Maryland must fight climate change - and address the disparities it produces | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
Dec 24, 2020 at 1:09 PM
The recent commentary by state Sen. Paul Pinsky, Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Staci Hartwell of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, deserves a resounding, “Second!” (”A climate action plan for Maryland’s legislature,” Dec. 14). We in the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign support the proposed Maryland Climate Solutions Now Act.
”The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform: A Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America,” demands that the nation and states like Maryland “declare climate change a national (state) emergency.” Indeed, what is required to wake our nation — and the world — to the terrible human and economic costs of continued use of fossil fuels and the climate change they are creating is a clarion call for action and funding commensurate with this crisis. There are no cheap seats here. And, as Senator Pinsky, Mr. Tidwell, and Ms. Hartwell point out, there is ample evidence readily apparent everywhere that climate change is here and dangerous. They cite flooding, wildfires, destruction of houses and businesses by storms, and rising sea levels. Unfortunately, they left out heat which is already negatively impacting the health and income of outdoor workers, our transportation infrastructure, agriculture industry and the health of millions of Americans.
To their credit, they also warn that the solution to climate change cannot just be technical fixes that fail to address existing social and economic inequities in our society. In fact, as we say in the Poor People’s Moral Budget, “Climate Change and ecological disaster are multipliers of underlying injustices due to poverty, systemic racism and war.” Senator Pinsky, Mr. Tidwell, and Ms. Hartwell rightfully make note of the reality that poor people and people of color “have suffered the most” from environmental hazards, policies and projects. It is immoral to neglect that reality when crafting climate change policies. We cannot ask poor and marginalized communities to continue to suffer this injustice so others can enjoy green comfort.
Not mentioned by the authors are the economic damages that will come from inaction and the effect on workers, especially the poor. The Great Recession reduced the nation’s gross domestic product by about 5%. It is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the U.S. economy 10% of its GDP this year. During each crisis, economic inequality continued to increase as the rich, unlike the rest of us, accelerated their accumulation of wealth and income. If we do not formulate moral as well as technical responses, climate change threatens to increase that inequality massively. The United Nations has made it clear that we are on track to “catastrophic warming” which would mean an annual loss in GDP of between 8% and 15%! Do the math to predict the number of unemployed Americans without income, health insurance, and homes.
We have experienced during the pandemic a modest taste of what climate change holds in store for us without immediate, aggressive action to stop its growth and impact. We now have vaccines for COVID-19. If we are able to implement near-universal vaccination, the virus may dissipate. That is good. Unfortunately, climate change cannot be reversed in terms of the span of a human life, even generations. Once in motion, it is permanent. And there is no vaccine.
Rabbi Alana Suskin, Rockville
The writer is co-chair of the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign.