblical incidents of God smiting humankind for its failure to abide by the rules and limitations He set in place for them.

What the Bible does tell us, repeatedly, is to reject the temptations of material wealth. It tells us it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And finally it tells us literally hundreds of times to respect and take care of the poor among us.

When aligning these edicts with the narrative of manmade global warming, the connotations for our own lives couldn’t be clearer.

Climate change is a direct effect of human materialism. The burning of fossil fuels has long been concealed by perversely wealthy industrialists and politicians as the primary cause of global warming, in their pursuit of profit above all else. As a result, hundreds of millions of people will suffer from elevated sea levels, rising global temperatures, and collapsing ecosystems, a disproportionate number of whom represent the world’s most impoverished populations, who have had no hand whatsoever in bringing about the crisis we face.

The preservation of our planet for future generations is both a moral issue and a spiritual one. I challenge all leaders of faith to inform themselves on the subject of climate change, and inspire their congregations to act accordingly.

For more information on how you can get involved in the fight for climate justice, please contact Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action today!

Energy: Investment in renewables is vital to state’s future

Feb 12, 2020 Editorial in Parkersburg News and Sentinel

West Virginians understand how much we owe the generations of coal miners who have kept our — and the rest of the country’s — lights on. Our emotional response to the idea anyone would want to “put a lot of miners and coal companies out of business,” sparked a political wave most did not expect.

But we have also known for generations that there must be more; that our state MUST diversify our economy and make other changes as it moved forward, rather than simply looking back.

Lawmakers know, deep in their hearts, coal is not going to rebound to levels once seen in our state. Those who say differently are cruelly manipulating a struggling population in hopes of gaining votes.

Others are willing to face the challenge honestly, and bills in the state Senate and House of Delegates are aimed at making a small start on that task. If enacted, they would allow the state Public Service Commission to expedite the agency’s process for approving new solar power generation facilities.

The bills would not grant subsidies in any way to the solar power industry. They would provide no tax breaks or other incentives. They would only snip a bit of red tape from the PSC process. They would allow such expedited treatment for only 400 megawatts of generating capacity — less than 3% of the state’s electricity.

It seems as though some employers may already be looking toward those possibilities, as Energy Harbor, which recently acquired the Pleasants Power Station, has a goal to expand its energy portfolio on the site.

“The good news is Energy Harbor wants to own it. They want to see that plant thrive and keep it open for generations to come,” said Pleasants County Commission President Jay Powell. “I think they’re in a position where they can continue to work on expanding and provide other sources and we’ve got the ground to do that potentially up here.”

While discussion so far appears to involve hydro electric power and natural gas, one must wonder whether an encouragement by lawmakers to explore solar power might give them ideas for an even more diversified use of that land — and even more stability in safeguarding hundreds of jobs.

Critics say the bills are a betrayal of the coal industry. They are not.

Even coal operator Gov. Jim Justice understands diversification is necessary.

Those who rely on Pleasants Power and the many other similar facilities throughout the state should encourage their lawmakers to support renewables legislation.

Solar energy — West Virginia’s path to a brighter economic future

Mar 1, 2020 by Beth Wheatley Editorial at Parkersburg News & Sentinel

The time is now for West Virginia to seize the opportunity to capture some of the 240,000 jobs and the billions of dollars of annual investment in the United States’ growing solar energy sector. Surrounding states-from Virginia to North Carolina to Pennsylvania to Kentucky-have already taken action toward the creation of strong solar marketplaces at the state level to satisfy the growing renewable energy appetite of large industrial employers, local businesses, schools, churches and residents. The pace and scale of solar development in these states far exceeds West Virginia’s by many hundred-folds. Make no mistake; this is a race that is heating up for the jobs and economic benefits that come from early leadership, and it is not too late for West Virginia to catch up and possibly even surpass surrounding states. How? By enacting solar-friendly policies that create a fair, predictable and competitive marketplace without further delay-and by leveraging unexpected assets. But we must act quickly.

Right now, in the West Virginia Legislature, several solar-friendly bills are under consideration. We at The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia applaud legislators championing those bills that can serve as incremental steps toward establishing a solar marketplace for homeowners and businesses alike. And, we are committed to working with lawmakers and stakeholders over the coming years to develop a more comprehensive policy framework, which will be required for West Virginia to catch up to surrounding states that have more solar opportunities due to these states having the right policy frameworks in place. This will pave the way for the most significant economic benefits to West Virginians over the long-term.

We are pleased that at least two of the bills under consideration by the West Virginia Legislature focus on an incredibly important pathway to such a marketplace for West Virginia: siting large-scale solar arrays on former mine lands and brownfields to help return these formally productive lands to potentially lucrative assets, which has benefits for West Virginia and its economy. Think about this: formerly mined lands that once provided the energy our nation needs and economic benefits from the local to national level can once again be part of the energy breadbasket, with benefit to both workers and the economy while providing the renewable energy demands of the market. And, importantly for our Wild and Wonderful lifestyle and attributes, by steering solar development to former mine lands and brownfields, we steer development away from forests and, thereby, sustain the values that forests bring to West Virginia: clean water, wildlife, carbon sequestration, forestry, outdoor recreation and tourism, Siting solar on these sites is a win for nature, a win for our economy and a win for the climate.

In recognition of this win-win-win, The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia has created a road map to siting solar energy on former mine lands that serves as a playbook of actions that stakeholder groups-from landowners and state leaders to solar developers and organizations like The Nature Conservancy-may take to facilitate redevelopment of former mine lands for large-scale solar sites. Independently, these players could make some headway toward creating a solar marketplace in West Virginia; collectively, we can maximize our impact and have the greatest likelihood of success to see West Virginia create a competitive marketplace that provides a full suite of economic benefits.

What are the potential economic benefits? A competitive solar marketplace could help those seeking employment to transfer their skills, ranging from heavy equipment operation to electrical wiring to tax accounting, to this growing industry. Solar development would also generate valuable lease revenues for landowners and replenish the tax base for local communities-all while helping to attract new employers, manufacturers and industries to the state. The Nature Conservancy is committed to working with the key stakeholders needed to create the opportunities for West Virginia to capture the benefits of solar energy. We stand ready to do what’s required to make this a reality for the Mountain State and its people. If we don’t act now, West Virginians will miss out on the economic, conservation and climate benefits of solar energy that surrounding states are experiencing.

Beth Wheatley is director of external affairs and strategic initiatives for the Nature Conservancy in West Virginia.

Energy – Embrace change or not

Feb 28, 2020 Letter to the Editor at Marietta Times by Vic Elam

There is a lot of information swirling around these days about climate change – is it real or a natural phenomenon – if it is real, how bad could it be – what should we do? In efforts to protect themselves, corporations that stand to suffer from changes in public opinion, work to find ways to spin the conversation to benefit themselves. But, what I propose here is that regardless of your opinion about climate change, there are many other factors, “hidden costs,” that we should consider as we look at opportunities to move from a fossil fueled economy to one based upon emerging renewable technologies.

Those corporations that are defending the continued use of fossil fuels, will tell you that renewable energy efforts such as solar and wind require the use of rare earth elements, are cost-prohibitive, use construction processes that are environmentally damaging, and so forth. There is some validity to those arguments, however, when compared to the damages resulting from the continued use of fossil fuels that argument falls woefully short.

Like many things we purchase, we tend to accept the monetary value as the true cost involved in the production of that product. Upon further examination, the hidden costs of fossil fuel production are not really evident in the price we pay at the pump or on our electricity bill. Certainly the most widely publicized “hidden cost” is the effects of climate change. But even if you are a climate denier it’s hard to deny many of the other hidden costs like, air and water pollution. And as the more available fossil fuel reserves are used up we must work harder, employ damaging processes, and go into areas previously set aside as natural areas.

The end result is that we find ourselves paying environmental costs. Fracking has been shown to blame for earth quakes and contaminating water supplies. Fracking has been documented in following a fissure and surfacing resulting in contamination of surface water. Brine water, a byproduct of fracking, poses its own set of problems. Erosion from surface mining, installation of pipelines and construction of access roads damages wildlife habitat and contaminates our water supply, not to mention the constant spill events from transporting fuel. Air pollution has increased the incidence of asthma and other lung disease and we all suffer from the cost of treatment of these ailments.

If you are not a climate denier, look at the increasing damage from extreme weather events. We are likely to continue to see weather events take a toll on our food supply, on human lives and our structures.

If having good paying jobs is your concern, we have everything necessary to produce the products required for renewable energy, but again large corporations are calling the shots to benefit them the most.

I could go on and on, but I’m guessing that most of you are aware of many of these issues already, which begs me to ask; why don’t we take action. I invite you to get involved, Citizens Climate Lobby has a local chapter and is seeking your support, you can find out more on Facebook, citizensclimate.org or send an email to: Marietta.oh@citizensclimatelobby.org.

Other locally active organizations:

¯ Ready-for-100: sierraclub.org/ready-for-100

¯ Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action: main.movclimateaction.org

¯ Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC): ohvec.org

Finding common ground on climate change

Marietta Times and Parkersburg News & Sentinel Feb 9, 2020

by George Banziger

As the election year of 2020 unfolds, there is plenty of rancor and polarization in the political world. One issue that can potentially achieve bipartisan support is addressing a serious and time-urgent problem facing our world and our country — climate change. The facts about climate change are irrefutable: oceans are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic; glaciers are disappearing at accelerating and alarming rates; world-wide temperatures are setting records every year; and extreme weather is striking in several places in the form of droughts (leading to fires like those in Australia), more severe hurricanes, and massive rainfall events. Fully 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientists agree that human-caused climate change is at the heart of these events.

The American public, as evidenced by national surveys done by Yale University and others, seem to be behind legislative, bipartisan efforts to address climate change. When asked about a carbon tax on producers of fossil fuels, 66 percent of all voters support such an initiative, 80 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of swing voters, and 75 percent of Republicans under 40. In the current political era Democrats have more strongly supported legislation to address climate change. But in the past Republicans have been leaders in environmental stewardship, such as Teddy Roosevelt in establishing our national park system and Republican congressmen in the Nixon era in developing the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and pollster, had a stern warning for Republicans in reporting the results of his 2019 survey; Republicans under 40 support a carbon tax at the level of 7:1; 85 percent of Republican millennials agree that the current Republican position on climate change is hurting the party with younger voters.

The Citizens Climate Lobby, a bipartisan national and international movement, is supporting legislation called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the House of Representatives, HR 763. This bill, if enacted, will reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in 12 years and promote economic and job growth at the same time. It will do so by putting dollars, which are generated by a fee (not a tax to go to the government) on fossil-fuel producers, directly into the hands of the American public.

Climate change need not necessarily be a wedge issue politically but a bridge issue to unite the two major parties. One issue that has led to bipartisan support is reducing carbon emissions through energy efficiency. The International Energy Agency (2019) has reported that the most cost-effective way of enhancing any energy system is energy efficiency – it is the “single most important element that can bring the world to sustainable levels.” The cheapest source of energy is that which you do not use. Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican, teamed up with Senator Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, to introduce legislation called the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness bill; this bill addresses three areas to achieve greater efficiency: buildings (through strengthening of codes), manufacturing (through research and development on energy-efficient technologies), and the federal government (through improved computers and standards for new federal buildings). There are two companion bills to Portman-Shaheen in the House, each sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat, one by Representative David McKinley (R-WV).

The issue of jobs and the economy can also involve bipartisan support. Jobs in the renewable energy sector are outpacing job growth in the economy as a whole. There are 360,000 jobs in the solar industry (more than in coal and nuclear combined), and another 120,000 in wind; job growth in the latter tripled from 2008 to 2016. We in Appalachia have seen little of this job growth in renewable energy, but it is possible that we can. In this region of eastern Ohio, northwestern West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania, the natural gas business (extraction from the Utica Shale deposits) is extremely important to the economy and shows promise for future growth — at least in the near future until renewable energy resources are strengthened. An effort in this region has been launched to promote industrial growth based on the cheap and abundant shale gas; the entity behind this effort is called the Shale Crescent USA. Natural gas producers are doing many things to reduce carbon emissions in drilling, transport, and storage of gas and in replacing high carbon-emitting coal-fired power plants. Why can’t we direct some of this promotion of natural-gas industrial development to the manufacture of wind turbines (made of fiberglass) and solar panels? In the past this region has been a major manufacturing hub for glass products. This collaboration of natural gas development and manufacture of products for renewable energy can be a pro-growth and pro-environmental partnership between natural gas and renewables — a source of common ground at least for a while — until infrastructure around renewable energy is more fully developed.

***

George Banziger, Ph.D., was a faculty member at Marietta College and an academic dean at three other colleges. Now retired, he is a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby, the Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, and Better Angels (a group addressing political polarization).

Climate crisis is up close and personal

Charleston Gazette-Mail Sunday, November 24, 2019  Op-Ed by Betty Rivard

Earlier this month, I celebrated my 75th birthday during the warmest weather I had ever experienced for November. Some of those birthdays were spent in more northern, western, or eastern climates, but about two-thirds of them have been here, in West Virginia.

I know there is a difference between weather and climate. At the same time, the data on the warming of our planet is overwhelming, as is my own experience of the changes.

This past summer and into fall, I could not be outside on most days for more than five minutes at a time from 9 a.m. until well after dark. Last month, close family members had ash on their windshields out West. A few years ago, I lost an old friend to a heart attack just days after his house was flooded by the Elk River for the second time.

This is all up close and personal.

I admit that I have enjoyed the benefits of free gas from longtime wells and pipelines on my farm in the country, where I lived for over 30 years. I know that the band on the new Apple watch I got for my birthday is made from some high-tech plastic, and that carbon was used to manufacture and deliver it. I know there are plastics involved in the clothes that I enjoyed wearing yesterday. I depend daily on the benefits of gas-fueled travel and transport.

At the same time, I also know that all of this can and must change.

We here in our state, and in our nation, must commit to the same kinds of concrete goals to reduce carbon emissions by specified dates as California, New York and most of the rest of the world have done. We must also resolve to leave our carbon fuels in the ground.

We must invest in the kinds of education and resources required to create and maintain a sustainable future. This investment will not only help here at home. We can also help those who live in developing nations to fulfill the opportunity they deserve as fellow human beings to improve their standard of living and raise their families just like we do. Our state’s innate innovation, can-do culture and creativity can lead the way to design and demonstrate the products and systems that will benefit everyone.

We are always rethinking how we do things throughout our lives. Giving up carbon fuels and plastics is like no longer riding a bike or rollerblading in order to reduce the risk of falling as our bones get older and weaker. Do I miss doing those things? Yes, of course I do. Is my life poorer on account of giving them up? No, it is not.

I can now enjoy the slowness of walking, where I can see every detail along the way. I talk with my neighbors on their porches. I stop and pet my friends’ dogs. I appreciate the flowers in the yards and the improvements in houses. I can see and hear the sole bird singing at the top of a tree.

It is like this to switch to solar power, to windmills, to hydro and to use LED lights and cloth bags instead of plastic and generally use energy more efficiently. Other cultures in our own country are already deep into this constant transition to achieve the goals they have set.

We can do this, too, here in our own state. My neighbor six doors up has solar panels on his roof. We can pass laws to create incentives for all of us to do the same thing and work together cooperatively to afford the up-front investment.

At the same time, we can press harder to take care of our coal miners’ health care and pensions. We can strengthen safety protections and lifelong benefits for the younger and younger miners who develop chronic black lung diseases.

We can continue to reform our post-secondary education and workforce development systems and maintain our investment in higher ed. These measures will allow us to fill vacancies of professionals who retire and to support new jobs in new industries and help miners, oil and gas workers, and others to move into them.

We can reinstate union protections and promote high-paying jobs while creating a floor based on a living wage of $15 an hour. We can require paid sick and family leave to allow more of our citizens to enter and stay in the workforce. We can provide universal health care so people can move between jobs and get the medical and behavioral health care they need, including prevention and treatment for those with substance use disorders and the many chronic illnesses that now plague our state.

These policies are all so basic that it is incredible we have not already enacted them. Those who are focused only on profits and self-interests label these basic human rights and protections as anti-democratic. They create side issues to pit us all against each other.

Even some members of the party devoted to working people have somehow convinced themselves that it is OK to support tax breaks that move more money away from the investments we need into profits for those who keep getting richer at the expense of the rest of us. The budget holes we are dealing with now are a direct result of these tax breaks.

We can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. The world is getting warmer. Our children and grandchildren are in jeopardy. It is up to us to make the changes we must make now in order to protect the quality and very existence of life in the future.

We must tell our candidates and elected representatives how critical this issue is to us. Ask them the gut level question: What are you doing to fight climate change? Weigh each of their actions against what needs to be done. Take their responses and actions into account in deciding who we support and vote for. Continue to stay active in advocating for the necessary changes. Explain to our neighbors the impacts and what we can do as citizens.

We must open ourselves up to making changes in our own lives. This is an issue where we need to have all hands on deck.

We can and will make a difference, both as individuals and collectively. We can each help to ensure that all of our systems — fiscal, regulatory, public benefits, education, workforce, cultural and political — are focused on the preservation of all life on our planet. We are each called to be the stewards to cause this to happen.

As one younger friend, with young children, emailed me recently: “[Climate change] is the most important issue of our lifetime and we can’t continue to stick our head in the sand. Does WV want to be part of the solution or the problem, on the menu or at the table?”

Betty Rivard lives in Charleston.

Area students win awards in PSA contest

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Tuesday, December 10, 2019  COMMUNITY NEWS (MOVCA press release)

The 2019 PSA contest winners from WVU-Parkersburg received awards from Jean Ambrose of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action. From left, Ryan McCoy and Madison Sayre and Ambrose. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — Student teams from West Virginia Universityat Parkersburg and Ohio Valley University took top honors in a contest sponsored by Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action to create a Public Service Announcement about the impacts of climate change and the need for action in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The team of Madison Sayre and Ryan McCoy from WVU-P won first and second place in the PSA video category and received prizes of $500 and $300. The team also won the audio category prize of $250.

The video category third place prize of $200 went to the Ohio Valley University Business Communications team of Daniel Hagberg, Catherine Sellers, Todd Goccey and Thomas Weatherford.

Awards were presented on Thursday. As part of the program, contest entries were shown and participants shared their reactions to creating the PSAs.

“Today’s young people will feel the effects of climate change much more than my generation, and having them communicate ideas about climate change is very powerful.” said Jean Ambrose, contest administrator. “All the PSAs entered in the contest had valuable messages, and all of them addressed in different ways the effects of climate change on the Mid-Oho Valley. But most importantly, the messages were hopeful, with positive ideas about what we can do, whether it’s something small and personal or something like these PSAs that can reach a wider audience.”

Jean Ambrose of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action presents a third-place award to the 2019 PSA contest winners from OVU Business Communications. From left, Thomas Weatherford, Todd Goccey, Catherine Sellers, Daniel Hagberg and Ambrose. (Photo Provided)

Ambrose and co-vice chair Giulia Mannarino also recognized the Dunn Family Foundation. Wayne Dunn from the foundation was impressed with the young participants and their efforts to prepare their generation.

“You have stepped forward and taken responsibility,” he said

Part of the problem or solution?

Parkersburg News & Sentinel Sunday, December 1, 2019 Letter-to-the-Editor by Eric Engle, Parkersburg

A new report out Tuesday, Nov. 26, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 7.6 percent every year from now until 2030 in order to stay within the 1.5 degree centigrade (1.5C) ceiling that scientists say is necessary to avoid climate disaster. A World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report out Monday, Nov. 25, showed that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are 50 percent higher than in 1750, prior to the industrial revolution, and other potent greenhouse gases are in higher concentrations as well — methane levels are double what they were in 1750 and nitrous oxide levels are 23 percent higher than in 1750. Globally, on average, CO2 emissions have increased by 1.5 percent annually for the last decade and concentrations in the atmosphere are up to the highest levels seen in approximately 3 million years.

Time is up. The sand is in the bottom of the hourglass. International, federal, state and local public policy and the investment vs. divestment strategies of the world’s wealth and asset owners and managers must direct systemic change. This change must be an extremely rapid yet just transition to renewable energy for power generation, industry and transportation, maximizing across-the-board energy efficiencies, sustainable agriculture and development, and massive reforestation and protections of existing carbon sinks like rainforests, woodlands, and wetlands. Plant and animal species conservation and protection of Indigenous rights are crucial. Mitigation strategies, such as massive infrastructural investments and well-funded and planned disaster preparedness strategies, are also crucial, but we’ve got to stop the hemorrhaging of the greenhouse gases and restore some balance even as we treat the wounds and prepare for other wounds.

We’re all, to some degree or another, a part of the problem; ask yourself if you also want to be part of the solution. If so, join us at Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action today! You can find us on Facebook or at movclimateaction.org.

Eric Engle

Parkersburg

Johnson denies being a climate change denier

Letter to the Editor in the Marietta Times Jan 31, 2020 written by Aaron Dunbar

In a letter to the Times published on Jan. 9, I characterized District 6 Congressman Bill Johnson as a climate change denier. I have since heard through the grapevine that Johnson read my letter, and has vehemently disputed this notion. In other words, he denies being a denier.

This intrigued me.

Consider a few passages from an op-ed penned by Johnson a few years ago, currently available to read on his website:

“Long before Americans were around to blame, there was climate change. Geology tells us that at one time, much of Ohio was covered by ice. At other times, the planet was so warm, that Ohio was under water. These are facts proven throughout the Earth’s history, recorded for the ages in the ground that we live on. Our climate is constantly changing.”

“Carbon-dioxide – the air that we exhale when we breathe has been labeled as a primary cause of global warming by some climate scientists.”

“Additionally, a recent peer-reviewed survey of Canadian geoscientists and engineers found that only 36 percent believe that humans are creating global warming.”

“Remember the hysteria over the hole in the ozone layer?”

In so many words, Johnson manages to check off just about every hackneyed and scientifically invalid argument in the climate denial playbook.

But let’s put a pin in that for now. Let’s assume that this is an old view, and that at some point since writing these words, Johnson’s eyes have been opened. Surely by now, his record in congress must reflect this newfound appreciation for the science of anthropogenic climate change.

Here I would advise taking a look at Johnson’s scorecard with the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group that tracks the voting records of politicians across the country. Currently, Johnson’s career voting score on environmental issues sits at an abysmal 3% on the LVC website.

Let me repeat that for you: Three. Percent.

According to campaign finance website OpenSecrets.org, meanwhile, Johnson has received a career total of $603,916 in donations from the oil and gas industry, easily his largest industry campaign contributor by about $100,000.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” Well if this is the version of Congressman Johnson that actually believes in climate change, I shudder to imagine the damage he would do to our planet as a full-fledged denier.

I would absolutely love to be proven wrong about all of this. Nothing would make me happier than to know that my representation in congress was making the long-term habitability of our planet a top priority.

Until Congressman Johnson changes course and begins to show real leadership on this issue, however, I have every intention of referring to him as exactly what he is: a climate change denier.

For more information on how you can get involved with climate issues locally, please contact Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action today!

Find way to help, act

Jan 19, 2020 Parkersburg News & Sentinel Letter to the Editor by Aaron Dunbar

Like millions of people around the world, I’ve watched heartbroken from afar as Australia’s hellish wildfires devastate the nation. These have been the worst fires seen in the country’s history, so far killing a total of 25 humans, scorching 25 million acres of land, and ending the lives of a scarcely fathomable 1 BILLION animals.

Words cannot express the enormity of the crisis still unfolding overseas. Even more horrifying, however, is the fact that such tragedies will continue to plague societies around the world, due to our failure to connect the dots between these worsening, once-natural disasters and climate change.

A 2008 report by Australia’s own government predicted that climate change would begin to set off earlier and more intense wildfire seasons beginning around 2020. “We knew this was going to happen,” says Australian climate scientist Sarah Perkins Kirkpatrick, even as her government continues to ignore its own scientists’ findings.

It’s an all too familiar story. As Australia’s Prime Minister and coal industry shill Scott Morrison infamously abandoned his burning homeland for a sunny Hawaiian vacation, America’s own leadership continued to betray its citizens on the issue of climate change. Our climate denying President recently pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement, despite 2019 wrapping up the hottest recorded decade in human history. Trump and his party of climate denial extremists continue to strip away protections of our environment and the living beings that inhabit it, ourselves included.

The exhausting refrain is the same as it has been since the very beginning. Again and again we’ve been told there simply isn’t enough evidence to act, that there’s nothing we can do until we’re absolutely CERTAIN climate change is happening.

This is, of course, in spite of the fact that the scientific consensus on climate change reached an unprecedented level of 100 percent in November of last year, according to one report. Even scientists’ crudest early models mapping climate change, dating back to 1970, have proven remarkably accurate in predicting the trajectory of warming — a reality that should chill us to the bone and spur us to action when examining future trends.

The fact of the matter is, climate change is never going to be an absolute certainty in the minds of the average layperson. The science is complex, and can often feel abstract. I have no doubt that even as our coastlines are buried underwater, there will still be holdouts who insist that it’s nothing but the effect of Earth’s naturally occurring climate cycles.

We are as certain as we’re ever going to be while still maintaining some chance of mitigating climate catastrophe. How many more tragedies like the Australian wildfires can we stomach before we feel compelled to act? I’m honestly afraid to find out.

For those who wish to contribute to Australian relief efforts, please consider donating to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, the Australian Red Cross, and the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. For anyone looking to get involved in the climate fight locally, consider joining Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action today!