Shifting Gears on Climate

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By Brandi Williams — Summer is just around the corner. Cyclists everywhere are chomping at the bit to get out on their bikes! This year in particular, after a year of lockdowns, the call of the open space that biking provides, is irresistible. No Peloton can substitute for that feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere, alone on your bike or with your best pal, with a breath-taking view of the wilderness. Whether you are out on a remote mountain trail, riding a road in the back country or just tooling around town, an early spring ride boosts the spirit!

And yet, we can’t help but notice that things have changed. In many places, unusually warm and dry weather has allowed cyclists to ride throughout the winter. In other places like Texas, the polar vortex put a halt to any thoughts of a bike ride. Instead citizens huddled under blankets for warmth, awaiting the return of electricity. Needless to say, the effects of a changing climate are altering the way we participate in the sport we love. Here in the Mountain West, hotter summer days make it unbearable to go for an after-work ride until the sun has nearly set. Or worse yet, the wildfires in drought-ravaged forests have destroyed our favorite trails or filled the air with smoke too unhealthy to breathe. Witnessing these changes can make us feel helpless. It can make us worry our children won’t be able to enjoy the simplicity  of a bike ride through the mountains.  

But we are not helpless. There are solutions and we as individuals, as well as the biking industry, can help bring those solutions to fruition. The decisions we make right now will determine that future. The $6 billion cycling industry is booming and has been a consistent driver of economic growth, even during the pandemic. The success and influence of the biking industry has never been greater. With many conservation-minded individuals, the biking industry is poised to be a leader in the efforts to promote climate solutions. 

One popular solution is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (http://EnergyInnovationAct.org). This bill would place a fee on fossil fuels at their source based on the amount of CO2 that they emit when burned. As the fee increases annually, it creates market-based incentives for businesses and households to reduce their carbon footprints. The money that is collected would be shared equally by all Americans as a dividend, offsetting the higher cost of energy and in many cases, putting extra money into the pockets of consumers. This money could be used for anything they see fit including recreational activities such as biking. This legislation has the potential to reduce carbon emissions 40% in just 12 years and 90% by 2050! A safe and healthy climate could give the biking industry a boost, as many people would decide to use biking as an alternative form of transportation.

Now is the time for the biking industry to help shift the gears of our climate. Ask your local bike shop to sign the Biking Industry’s Climate Declaration (https://www.businessclimateleaders.org/bikingindustrydeclaration) which is a statement that acknowledges the need to address the climate crisis and supports the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act as a possible solution. Tell your member[s] of Congress that you want action on climate legislation and that you support the market-based Energy Innovation Act. It is said that you have to envision the future you want before you can make it happen. Let’s envision a future where the air is healthy, the climate is stable, the birds are chirping in the forests and we can all get on our bikes any time of day and go for a ride!

Brandi Williams is co-leader of the Salt Lake City chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a grassroots organization dedicated to creating the political will for enactment of federal legislation on climate change.

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