Letter: 'Just transition' on climate must be urgent, realistic

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Editor of the Reformer,

This Independence Day, I celebrate "liberty and justice for all" and Vermont's bold independent-thinking legislators who understand that every bill considered and passed in some way facilitates a transition that must enhance justice for all.

Many of us use the phrase "just transition" without fully understanding all the implications. There are some among us who live and breathe "just transition" without ever verbalizing the concept. For example, "just transition" was not mentioned once in the June 28 Reformer "inside baseball" season recap by Becca Balint and Jill Krowinski, "Making progress on an economy that works for everyone," yet everything they mentioned exemplifies the concept.

On the other hand, during the so-called "debate" last week, we saw presidential candidates who would have us believe their respective look-alike approaches to just about every issue are the most just and effective for achieving the incremental transitions from past behavior to the ideal future.

Admittedly, a few of the candidates managed to express a few general concepts in their allotted minute on the urgent transition that is needed from the petroleum paradigm to a carbon-free energy economy. But there was no time to delve into what a "just transition" might look like, how it might roll out.

Researching their written proposals critically, there is little depth and understanding of how the transition will face conundrums of balancing scientific IPCC admonitions, negotiated political aspirations, climate justice, financial realities and industry logistical challenges. For the most part, simplistic sound bite remedies resonate like cultish mantras emanating from a singular belief in a decades old "try this and see" generalized approach.

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We must not simply accept their word for it that the proposals are just, effective and expeditious. Each proposal must be discussed calmly and civilly — away from the Food Fight Frenzy — with plenty of time to delve deeply into the most urgent crisis to have ever challenged humanity.

The implications of unthinkingly "painting ourselves into a climate and energy corner" are dire if we don't frankly and honestly assess how a just transition from our petroleum paradigm to a carbon-free energy economy just might play out.

The science is clear: tempest fugit — we've run out of time for any more procrastination and half-measures. Inconveniently, we are faced with unfathomable market, economic and social mayhem if we adopt shallow, knee-jerk solutions that may trigger an unthinkable collapse of this house of cards. The scenario analyses must be brutally realistic, and contingency plans must be created to address the downside "what if" prospects.

It is not just a numbers game, but millions, if not billions, of lives hang in the balance. We must consciously critique every aspect of every proposal and be prepared for the worst eventualities if our planning turns out to be insufficient to restore the habitat in which civilization has evolved.

Doug Grandt

Putney, July 2


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