Letter: Hoping the city can work toward climate change

Published 8:17 am Thursday, May 9, 2019

By Wayne Goodnature

I hope an Austin City Council discussion of what we can do in our community to help mitigate future climate change will be forthcoming. Our largest employer, Hormel Corporation, just announced that 50 percent of their electricity will soon start coming from renewable sources. They have now joined the ranks of some of our nations top corporations like Apple, Google, Walmart, and General Motors. Their commitment will reduce their green house gas emissions by an estimated 197,000 metric tons. Putting this in perspective, 197,000 metric tons is equivalent to the output emissions of 26,000 average size homes. Or on the lighter side, the equivalent of the yearly emissions of 130,940,221 pigs. They are a big company, but not in the comparison to the entire world. They are, in the case of Austin, a little fish in a big pond. It will be small communities like Austin that will suffer the most if we do not deal aggressively with climate change. Damages from weather have in the past affected homes, business, and our local ecosystem. We have nowhere near the rich covering of trees we once enjoyed; either storms or housing has removed them. We might never know for sure how much our small changes will make a difference. I would suggest that if we do nothing we will find out soon enough the influence that will have!

I would contend that Austin is a great example of amazing accomplishments by a small city. For as long as I can remember, flooding has plagued various areas throughout Austin. I might add at great expense to citizens! I remember the problem seemed beyond our resources to resolve. Austin tackled that monumental problem head on and now the only thing that floods is open land. I don’t remember climate change being the impetus for Austin’s flood projects, but just the same, if science is correct about the future, we have already gone a long way to avoid one predicted result.

Email newsletter signup

My background is in evidence collection and how to use it in the most effective way in court. It’s probably why I’m so interested in climate change science, which is totally evidence based. There is corroboration everywhere in the climate case. It’s like walking into a murder scene where the killer is standing over the body holding a gun and smoke is still coming out of the barrel. I also learned from experience not to stop collecting evidence just because you think the crime is solved. Some evidence is obvious but often can be looked at differently depending on your perspective. There are some components that are still somewhat unsettled. How much time do we really have to correct things before our climate changes become permanent? IPCC reports say 10 years, but evidence is mounting that maybe we have less. Paying attention to the evidence is what we should be doing now. The evidence will lead you to the conclusion you need.

Is there any evidence that small communities could be of help? Actually, there is a lot of evidence that we could and should help even as individuals. Even though we have just recently learned the destructive result of burning too much fossil fuel, we can not keep failing to act. The 2018 IPCC (intergovernmental report on climate change) was very straight-forward about the importance of everyone doing their part. The report and underlying science points out the significance of reducing our carbon footprint and the consequences if we do not. At this point, we should all feel some responsibility for what’s occurring. If we do not act, history will confirm the worst of us! We knew what was happening and did little to nothing. Not really how I want to be remembered!

We need to discuss what a community of our size could reasonably do. I think we are all intimidated by the enormity of this issue and it’s possible consequences. I know I am, and it’s very hard to wrap your head around what we are facing. There are so many facets that it has become mind boggling. I think we all keep visualizing this on a worldwide scale rather than some scale that is more manageable. The players that are responsible to deal with this on a global level are locked in mortal combat, leaving us to fend for ourselves. Our federal government is broken and it’s dysfunction is threatening our lives. We can not keep burning fossil fuel. It is going to destroy all of us!

Most of us do not have the ability to make the government change or the income to release ourselves from fossil fuel. Most states and some communities are tackling climate change on their own. They clearly realize we do not have time to wait for the federal government to act. The average U.S. home emissions are 7.5 tons annually. There are roughly 10,500 homes in Austin with the emissions output of 75,000 tons of greenhouse gas. Moving our community towards solar would do a lot to mitigate our portion of carbon dioxide being expelled by us into the atmosphere. We can either accomplish that as individuals or pool our resources and do it through our community. Most of the projects that cities are taking on have voluntary components at this time encouraging citizens to use alternate transportation as frequently as possible. Bikes, bus service, electric vehicles etc. The point of a community discussion is to provide Austin with some alternatives that we can achieve as a community. It is vital that we’re able to show our children and grandchildren that we did everything we could to leave them a future better than ours. John Kennedy said, “we should do this not because it is easy but because it is hard!” He was talking about establishing our nations goal to go to the moon. He motivated us to achieve and we did! Kennedy is no longer here, but his words are, “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” His words should resonate with us now as we face humanities greatest challenge.