By Katie McChesney, Fossil Free US Campaign Manager, native Ohioan.
As a young college graduate in 2010, wide-eyed and excited about politics, I quickly realized that the fight to stop climate change would be the fight of my life — because it meant the fight for life on our only planet. Young people are a generational frontline to the climate crisis, and in Ohio, where I grew up and went to college, the fossil fuel industry runs rampant.
Last week, the latest investigative report from InsideClimate News revealed that as far back as the 1980s, Ohio was at the forefront of researching and implementing renewable energy across the state. That is, until Koch enterprises, through ALEC and climate-denying front groups, paid-off politicians to reverse their stance on the possibility and power of renewable energy, and to support industry lies and misleading reports. As much as it angered me to read this encompassed in one report, I was not shocked.
Beginning in 2007, I spent 6 years campaigning against the very coal plants that gave me adult onset asthma, joining with Ohioans across the state to block the encroaching fracking industry. I experienced firsthand the corruption of being shut out of public meetings, and stall tactics orchestrated by fossil fuel elites who profit off the exploitation of our climate and communities.
For years, fossil fuel executives and the politicians they employ have used their go-to strategy of “delay and deceit” to block and unravel renewable energy legislation in Ohio. The reality is, as shown through study after study, that renewable energy can power our economy at a cheaper rate than coal, oil and gas, and can put steelworkers in a collapsed automotive industry back to work in factories across the rust belt. Stories like these are not uncommon.
In 2015, groundbreaking reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed fossil fuel corporations like Exxon knew about climate change as far back as the 1970s. But instead of heeding the warnings of their scientists and telling the truth, company executives chose to spend the last 50 years sowing doubt and misinformation about climate change. Now, with Exxon’s own Rex Tillerson is representing the US federal government on the global stage, the stakes are even higher.
2017 has seen unlivable temperatures, closely following the temperature records broken in 2016, and 2015 before that, and 2014 before that…
Hurricanes devastated the entire Gulf Coast. Millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to clean water and electricity following the last category four storm. Last week, thousands marched through the streets of New York City to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, and urge elected officials to heed the demands of the people they represent.
These reports prove exactly who is responsible for this destruction, and who must pay the costs of the recovery and transition: fossil fuel executives and their bought-and-paid-for political allies.
Against the will and wealth of the industry, the urgency to act is now. That’s why we are coming together around dinner tables, in churches, and at town halls to demand a just and equitable transition to a Fossil Free world by immediately halting all new fossil fuel projects and committing to 100% renewable energy that works for all.
The battle with fossil fuel billionaires is not isolated to my home state of Ohio. Across the country, fossil fuel elites, like Exxon and the Koch brothers, are pouring resources into attempting to keep delaying climate action, all with the goal of lining their own pockets even at the expense of the health and safety of people across America. These regressive policies are holding us back from investing in creating millions of jobs that will Americans to work. It’s up to all of us to make sure that we stop propping up this archaic and destructive industry.
City by city, state by state we are joining forces to stop this deceit and denial, halt new fossil fuel projects, and transition to 100% renewable energy for all. Building off the power of the fossil fuel divestment movement and the incredible groundwork of groups like Sierra Club, we are joining forces to build a safer and more stable Fossil Free world.
Starting next week, thousands of people across the U.S. are hosting and joining house parties to get to work to build the world we need. Together, we will take back power and bring hundreds of thousands of new people into the fight for climate justice. Sign up here and let’s get to work the fight for a Fossil Free world.