Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

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October 18, 2018

Last week’s Gazette provided an interesting juxtaposition of ideas. Page 8A’s editorial by Gordon Forgey, “12 years left,” faced page 9A’s column, “Carbon Fee Hurts Business and Families,” by Don Brunell.

The editorial depicted accurately the latest UN report on the urgency of climate change. It also observed that this information was not really new, that the underlying science had been known since 1957. I’d like to correct that.

A century earlier, in August 1856, a scientist named Eunice Foote “in two brisk pages … anticipated the revolution in climate science.” She demonstrated the “effects of the sun on certain gases” and theorized, for the first time, “how those gases would interact with Earth’s atmosphere.”

The man usually credited with this discovery was John Tyndall, who demonstrated the effect three years later. Since then, evidence has mounted as our science improved over a century and a half. It’s been 16 decades since Ms. Foote announced her discovery, and no science has emerged to refute that discovery.

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change released its latest evidence just last week, and it once again corroborated Ms. Foote’s work.

In contrast, Brunell’s column resurrects short-sighted tired arguments of the climate change deniers. Waffling, and abnegating responsibility have been the strategy of denial ever since Exxon’s own research corroborated global warming and climate change in 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, and the company hid the information.

Initiative 1631 advocating a fee on carbon could set an example. It’s not perfect – no initiative is. But Washington State is on the brink of leading the nation with I-1631. Why more taxes? Because if the world at large does not act to reduce carbon emissions, there will, indeed, be only 12 years left.

But why Washington? Well, it’s not only our state. Our state could start a countrywide movement. Last month the Climate Leadership Council (in the other Washington) published a national plan to reduce greenhouse gases faster than the US’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

This council has bipartisan support from several former US Cabinet members as well as other prominent public servants. The plan, a top-down movement, has already begun. At its heart is a nationwide carbon tax.

Many, like Brunell, are complaining about the costs of such a tax. They, and we all, might do better to consider the costs of doing nothing. Many of us have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – you get the idea.

We have the choice. We can pay now, or our descendants can pay later, without the choice we still have.

--Pete Haug, Colfax


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