WINSTON: Declaring a Climate Emergency Would be Great for Greenwich

Submitted by Andrew Winston, Author of Net Positive and Green to Gold, Old Greenwich, RTM D12

A group of Greenwich High School students, members of the (GEAG), have asked the Board of Selectman to declare a “climate emergency.” This would be a smart move for the town. I have spent 20 years helping multinationals understand and act on climate (among other things). Taking this issue very seriously is warranted, and will be good for the town’s economy, our quality of life, and our health.

But that hasn’t stopped RTM member Phil Dodson from attacking the idea. (Dodson: “GHS Climate Emergency Resolution” Comes from Activist Group’s Template, July 11, 2022). Instead of engaging these passionate students on the merits, Dodson’s letter to the editor maligns the student group and a global NGO, (which GEAG is allied with). Started by college students, is one of the most effective climate organizations in the world. The group advocates using 100% renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuels rapidly.

These aims put them in good company: Most countries have similar goals and hundreds of large companies have committed to science-based carbon targets (which means cutting emissions in half by 2030 and decarbonizing by 2050) or to sourcing 100% renewable energy.

What might a town do if it declares an emergency? Imagine city buildings being retrofitted to save energy and improve comfort, new buildings meeting net zero standards, large installations of renewable energy, EV chargers all over town, investments in water and flood management, and more. These things will make the town more livable, safe, and enjoyable. And they will save money, much of it quickly.

None of this came up in Mr. Dodson’s rant about, which included a disturbing statement that the NGO “receives some of its funding from George Soros foundations which says everything you need to know about the organization.” Soros’ Open Society is indeed a funder…but so are some three hundred other foundations. Why didn’t he mention the other billionaire philanthropists or business leaders with foundations supporting – like Michael Bloomberg, Charles Schwab, Pierre Omidyar, or Eileen Fisher. Or noticed the three different Rockefeller foundations on the list.

Why George Soros and why the cryptic statement about “everything you need to know”? Soros is a favorite go-to scare tactic, which the Anti-Defamation League, Forbes, and many others have tied clearly to anti-semitism. Many, many right-wing conspiracy theories blame Soros and his Jewish background for something nonsensical.

At any rate, trying to stop these young citizens from doing their civic duty is a great example of middle-aged-mansplaining. A statement of climate emergency is not some radical idea from silly kids. We’d be following in the footsteps of countries like Japan, Canada, Austria, Bangladesh, France, Italy, and the European Parliament…plus countless regions, cities, and even the Pope.

The students of Greenwich know all this, and they know that tackling climate change is good for everyone. But in the end, I believe they want to declare a climate emergency simply because it is an emergency. And we should listen to those who will be dealing with a much degraded planet for decades after we’ve gone.