It’s now or never on addressing climate crisis

Without budget, we’ll be trapped in a fossil fuel world

FOR MOST OF US,  September signals the end of summer and a time to reflect and reset. This year’s need to reboot is historic as President Biden justifiably declared September “National Preparedness Month” to respond to unprecedented climate events. Biden’s move, while applaudable, is long overdue; I am haunted by how climate change dominates every conversation, not just at backyard barbecue chats. Whether it’s a discussion about West Coast friends evacuated due to fires, an elderly aunt moving east from Washington after suffering from unusually high temperatures and loss of her husband to heat stroke, or the ravages of Hurricane Ida, the signs are everywhere that we are all encountering the burgeoning climate emergency.

Yet, many elected officials, corporations, and banks continue to plow forward with their fossil fuel projects while making it financially impossible for most people to make the necessary changes to combat the climate crisis.

The passing of the budget and reconciliation package is essential to sidestepping these obstacles if we are going to address the climate crisis on all fronts. Many of us are watching with bated breath as the package, which will fund climate resilience and infrastructure, progresses. The roadblocks to this critical course correction continue to spring up. In a sudden change of heart, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who initially voted for the budget resolution, stated in The Wall Street Journal that he would not support a $3.5 trillion budget package.

Big banks, like the ubiquitous Bank of America, continue to fund pipeline replacement projects, like Line 3 in Minnesota, all at the whim of Enbridge which has been building a greatly-contested compressor station right here in Massachusetts for years. It seems Enbridge and many other energy companies’ stated commitments to net-zero emissions are not at all supported by their actions, and they are unaffected by the current increase in severe climate events and the burdens we face. The dangers of continued fossil fuel reliance are as economic as they are existential.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who have yet to experience a fire or flood due to climate change, the crisis will find you, as its current financial burden is inescapable. If history serves as a glimpse into the future, we can expect gas and heating prices to increase beyond what most of us can afford.

For example, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, gas prices rose 40 cents a gallon, with overall costs surpassing $3 per gallon in Boston. The average gas price in Massachusetts right now is $3.09, and another catastrophic hurricane just hit Louisiana, so it is safe to assume gas prices will surge past an average of $3.50 per gallon.

Furthermore, if you live in a home that has oil heat and your heating prices are connected to current gas prices, you can expect that your heating bills will skyrocket and become, once again, a burden on your monthly budget.

According to a 2018 study by the Federal Reserve, a $400 unexpected expense can force more than one-third of American adults into financial chaos. And that was before COVID. What will sudden financial needs caused by extreme weather mean for this segment of the population? As lives and livelihoods suffer due to extreme weather events, you’d think renewable energy solutions would be a top priority. Heat pumps, solar energy, and electric vehicles should be accessible to everyone, especially with the passing of the Next Gen Roadmap bill and Biden winning election on a climate platform that called on the US to be 100 percent clean electricity by 2035. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Renewables are still utterly unattainable for the majority of the population

Meet the Author

Cabell Eames

Political/Legislative director, 350 Massachusetts
For those of us losing sleep over climate change and doing everything we can to raise awareness, we are trapped in a fossil fuel world simply because we don’t have the means to get out. Without the $3.5 trillion budget plan, we are sitting ducks against the climate crisis and those standing in the way of solving it. We can’t let fossil fuel interests box us out from saving the planet and ourselves and our words and actions must align if we are to survive.

Cabell Eames is the political/legislative director of the Better Future Project/350 Mass.