Citizens’ Climate Lobby attempts to start new chapter in Huntington

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The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is attempting to start a chapter in Huntington, which will help aid the fight against climate change.

“I just feel this really strong moral responsibility to do everything I can to change what we do,” said Jim Probst, West Virginia state coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “We are not against coal, we’re not against anything. We are just about doing something positive and taking the first step towards combating climate change.”

Probst, who has personally made 15 trips to Capitol Hill to have more than 70 meetings with congressional officers on the subject of carbon emissions, organized a public meeting at Ritter Park on Oct. 15 in order to drum up support for a new chapter in the city.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby exists for one reason, which is to get a carbon pricing bill passed in Congress, according to Probst.

“We do have a bill introduced into the House of Representatives, called the Carbon Dividend Act, that has 66 co-sponsors in the House, and we hope there will be a companion version in the Senate soon,” Probst said. “Basically, our bill will raise a whole lot of money. It’ll raise almost three trillion dollars over the first ten years, and the actual legislation advocates for 100% of the money to be returned to American households.”

According to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby webpage, the act will generate over 2.1 million jobs over the next ten years as well.

The chapters here in West Virginia have also made it a top priority to ensure that coal communities are not forgotten during this transition and are compensated respectively.

“We think historically, coal has made a large contribution to our country and that coal miners shouldn’t just be shoved aside, so we need to figure out ways to assist them,” Probst said. “Our chapters are asking that 1% be carved out of the dividend and returned to coal communities and workers. Over ten years, 1% would be $25 billion in aid for just transitions issues for the coal fields.”

Part of the reason the chapters believe this to be so important is centered around a study that said once the Carbon Dividend Act is passed in Congress, companies can quit using coal to generate energy in 10 years, according to Probst. 

Currently, there are 86,000 members in the organization nationwide, with West Virginia having three other chapters in the state (Charleston, Morgantown and the Eastern Panhandle), and the Huntington chapter would be the fourth.

Many people who attempted to ignore the problem of carbon emissions are just now beginning to understand how detrimental the effects of climate change will be for local communities if there are no actions taken, according to Probst.

“I tried to ignore it for a long time. I just didn’t read the stories, didn’t pay attention because it just scared me,” Probst said. “But, after my grandchildren were born, it really just kicked me in the butt. All of us right now are enjoying the benefits of burning fossil fuels, and we are not doing anything really to advert what will happen if we don’t quit putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

The organization said that 114,000 lives are lost each year due to air pollution, and the passing of the Carbon Dividend Act could possibly save 295,000 of those lives through the year 2030 because of better air quality.

The Huntington chapter is planning on having their next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19, with the location to be announced.

Probst, who currently lives in Lincoln County, said that he wants to help start the chapter here in the city, but hopes the local community will become involved and ultimately take over it.

“I can’t do it on my own, there needs to be someone local to lead it,” Probst said. “Our efforts will only succeed with proactive leadership.”

Blake Newhouse can be contacted at [email protected] 

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