Governor Jay Inslee passed the the WA Climate Commitment Act on April 26. This act is the first piece of legislation in all of the U.S. to pave the way for net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.
While this bill is meant to fight climate change, the question of whether it’s enough to make a meaningful difference is discussed. Meteorologist professor Sydney Brahamavar has been teaching at Clark for about 4 years and answers some questions surrounding the bill and climate change.
Q: Could you explain what climate change is to those who might be confused or need further clarification?
Brahamavar: The climate is always continually changing. What we’re seeing now are changes in our climate that are happening over twenty, thirty, and fifty years that normally would’ve happened over hundreds, thousands if not millions of years.
It’s called anthropogenic climate change, meaning it’s caused by humans. It’s primarily because of our greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 and methane are the two big ones. We’re seeing changes in weather patterns and potentially climate over these shorter periods of time that are causing disruptions in all aspects of our lives all over the world.
Q: The WA Climate Commitment Act is the first piece of legislation that was passed in all of the U.S. to pave the way for net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. What do you think this says about us?
Brahamavar: If we’re looking at this in a United States context I think that says we [Washington] are more forward-thinking, but if we’re looking at it in a global context we’re very far behind as a country. This is a global program and it’s going to require a global response. We as a society and as a state can certainly do better, we have to do better for our future.
Q: Is this bill enough or should we be taking more steps to combat climate change?
Brahamavar: No, it’s not enough. It’s never probably going to be enough given our capitalist structure if I’m being honest. We’ve had this massive increase in our emissions, despite the fact that we know oil companies have known about greenhouse gas emissions and the climate chaos we’ve created since the 60s and 70s, and they covered it up. To adequately address climate change we need a complete overhauling of our system and that includes our capitalist system. I don’t think we can capitalize our way out of this.
Q: Can you give some examples of the effects of climate change that can be seen today?
Brahamavar: Climate chaos is touching all aspects of our life. You have really obvious examples like the Maldives where the country is literally disappearing, you have Miami Florida that floods whenever there are high tides. Sea level rise is the most apparent, animal populations being decimated, but the real issue with climate chaos is that it’s small changes to our normal patterns that are impacting all of us.
It’s such a slow process that it’s not as easy as ‘oh look now it’s flooding, it wasn’t ten years ago.’ For our area the wildfires of last season were atrocious. An example from the midwest is that we’re seeing a third of our topsoil is no longer present in our corn belt, which doesn’t just impact people from the midwest that affects food supply all over the world because 80% of our corn is grown in that area. You’re seeing climate refugees come in now – there are some that believe the worst drought in 500 years in Syria is what led to the civil war there, people migrating because they no longer had livestock and couldn’t grow food.
Q: What steps can be taken by everyday people to fight climate change?
Brahamavar: The number one thing you can do is to be politically engaged and to demand the future we all deserve. Individual actions are great but 100 corporations are responsible for 72% of our emissions. Even if you and I and everybody reading this reduced our carbon emissions to zero, we’re still not anywhere close to where we need to be.
While your personal choices make a difference and send a market signal as to what we want, ultimately being politically engaged and demanding not just the future we want but a future, for us and if we want to have children. As far as individual actions, the big one is your diet. You can reduce the amount of meat and animal products in your diet, you can shop locally for products. Growing your own food is really good. The other big one is consumerism, don’t buy things you don’t need like fast fashion. It’s really wasteful.
Clark students who are interested in learning more about this subject feel free to take professor Brahamavar’s Global Climate Change (MET 201) class which can be found under the Meteorology courses.