By Tom Lucy
For over a century much of the science behind climate change has been understood. Yet, throughout all that time, little to no action was taken to address the core problem: Ever-increasing fossil fuel emissions that are warming our planet.
This lack of action and vision has led our planet to the precipice of disaster.
In 2019 a very loud alarm bell was rung, reminding us how little time we have left. Scientists from across the planet and leaders in the United Nations told us we have a little over 10 years to dramatically reduce emissions if our goal is to avoid the worst possible consequences. That means we only have until 2030.
While this warning made big headlines, we still saw limited action. And the debate still raged as to whether any action should be taken at all.
So where are we, four short years later? Well, we are in a somewhat better place.
We’ve seen more aggressive actions taken to address climate. Nationally, there’s the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest U.S. investment in climate ever. At the state level, we have seen even more ambitious plans. Minnesota’s last legislative session passed a commitment to a carbon-free electricity system by 2040.
At a more local level, cities are stepping up. In 2022, the city of St. Paul declared a climate emergency and St. Paul Public Schools passed a resolution to divest financially from fossil fuels. As a career employee of SPPS, I am proud to be part of a district that has begun to take action on climate.
Let’s respond on the scale of the challenge: While this is all good news, the truth is we need to act quicker and more boldly: 2030 is only seven years away. Why would we continue to be OK with a step-by-step approach to a problem whose solution requires wholesale societal change?
There is likely no single answer to that question. But maybe it’s because people, groups and governments still treat climate action as an additional thing we can get to if we have time.
At the state level, we want to address the issue, but then we allow fossil fuel infrastructure like the Line 3 pipeline. As a city, we passed a Climate Emergency resolution, yet taking action on climate is rarely mentioned by our mayor and City Council.
Then at a school district level, SPPS for example, individual departments push toward sustainability but their efforts are often afterthoughts to District initiatives as a whole.
There are always serious problems that leaders have to face, and climate can feel far away. But that’s the crux of it: Climate might feel far away, but it is not.
What’s more, the consequences will only worsen the slower we act. For schools, the worse climate change becomes, the more stress our children will face and the more their learning will suffer.
Climate touches everything, and we need to own up to that as individuals, groups and governments. We owe it to ourselves, and more important to our kids, to examine every decision we make through the lens of climate.
Time is running out.
Tom Lucy is a husband and father to three kids. He is a St. Paul Schools social worker and a proud member of the St. Paul Federation of Educators for over 20 years. Tom is passionate about the issue of fighting the climate crisis and making our children’s future safe and equitable for all.
The UN’s 2019 report on the climate emergency tinyurl.com/un-2019
City of Saint Paul 2022 declaration of a climate emergency: tinyurl.com/stp-emergency
Sahan Journal article on SPPS divestment from fossil fuels: tinyurl.com/spps-divestment