Damaged trees in Stonington in the wake of a significant storm, which is happening more often resulting from climate change
Damaged trees in Stonington in the wake of a serious storm, which is happening more often as a result of climate change. (CTNewsJunkie photo)
Susan Bigelow head shot
SUSAN BIGELOW

I’m writing this column on Saturday, ahead of the landfall of another big tropical storm. By the time it’s published on Tuesday, the state will likely have experienced high winds, flooding, and power outages. Storms like this aren’t just once-every-twenty-year events anymore; we can expect several per decade. Human-caused climate change means, among many other things, more frequent and more intense storms.

Scientists have been trying to sound the alarm on climate change for decades, and now that it’s actually happening you’d think we’d all take it more seriously. But so far, we haven’t.

Yes, there are plans in place for more renewable energy and for bans on gasoline-fueled cars to take effect sometime in the decades ahead. But climate change isn’t a crisis for the 2030s and 2040s, it’s a crisis for right now.

Here’s an example. There’s a town in Sicily called Floridia, and lately they’ve been experiencing the kind of heat wave we thought would be impossible not too long ago. Temperatures there reached 124ºF (51ºC), which caused lemons to spoil and snails, a major export, to cook and die in their shells.

Floridia is one of Hartford’s sister cities, because a lot of the immigrants who came from that town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries settled here. Quite a number of Sicilian families in Connecticut can trace their roots back to Floridia, and there’s even a street named after Hartford there.

Floridia today would be a shock to the immigrants who left that town a century ago. If heat waves like this keep happening – which they will – it may not be long before no one can live there anymore.

But we don’t have to look to Europe for examples of the effects of climate change. During the past few weeks all we’ve had to do is look up and see a hazy sky caused by the smoke from wildfires out in the drought-parched West. And now we get to hunker down as yet another big storm hits Connecticut after a summer of heavy rains and flooding.

Climate change isn’t just the future, then. It’s now.

What would it look like if we actually treated it like the urgent global crisis it is?

Unfortunately, a real planet-wide response to climate change isn’t possible because all of our petty nations are unable to work together. If you aren’t convinced, take a look at how we’ve all been responding to the other major global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re in a situation now where every country has different policies (and some countries, naming no names, have hundreds of different contradictory policies depending on where you are) and life-saving vaccines are being hoarded by rich countries at the expense of the poor.

Climate change is going to be like that. In fact, it already is.

I’m hopeful that there will be some kind of action on climate change at the federal level here in the United States, but the Trump administration taught us that federal help is not always a guarantee. That means meaningful climate change legislation in the United States will have to come at the state level.

Here’s what Connecticut can do right now.

Climate change is largely caused by burning fossil fuels and the only way we really get ourselves out of this situation is by abandoning their use. Cars with internal combustion engines are one of the leading causes of climate change, which is why we need to ban the sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles. 

Right now, California and a number of European nations are on target to ban cars with internal combustion engines by 2035. Connecticut is likely to follow suit. It’s a nice plan, but it’s way too slow. 

Let’s move that up a decade. Connecticut should ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by the beginning of the year 2025.

That would require a huge investment not just in electric cars and public transit, but in the kind of infrastructure we need to support those things. That means gas stations would need to convert to battery-recharging stations, homes would need to be able to charge up their vehicles at night and public transit would need to be ubiquitous. Plus, automakers would need to start delivering more and better electric vehicles right away.

The other change, shifting to renewable energy, is already underway as well. Using electric vehicles doesn’t help if the power for their batteries is coming from burning fossil fuels. But again, it needs to happen quicker. We need to invest more heavily in wind farms and solar energy to wean us off of coal and gas power plants, and we need to tap the power sources that drove the industrial revolution in our state: our many rushing streams and rivers. 

Connecticut should ban the production or purchase of power from non-renewable sources by the end of this decade. 

Either of these steps will cost staggering amounts of money and be incredibly inconvenient. In a just world, we’d offload these costs to the private sector, which has been profiting from pollution for a century and more. But even if we have to fund it through taxes and bonds, even if my tax bills shoot way up, it has to be done.

That’s what real action on climate change would look like. For those who say it’s impossible or scoff that it’s even necessary, I say this: we either rid ourselves of fossil fuels now or find ourselves struggling to do it in a few decades, when things have become much worse.

I know which I’d prefer.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.