Thistlethwaite: Our climate emergency demands action |

Thistlethwaite: Our climate emergency demands action

Forget the term “climate change.” We are now in a “climate emergency,” and if we fail to act decisively and aggressively to make the necessary changes to combat this emergency right now, our children and grandchildren will never forgive us.

And we should not forgive ourselves.

Portland, Oregon, has set an all-time high record of 116, coming on the third day in a row with dangerous highs.


How can Portland, Oregon, be hotter than Las Vegas, Nevada? The conditions that have given rise to what is called the “heat dome” that is cooking the northwest is a climate change catastrophe rolling out before our eyes. It has been accelerated due to the components of megadrought and potential changes to the jet stream.

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It’s horrifying, but it’s not that complex. Human-caused climate change has become a climate emergency that is producing temperatures that are beyond what living things on this planet can survive.

Read about “Heat Death” in David Wallace-Wells’ “The Uninhabitable Earth.” The planet, he says, has become “a war machine” and “every day we arm it more.”

The catastrophic changes to the climate caused by humans are making war on life on earth.

That’s why the key provisions of what some have called the “human infrastructure” bill — that is, all the climate provisions that the bipartisan infrastructure proposal leaves out — are essential and should be done by reconciliation. For an explanation of the byzantine process called “reconciliation,” read this.

I agree with those members of Congress who are staunchly maintaining #NoClimateNoDeal in terms of infrastructure negotiations. Given the poisonous, bad faith political climate in Washington, D.C., I think that the climate provisions need to be passed first.

What good does it do us to fix our basic infrastructure when extreme heat is causing roads to melt and transit to shut down right now? Unless we address the factors causing climate catastrophe, these conditions will occur again. In fact, there are some who argue that the compromise infrastructure bill alone will increase carbon emissions.

Action on climate change and other aspects of what is called “human infrastructure” is complicated and the two-pronged strategy is risky in the extreme.

But it is not nearly as risky as failing, once again, to decisively address climate change.

“It is not if but when the town sees significant wildfire,” the Vail fire chief has warned. Escalating drought and rising temperatures leading to shorter winters are the prescription for increased wildfires here in our valley.

You want to wait until you can see the flames from your windows, or do you want to act now?

As a Christian pastor and teacher, I meant what I said about forgiveness in the beginning of this column in the most profound way. The creation is God’s gift and God pronounced it “good” (Gen. 1:31). It is unforgivable to take this good gift and trash it so thoroughly we will usher in another era of extinction.

As my friend and colleague in ministry, the Rev. Chuck Currie, who lives in Portland, Oregon, has tweeted, “It’s 115 in Portland. The historic #PNWheatwave is climate change in action. God’s call to us to act as stewards of Creation has been ignored. But we must #ActOnClimate. We need Congress to do the same: Everything we hold dear is at ask. #pdxtst #Portland.”

Please call your congressional representatives and make your voice heard. Congress must act decisively on our accelerating climate emergency.

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