Opinion: Gloom, outrage and barely any hope from readers on climate change

A brother and sister look on from a deck in their backyard in Monrovia as flames engulf hills.
A brother and sister look on from a deck in their backyard in Monrovia as flames engulf hills in the San Gabriel Mountains on Sept. 15, 2020.
(Los Angeles Times)

The weather and the climate are not same thing, but letter writers tend to make their fears known on the latter when the former is extreme. For example, a record-setting heatwave causes wildfires to simultaneously scorch tinder-dry forests in Southern California’s two most prominent mountain ranges, and for weeks readers rage over the destruction humans inflict with their carbon emissions. Come winter, when the occasional rains return and the temperatures moderate, the flow of letters on climate change tends to slow to a trickle like the L.A. River in October.

There are exceptions, of course: Letters on climate picked up when leaders meeting in frigid Scotland last November came up short on an international agreement to cut emissions (perhaps they should meet in L.A. in September, when they might have to choke down smoke from the San Gabriel Mountains being on fire).

Now, we’re hearing mostly from readers who believe we’re backsliding on climate change. They’re responding to changes in California’s rooftop solar rules and editorials lamenting the lack of effective government action. It’s hard to say if this indicates a shift in our mood on the topic, but adopting the aforementioned climate-weather distinction, I’d say the short-term outlook among our letter writers is pretty gloomy.



To the editor: I am shocked to learn that California is considering rules that would penalize rooftop solar by cutting net-energy meeting rates and charging solar customers more in fees.

As the climate crisis worsens and extreme wildfires and weather become the norm, and as California casts itself as the national leader in green energy initiatives, I am astonished that the state would consider implementing a plan that effectively penalizes rooftop solar customers.

The Californians leading the way by installing rooftop solar systems will allow more homes to become all-electric and will help with electrified transportation. The insanity of penalizing clean energy must stop.

Elizabeth Fleming, Altadena


To the editor: It seems appropriate for Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, in your article on deadly extreme weather in the U.S., to state: “The radical changes in our economy that are required for reaching low climate goals have not been achieved. Unfortunately, what we are seeing today is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we will see unless substantial reductions in emissions are made and quickly.”

The disappearing ice is only the half of it. Unfortunately, capitalism and climate are incompatible. It’s a bit like getting money out of politics.


Further, who is suggesting that reducing the unsustainable rise in world population might be a solution?

Roger Newell, San Diego


To the editor: News reports tell us that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increased last year. This was largely due to a hike in the price of natural gas, which led to the increased use of coal. This is precisely what we don’t need, as climate-related disasters multiply in both frequency and intensity.

Costs drive action. Why not harness the power of the market instead of fighting it? Economists have been urging for years that one of the most effective ways to fight climate change is to put a price on carbon.

A tax or fee levied on fossil fuels at the source (the well or mine) would increase the cost of all uses of coal, oil and gas throughout the economy. This would create a huge incentive to both replace fossil fuels and use less. It would stoke innovation like nothing else.

The downside is that higher prices (which are the whole point) would burden American families. To counter that, all the revenue of the carbon tax should be rebated to households via a monthly check; most households would come out ahead.

Fighting climate change will require action on many fronts, such as upgrading our electric grid and preserving forests. A price on carbon with family dividend should be seen as an essential piece of the effort.

Grace Bertalot, Anaheim


To the editor: Your editorial on federal action failing to reflect Americans’ growing alarm over climate change is maddening.

Forty-eight senators support President Biden’s Build Back Better proposal and all of its climate provisions, and 52 do not. Fifty of those 52 opposed are Republicans, and two are Democrats.

The 48 senators who support strong climate action that would get us to 50% of current emissions by 2030 are all Democrats. House Democrats passed Build Back Better and its strong climate provisions — without a single Republican vote.

So it isn’t that “Congress” is keeping climate action from happening; it’s Republicans and two crucial Democrats (both of whom take a mountain of money from fossil fuel lobbyists.) Why doesn’t your editorial mention this?

Please, when you write about this issue, tell the whole truth about it. Don’t blame Congress; blame Republicans and the two heavily lobbied Democratic senators who are stopping Build Back Better.

James Combs, Los Angeles


To the editor: We should be honest with ourselves that climate change mitigation that is at the mercy of our corrupt politicians and judges is doomed. Individuals need to prepare for the worst, even if that means relocating to a less hazardous area inside or outside the country.

With government so often a major part of the problem — with its subsidies of the energy, meat, dairy and agriculture industries — it is foolish to expect it to be a meaningful part of the solutions needed.

Bruce Stenman, Prunedale, Calif.