“…the existential question that is before us is: When is the prospect of imminent disaster sufficient to drive collective change? At what point are we moved to real action?
“From where I sit in the arena of public policy making, I want to report to you — with some confidence — that moment is right here and right now.
“Even In the halls of the state house, this moment feels different. As evidence I offer this…”
Remarks by State Representative Brian Hubbell:
Thank you. At this point in my life and political career, I am normously grateful to today’s organizers for the invitation to speak as an ally to the youth movement at this extraordinary event.
in that role, I’ll begin by recapping the extraordinarily alarming changes that have happened within my generation’s lifetime:
Sixty years ago, back in the heart of the industrial age, collectively we sent 8 billion tons of fossil fuel emissions into the earth’s atmosphere — and assumed those emissions were merely a stable artifact of modern world.
Forty years ago, in a decade that opened with the first earth day and the emergence of the modern environmental movement — a decade which was punctuated by two oil crises — a decade which prompted my colleagues and I at MIT — along with many others — to research and develop new systems of renewable energy and building efficiency — our collective annual climate emissions more than doubled from 8 million tons to 20.
Even after a concerted national effort to reduce energy consumption — by the hot summer of 1988 — during which James Hansen from NASA first provided the Congress with evidence that climate change was already underway — annual global emissions had climbed to 22 billion tons.
And, even after science established both the phenomenon of climate change and its imminent threat, in the subsequent 30 years, global emissions have quadrupled from the 8 billion tons of the 1950s to the remarkable current level of 35 billion tons each year.
One hard consequence of this is that atmospheric carbon levels which previously had been stable over the full course of human history — in one single lifetime have grown from 300 parts per million in the mid 20th century to the current level of well over 400 ppm.
And current evidence now shows that in that same single lifetime, earth’s average temperature has already increased by nearly a degree.
With no apparent unifying public plan, we now understand that we risk losing the possibility of containing climate change within the boundaries of even two degrees — with all the environmental and civil uncertainty that even that represents — and we understand that, without radical change, we may face catastrophic prospects of a three degrees, four degrees, and possibly even five degrees.
For thirty years now, we have encountered the same sequence of obstructing arguments:
1) Climate change is a matter of ideological belief and not incontrovertible science.
2) And when we destroy that argument with the evidence of incontrovertible science, the argument shifts to allow that climate change may indeed be happening but that it is part of a natural cycle rather than the immediate consequence of modern human activity.
3) And when we demonstrate that denial of human responsibility can only be supported by the gross innumeracy of conflating events within a single modern human lifetime with changes that occurred over millions of years of geological time and still resulted in catastrophic extinctions of large orders of natural life — we are returned to the most pernicious counterargument of all: that maybe climate change is happening — and maybe humans are indeed responsible — but that the challenge of making substantive change is too complicated — too daunting — and too fraught with economic disruption for us to collectively engage.
So, as you here all well understand — the existential question that is before us is: When is the prospect of imminent disaster sufficient to drive collective change? At what point are we moved to real action?
From where I sit in the arena of public policy making, I want to report to you — with some confidence — that moment is right here and right now.
Even In the halls of the state house, this moment feels different. As evidence I offer this:
With the energy, dedication and advocacy from youth on this island, over the past three years MDI has seen broad installations of solar power — exemplified by the dedication this week at MDI High School of a student-initiated project,f the largest solar array on a school.
Directly following from a meeting in this town negotiated by youth on this island, our state’s governor, Janet Mills, was persuaded to make climate action a central policy goal at her inauguration.
With the aid and advocacy of youth on this island, the Maine legislature this spring passed an initiative which directs the state to triple its capacity for renewable energy generation by 2030.
Stemming directly from the advocacy and direct testimony of youth on this island, Maine now has a comprehensive process to reach the truly ambitious 30-year goals for comprehensive emissions reductions that we need to do our share in effectively combating the global challenge of climate change.
As a direct result of this meaningful youth advocacy and engagement, having a central seat in that process is my friend and now Maine Climate Council colleague is Ania Wright who continues to work tirelessly to ensure that youth collectively have a strong voice in driving real change.
This is indeed how change happens.
Under the initiative of Climate to Thrive, MDI has served the state as an example of what’s regionally possible in order to respond with climate action.
MDI students in particular are leaders in the emerging global movement of intelligent, articulate, effective, and politically astute youth voices.
As youth from MDI have served to catalyze change in Augusta, now we in Maine must serve as an example for the country and the world.
Together, we know the moment is here, today. Together, as an island and as a state, I have never been more hopeful that we in fact can do — and will do — as we all know we must.