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National Editorial & Columnists

EDITORIALS ELSEWHERE : UN’s dire climate warnings should be met with serious action

New report comes amid reduced regulatory efforts on emissions and staff cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency.

This week’s frightening United Nations’ global warming report depicts a world unable to combat climate change unless it takes “unprecedented” action. It warns that the Earth’s temperature could rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

As a result of warming, most climate scientists predict worse and more frequent floods, wildfires in the West and droughts in the Midwest – as well as all the human suffering and property damage these disasters cause.

Even the Trump administration pulled its head out of the sand in August to acknowledge that the planet is warming but then said it won’t fight it. This comes from an administration that is abetting polluters by cutting emissions standards on vehicles and coal plants, dropping out of an international climate-change agreement, cutting staff at the Environmental Protection Agency and putting it in the hands of cheerleaders for the fossil fuel industry. That’s suicidal. It would be extremely foolish for anyone to adopt the administration’s fatalistic attitude because there are solutions – the polluters just don’t like them.

On Nov. 6, voters have a chance to elect candidates who are committed to fight global warming. One third of the Senate, including seats in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and all 435 House seats are up this year. If you’re not sure how to vote, just click on www.opensecrets.org and see which candidates are taking money from polluters.

But even if voters across the country fail to elect a climate-sensitive Congress, they can make changes in their own states, which are picking up the job of protecting our environment.

Next month, residents of Washington state will vote on a carbon tax that would cost polluters $15 for every ton of carbon dioxide they spew into our air. The state says it could raise more than $2 billion in 5 years. Washington would invest the money in clean energy development and mass transit as well as programs to protect forests and streams. A similar initiative failed in 2016, but if this one passes, Washington would become the first state to impose a carbon tax, and others might follow.

Pennsylvania, a state deeply involved in both fracking and cracking, has a long way to go in being environmentally friendly, though Attorney General Josh Shapiro has joined other states in suing the EPA over the rollback of emission standards. New Jersey, generally better on environmental issues, is fighting offshore oil drilling with a tough new ban, updating its Shore Protection Plan, and making it easier for offshore wind farm development

Consumers play an important role, too. They can choose clean energy to fuel their homes and vehicles. If they won’t, the government should hit consumers in the wallets with a consumer carbon tax on fossil fuel usage.

Even small steps matter, including using mass transit, trading in plastic bags for reusable sacks, and supporting tree planting programs.

If we don’t fight climate change now, we will lose our quality of life and condemn future generations to a world where just breathing could be dangerous.

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