"Stop your vessel. You are running into danger."
That's what the signal flags Lima and Uniform mean.
And those signal flags should be flying from the flagpole at the Massachusetts State House, where the ruling Democrats are gearing up to auction off over 28,000,000 (yes, twenty-eight million) tons of CO2 pollution permits next month.
The energy companies that buy the permits through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) acquire the legal right to dump 28,000,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere during the year 2010.
Auctioning pollution permits through cap-and-trade schemes is a Wall Street approach to the climate crisis, akin to trying to dig our way out of the recession using mortgage-backed securities. It just won't work.
For example, are those energy companies doing what NASA climate scientist James Hansen has called for, i.e. phasing out coal? No, at least not so far as I could tell last time I drove past the coal-burning plant at Mount Tom.
And last time I checked what scientists are saying about sea levels rising because of climate change, the news was not good. The current rate of increase is 0.75 mm per year according to the BBC's report based on the latest edition of the journal Science. Burning more coal is one sure way to keep pumping up those sea levels.
The Beacon Hill Democrats need to understand that we can get serious about tackling climate change or we can carry on burning coal, but we can't do both. Encouraging speculation in CO2 pollution through the RGGI scheme reveals not only a lack of seriousness, but an irresponsible roll-the-dice approach to the most serious crisis our species has confronted. Fortunately, the voters are paying attention to the Lima Uniform signal flags even if their state reps and senators are not.
What the Legislature has failed to catch up with is the shift in public opinion that Christine MacDonald describes in the current edition of E Magazine (Why the End May be Coming for Coal), writing that "a sea change has taken place in the last few years, as the media has focused more attention on the debate and the public has become better acquainted with coal's dark side."
Instead of using discredited Wall Street methods that help enrich the coal-burning energy giants, the Legislature and the Executive should be rewarding and encouraging the people who are doing the most to tackle climate change here in Massachusetts: our small, locally-owned green businesses and our organic farmers.
If clean-energy activists are right about the sea change, the Democrats on Beacon Hill had better start paddling hard to catch the tide. On the other hand, perhaps a few of them should jump overboard and make room for some Green legislators.