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Editorial: Bold actions needed to save the planet

  • Youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee hearing on climate change on Wednesday in Washington. AP

Published: 9/19/2019 7:00:20 AM
Modified: 9/19/2019 7:00:09 AM

Tomorrow, there will be a global strike to protest grossly insufficient governmental action to slow the climate change that threatens the future of civilization. Millions of young people destined to inherit a hotter planet bereft of many of its life forms are expected to take to the streets. At least eight strike events will be held in New Hampshire, including one at the State House in Concord.

The global strike was ignited by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl with Asperger’s syndrome who’s been described as the Joan of Arc of climate change. She is blunt in the way of children voicing truths.

Testifying before Congress earlier this week, Thunberg said: “Please save your praise. We don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything. . . I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

Also this week, Monitor columnist David Brooks wrote about how, for decades, he has tried to do all he can as an individual to minimize his impact on the planet only to realize that scrupulous recycling and other efforts are inconsequential when balanced against the damage one coal-fired power plant creates in a few hours.

“When seeking solutions to wide-ranging problems like climate change, I have come to realize that individual action is not only insufficient but can be an actual obstacle to tackling the issue,” Brooks wrote.

“Twelve years left to save the planet” has become an oft-misunderstood battle cry. It doesn’t mean that 2030 will bring a tipping point beyond which life as we know it on the planet will be impossible. It does mean that if a monumental effort to stem carbon dioxide emissions isn’t made, the world’s nations could fail to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the point beyond which most scientists agree potentially irreparable harm will occur and a significant portion of the planet could become uninhabitable.

The actions needed to avert that fate are not being taken, nor, in some quarters, even being taken seriously. That’s true of the Oval Office and the headquarters of Republican lawmakers, who support the president’s rollback of environmental regulations and have stymied climate progress on every front.

Individual actions on the “every little bit helps” principle won’t put a dent in the problem. The only hope lies in political action that could unite all nations in an effort to undo the harm the burning of fossil fuels has wrought.

So, with the bluntness of Thunberg, after decades of sounding the alarm, we believe that the best way to combat climate change is to oust President Trump and every Republican in Congress. Not one of them, with the dubious exception of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, when judged by their track record on climate change legislation deserves re-election. They have rejected American leadership in the fight to combat climate change. They are mired in the tar pits of energy policy past. They must be replaced by candidates who will respond to the alarm that Thunberg and the world’s youth will sound tomorrow.

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