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ANOTHER VOICE: The time is now to reverse global warming

Hood River Men’s Discussion Group meets twice a month for three hours to discuss issues and concerns of the day. This letter to President Obama, drafted by Carroll Davis and David Hupp and signed by 19 others, was presented this month to Rep. Greg Walden and Sen. Ron Wyden at local town halls.

Dear Mr. President:

We, the undersigned, are men who have retired from diverse work lives. We are concerned about global warming and the consequence of environmental collapse. All children and grandchildren will bear these consequences. We care about all life.

As carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere rapidly pushes toward 400 parts per million, we cannot ignore the starkly dramatic implications. Research, analysis and computer models have shown that the uninhibited burning of fossil fuels will cause catastrophic climate change: global warming; drought and desertification; more frequent and larger forest fires; increased frequency of more powerful storms of turbulence; and greater floods.

Worse, warming and acidification of the oceans, melting of glacial ice, and raising of oceanic levels already are occurring. Recent reports from the Pentagon, the World Bank, and the Swiss insurer Munich Re all have sounded this alarm.

These global warming implications that will cause significant reduction in habitable land will force major population migrations, resulting in vast human suffering: starvation, plague, war and population collapse. Ecosystems will be damaged or destroyed, leading to mass extinction of other species.

Millions of knowledgeable people understand this. Yet we as a nation have done little to slow or halt the impeding crisis.

We must act now! Soon it will be too late to stop the looming disaster. Current evidence shows that previous estimates of the effects of global warming are too low and that the possibility of worst case is realistic. We fear we are approaching or are at a tipping point on several of these impacts, beyond which natural cycles will produce irreversible results.

We can only slow, stop or reverse global warming by conserving energy in every activity and turning to alternative energy resources that do not produce carbon dioxide.

Not later — now!

If we do nothing it will be on our generation’s shoulders that we have destroyed the future of our children and grandchildren. It would be morally reprehensible also to take other life down with us.

We ask our representatives in government to move this crisis to the top of their legislative agendas. It is time to mobilize around the moral equivalent of war. It’s not enough to point out the problem and its causes. We need to advocate solutions and our leaders must work to advance them.

We know that the federal government can be a powerful leader in this challenge, including pressing state governments to do what they can. We are aware that you face major challenges in the Congress.

However, we urge you to make maximum use of effective orders, presidential proclamations, presidential determinations and even president directives, as this crisis directly affects our national security. We urge you to use the bully pulpit to move us to act, and we believe the American people will support you.

We accept that your mandate, and your top priority, is to rebuild the middle class. We support your idea to have “a wide-ranging conversation [about] what more we can do [to reduce carbon emissions in the short term, as well as] what realistically we can do in the long term.” We want to participate in that conversation.

We are aware that more than half the energy produced in our economy is wasted, so energy conservation and efficiency improvements must be the top energy priority; and these actions can be structured to help the middle class.

We are also aware that the transportation sector is the biggest energy user, nearly all petroleum, and that this sector wastes more than three-quarters of its end use. The overriding goal for all federal action in this sector must be moving people, not vehicles. More could be done in the nation to promote carpooling and mass transit and use of short-term car rentals, such as Portland’s Flex Car.

We would support a return of the mandatory 55 mph speed limit on federal highways, which could be a significant energy saver if the law is enforced. In urging this mandate we believe experience has shown that neither primary reliance on voluntary compliance nor full delegation to the states will get the job done.

Federal government studies show that rail is about 12 times more energy-efficient than trucking for the long haul of goods. We advocate an appropriate mix of taxes and subsidies to save energy in management of the nation’s highway and rail systems and in the choice of modes for hauling freight.

Electricity production is the major consumer of coal and wastes more than two-thirds of the energy used. Surely many jobs would be created in the conversion of coal-fired power plants to higher efficiency. And we believe there is no such thing as “clean coal” where global warming is concerned.

Our food production system is a major source of energy inefficiency; some estimate that 15-20 percent of our total energy consumption is used in the agriculture-to-food system. Much of that system is dependent upon fossil fuel for production of chemicals, as well as operation of the machinery for large-scale farming, and for long-haul trucking. We support moves toward better sustainability of our food system, including growing food locally.

We urge you to enact a carbon tax on fossil fuels and subsidies for non-carbon alternative energy industries. Furthermore, federal financial assistance to states and local governments would support their initiatives to save energy and employ non-carbon renewal energy sources.

Mr. President, in sum we feel a compelling urgency to make global warming a top priority, that diverse opportunities are available in the short run to reduce carbon emissions in our energy systems, that such actions can be structured to help the middle class, and that the federal government has a primary leadership role.

We urge you to seize that bully pulpit! The American people have been waiting and will support you. We wish to participate in the national conversation you advocate. To that end, we invite appropriate federal officials to discuss with us what can be done.

Robert Kennedy had this to say about how his brother John felt during the Cuban Missile Crisis:

“The thought that disturbed him most and that made the prospect of war much more fearful that it would otherwise have been, was the specter of the death of the children on this country and all the world — the young people who had no role, who had no say, who knew nothing even of the confrontation, but whose lives would be snuffed out like everyone else’s. They would never have a chance to make a decision, to vote in an election, to run for office, to lead a revolution, to determine their own destinies.”

Won’t this be a widespread feeling if we fail to act to our fullest capacities to stop and reverse global warming?

The issue is survival of life on earth. We look forward to your response.

Respectfully,

Carroll Davis

David Hupp

Kenneth McCarty

Dennis Kindig

Robert DeTar

Hugh B. McMahan

Thomas G. Penchoen

Paul Randall

Nathan Salter

Kenneth Wittenberg

Alan Taylor

Joseph R. Kelsey

Dennis Carlson

Dale Hill

Jim Hammermeister

Russ Hurlbert

C. Richard O’Bannon, P.E.

Lawrance K. Jones

Marc Hollen

Richard H. McBee Jr.

John Flenniken

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