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Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Corner: It’s time to THRIVE

To quote Johan Rockstrom, Vice-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, “An emergency is calculated by risk divided by time. Risk is probability multiplied by impact. Scientifically, we now have a very unfortunate set of data in front of us. We know that the likely impact on humans of climate disruption, mass extinction and air pollution is very, very high indeed. The probability is also uncomfortably high. This adds up to a very high risk. Now divide that by time. We have unequivocal evidence that we have entered a decisive decade. If we have any chance to prevent the loss of more than a million species, we must halt biodiversity loss now, not in 20 or 30 years. If we want to have any chance of keeping global warming to 1.5C [centigrade above preindustrial levels], we need to cut emissions by half over the next nine years.”

One of the best, or at least most immediate, shots we have in the U.S. at beginning to tackle the anthropogenic (human-caused) global climate crisis and related crises is infrastructure legislation now being devised, revised and debated in the U.S. Senate. This effort must coincide with the creation of a post-pandemic 21st Century economy that allows the American people to thrive.

Thrive–you should keep that word in mind. Why? Because the THRIVE (Transform, Heal and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy) Act is our best shot at tackling climate and biodiversity as well as economic and public health crises starting now. The THRIVE Act would create 50,000 jobs in the first full year of the program and sustain high levels of employment throughout the next decade. The program would invest $5.2 billion per year for a decade into West Virginia in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency, infrastructure, electric vehicles, agriculture and land restoration, and the care economy, public health and the postal service. Economic renewal investments with strong labor standards ensure that jobs will not only increase, but that the quality of jobs will also improve.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and her Republican colleagues aren’t taking these goals seriously. They want to ignore the care economy entirely and they fail to take seriously and adequately address the climate and related crises we face. They miss the mark on a 21st Century economy centered around renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable agriculture and development that creates thousands of good-paying union jobs.

Republicans can’t even meet President Biden halfway on his American Jobs Plan. They want to talk about roads, bridges, water systems and broadband, which are all extremely important and included in both the American Jobs Plan and the THRIVE Act but focusing on just these is myopic.

Now is the time to go big and be bold. West Virginians are tired of just surviving, at best, while facing an addiction epidemic, the fallout of a global COVID-19 pandemic, and losing more population than any other state in the Union. We need leaders with vision and the tenacity to deliver. We’re tired of excuses and watching politicians check their stock portfolios and check in with industry lobbyists and deep pocket campaign contributors before they decide whether or not to listen to their constituents.

According to findings from a Data for Progress poll conducted May 7-11, two-thirds of voters are concerned about the impacts of climate change on their communities. That is all the mandate that the U.S. Congress and the White House need to take action! Tell Sen. Joe Manchin III and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to act today and support the THRIVE Act, or at the very least go as big and as bold with the American Jobs Plan as they can possibly go. It’s time for West Virginia and the rest of the country to thrive!

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Eric Engle is Chairman of the not-for-profit volunteer organization Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, Board Member for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, and Co-Chairman of the Sierra Club of West Virginia Chapter’s Executive Committee.

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