Does it seem just a bit unusually warm the last few days? Did the heat interfere with your plans for going outside and enjoying our beautiful state?
If so, we cannot just turn up the AC; we have to turn up our level of efforts fighting the underlying cause of our changing world — climate change.
Even if we enjoy the most deluxe AC system, we have to recognize a certain uncomfortable reality about climate change — you cannot hide from it. You cannot escape by going to dive in the largest organism on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef, which is dying due in large part because of water temperatures. You cannot be assured of going hiking on your favorite trail in the forests because they are burning. You can’t even send your kids outside to play occasionally because of smoke from raging forest fires.
When it comes to climate change, we can run, but we cannot hide.
After all, as I am writing this, Seattle just set an all-time heat record of 104 degrees Fahrenheit — in June. (On Monday, the record was shattered as the temperature hit 108 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.) People across the state suffered with it, and several drowned trying to escape it.
We are getting a taste of our future if we do not act.
Our recent discomfort is but the tip of the melting iceberg, with the southwest United States and southern Oregon trying to drink dust, major ice sheets in Antarctica breaking up and climate refugees threatening global security on multiple continents. What we felt this week is just the opening act in a looming global disaster.
Washington has proven that we will not wither in a desultory vacuum of inaction. A passive attitude of “we’ll do it tomorrow” is deadly in these circumstances, especially when delay means you might not have a planet to save when you finally get around to it. We will not ignore the avalanche of bad news on the climate front when our loved ones, communities and neighbors struggle.
We must face the beast. And we cannot do so just on a 110-degree June day in Seattle. We have to be equally active on a 24-degree January day in Wenatchee. We cannot build a clean-energy economy just a couple days of the year. It’s easy to make this part of our awareness this week — it’s more important to make it part of our fundamental state ambition, every day, everywhere.
Fortunately, we are off to a good start. We now have two laws in place that are making the most significant investments in impacted communities in the United States. One caps carbon pollution economywide and invests revenues in job creating clean industries. The other gives drivers cleaner fuel options that are less polluting. Together, these two fundamental pillars of a successful effort cement Washington’s position leading the charge against the climate crisis.
This beautiful state we call home is depending on us, and the cost of inaction is incalculable. Temperature is just one part of the climate crisis’ multifaceted threat. Native salmon being fished by our tribes, shellfish farms on the inlet, apple and cherry orchards in Eastern Washington, riverbeds and mountain glaciers — if we don’t step up to the plate now, Washington will be unrecognizable in the decades to come.
As Washington cools down a bit this week — finally — let’s keep the heat up on our efforts to preserve a livable environment for our kids, grandkids and generations to come. If any challenge demands an answer, it is one that threatens the very basics of a climate system around which our civilization has been built.
Our recent days have been hard. But if they serve to help us unite, finally, around this noble mission to save our state, the sweat may have been worth it. But only if it serves to call us to higher effort on hot days — and cold.