Putting the climate fight on a war footing | Editorials
It’s time to treat climate change as if the nation is at war.
The Ross Fork Fire at Smiley Creek is just the latest wildfire to break out in Blaine County since the fiery face of climate change emerged here in 2007 with the Castle Rock Fire.
Blaine County is not alone. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 49,193 wildfires have burned 6,311,144 acres since Jan. 1, mostly in the West.
If the enemy forces threatened the East, the West and all the states in between, the United States would have already rallied all its political and military forces to repel them. Congress would have woken up sleepily to rally the Americans, declare war, and muster the money and manpower needed to counter the enemy, pronto.
Instead, the nation treats wildland and range fires like house fires that can be put out with enough water, foam and firefighters. It rushes aid to those affected by floods and storms, but does too little to address the root cause of these disasters, namely climate change.
The Cut Inflation Act recently signed by President Joe Biden provides tax incentives to consumers and businesses that buy electric cars and vehicles and convert to electric heating and cooling. The optimistic forecast is that the law will reduce greenhouse gases that warm the Earth’s atmosphere by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, just eight years.
The IRA is historic in that it is the first major piece of legislation to focus on tackling climate change. Historic it may be, but it may not save us. Eight years could be a disastrous time.
The sight of swirling clouds and inferno smoke from Ross Fork visible from Ketchum and the red-orange heatmaps of the creeping flames should convert non-believers into quick action on climate change.
The fire is just a finger of flame in what has been another monster fire season. It will take more than recruiting more firefighters, building more backfires, and dumping more water and retardant to bend the curve on a trend line of destruction.
During World War II, the nation enlisted the Defense Production Act which allows the President to order industries to increase production of products needed for national defense. In this perilous time, the nation needed ships, fighter jets, tanks, other weapons and supplies to end the Axis dreams of world domination – Germany, Italy and the Japan.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, President Trump and President Biden used the law to speed up vaccine development and increase supplies of masks and hand sanitizer used to slow the spread of the new virus.
Today, the nation needs electric cars to replace gasoline-powered vehicles which are the single largest source of atmosphere-damaging gases. He needs solar panels to relieve pressure on power generation facilities that will expand as electric cars proliferate. It needs more electricity generation from renewable sources.
Using the Defense Production Act, out-of-the-box thinking, heroic political leadership, and major federal investment could put the climate weapons in place.
Putting a small electric car in every commuter’s driveway and solar panels on every roof shouldn’t be out of the question or out of reach.
Sweating through repeated monster fire seasons, watching freshwater reservoirs shrivel, and complaining when crops fail shouldn’t be our only options.
The Ross Fork Fire tells us that America must move and repel what could be the greatest enemy the world has ever seen.
“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Comments can be addressed to [email protected]
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