By Lorraine Myszkowski
I have heard it explained that climate change is not a pressing issue for those of us living in Arizona. It’s a desert. It’s hot. It’s always been hot and will always be hot. Nothing is going to change that. But my family and I take a more holistic approach to climate issues.
Chances are many would applaud my family of six for doing our bit to safeguard the environment. We recycle. We purchase sustainable groceries. We avoid meat. We have solar panels and energy-efficient appliances. In theory, we do our part.
But does our lifestyle change the fact that this monsoon season was the fifth driest on record? Should I tell my kids if we recycle just a bit more there won’t be extreme heat advisories or air quality alerts? Perhaps I’ll say Meatless Mondays eradicate the layers of smog and particulates trapped in the valley so we can go outside again.
Scientists say we have roughly thirty years to right this ship. For Earth, that’s a blink of an eye. To my four boys, that is a lifetime.
My kids do not see the rewards of their efforts. Instead, they see Phoenix’s predictable weather becoming anything but. We are now experiencing an increase in the number of extremely hot days. Perhaps worst of all, droughts have increased in severity. This adversely impacts some 30 million people who rely on the Colorado River for their daily water.
While extreme temperatures do not carry the same urgency and visuals as a Category 5 hurricane, they are comparably as dangerous to our health. In truth, extreme heat often leads to increases in illness and death. This is borne out by the sobering fact that Arizona has the highest number of heat-related deaths in the country.
These are just a handful of reasons climate change should be a real everyday concern of Arizonans. My family’s commitment cannot save the environment on its own. Unless the United States cuts our greenhouse gas emissions, the number of extreme weather events will increase in both severity and length.
However, two recent pieces of Congressional news have made genuine progress seem that much more possible. A local member of Congress, Representative David Schweikert joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators that meets regularly to advance climate solutions. And, for the first time, the Senate has put together its own Climate Solutions Caucus, hoping to follow the House’s lead. Unfortunately, these actions alone are not enough to avoid the devastating consequences of climate change in our future.
With several bipartisan bills currently in the House, carbon pricing is a clear and logical way of considerably reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The revenue generated could be used in a variety of ways: reduction in payroll taxes, households receiving subsidies to offset energy costs, fixing our inefficient infrastructure system, or research and development of clean energy innovation. Ultimately, however, a price on carbon cannot stand alone as the single way of addressing climate change. It is only one of many tools that could and should be implemented to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.
As election day 2020 approaches, the window of potential Congressional action is rapidly closing. A partisan re-election season and a Congress too afraid to act on polarizing topics do not bode well for progress. I am tired of explaining to my kids that despite our best efforts, there are consequences for Congress’ inaction. Instead, I’d like to be able to point out that our efforts, environmentally and politically, have made an impact.
Rep. Schweikert deserves thanks for taking steps towards change by joining the Climate Solutions Caucus. Now, he must use his new role to help get us closer to passing comprehensive solutions. I hope he proves to me, my children, and the people of Arizona that he is willing to protect all Americans from the consequences of inaction by supporting sustainable solutions to our climate crisis.
Lorraine Myszkowski is a mom of four who is an active member of her Phoenix community. She is a member of her childrens’ PTO and works with youth ministry at Franciscan Renewal Center.