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In the Advocate September 2023:

Fires, Floods, Heat! Got Climate Ambition?

Bobby Righi

The U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, is convening a Climate 

Ambition Summit on September 20 in New York. He said that leaders who are not stopping fossil fuel expansion are not welcome, and “the price of entry” to the summit is having plans to address the crisis. He says, “We’re not in the era of climate warming. We are in the era of climate boiling.”

     The hospitable climate, the “Goldi-locks Zone” that allowed the evolution of humans and the other species that we share the planet with is disappear-ing. Humans are causing the world to overheat and become inhospitable to life. It is up to humans to fix it.

     The call to the meeting states, “The summit represents a critical milestone for demonstrating that there is a collec-tive global will to accelerate the pace and scale of a just transition to a more equitable renewable-energy-based, climate-resilient global economy.” 

     At the summit there will be three tracks: 

  • Ambition – Governments are to lay out concrete plans for cutting emis-sions and contributing to the Green Climate Fund.

  • Credibility – Businesses, cities, and financial institutions come with just transition plans to phase out fossil fuels, get actual emission cuts without using offsets, and a commitment to publicly advocate for science based climate ac-tion. 

  • Implementation – All sectors will 

  • demonstrate implementation part-nerships addressing challenges and opportunities related to accelerating the de-carbonization of high-emitting sectors or on delivering climate justice.

​      Millions of people in the US feel the need to act to reduce the deadly threats from climate change. But they may not understand how what we do affects people in other parts of the world. These people’s lives are being shredded by climate change, even though they have not caused the emissions that are responsible for the damage. Our political “leaders” apparently do not understand the need to stop burning fossil fuels. They talk about climate change but take only half-steps and go so slowly that the fires, heat, storms, and smoke kill thousands more people every day.

     President Biden seems to think that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is enough. Though it is the most significant climate legislation in US history and offers funding and incen-tives to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, the US Energy Information Administration projects that the production of oil, gas, and coal will reach new highs in 2023, and drive up the already obscene profits of fossil fuel companies. The IRA is clearly not enough. More expansion and burning of fossil fuels will also drive up tempera-tures closer to the 2C limit that scientists say will bring unpredictable chaos in the earth’s climate that is, out of the “Goldilocks Zone.”

     Jeff Goodell writes in his book The Heat Will Kill You First, “When it comes to imagining the future at the edge of the Goldilocks Zone, it’s the thermal gap that is hardest to see.” He says that we ignore deaths from car accidents and the nine million deaths globally from air pollution and distant wars. The suffering and death from extreme heat could become part of what it means to live in the 21st century, something we accept and don’t think about in our everyday lives – if we are lucky enough to stay cool. In the long run, extreme heat is an extinction force for all life. We should be acting to stop the burning of fossil fuels now.

     During the U.N. Summit in New York, there will be a massive march for cli-mate action demanding “An End to the Era of Fossil Fuels.” We, in Seattle, should be demanding that Biden declare a climate emergency. He has the power to do so under the National Emergency Act of 1976. (See the August issue of The Advocate to learn why this would help.) We can all ask our local elected officials and our US Reps and Senators to call on Biden to do this.  

     PSARA members can take part in a local gathering on September 17, on the same day as the march in New York, to demand action from our so-called leaders. Demand that they break the chokehold of the fossil fuel oligarchs on our lives.

    We call on President Biden to:

  1. Stop Federal Approval for new fossil fuel projects and repeal permits for climate bombs like the willow project and the mountain valley pipeline.

  2. Phase Out Fossil Fuel Drilling on our public lands and waters.

  3. Declare a Climate Emergency to halt fossil fuel exports and investments abroad, and turbo-charge the build-out of more just, resilient distributed energy (like rooftop and community solar).

  4. Provide a Just Transition to a renewable energy future that generates millions of jobs while supporting work-ers’ and community rights, job security, and employment equity


Bobby Righi is Co-Chair of PSARA's Climate and Environmental Justice Committee.

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