Here’s the deal.
NASA knows humans are causing climate change and that it’s dangerous.
The Pentagon knows it.
The UN knows it.
99% of the international scientific community knows it.
We can either believe what NASA, the Pentagon, the UN, and the entire scientific community say about climate change.
Or we can believe what the paid lackeys for the oil industry, Tony Abbott, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh say.
That’s not a debate. It’s a joke.
I can hardly disagree with this assessment. However, despite the overwhelming evidence in support of human-induced climate change, not only have the deniers had their way, no one is doing a damn thing about it. Why is that?
In my humble opinion, the failure to act has everything to do with inertia borne of collective everyday activities that to each of us seem either trivial or nonexistent. Clearly, few of us consciously record our carbon-emitting behaviors. Fewer still try to modify them. We simply do today what we did yesterday and the day before. When we awake tomorrow, repeat.
During rare moments of rationality, we may be forgiven for concluding that changing our own habits won’t even register on the larger scale. And scale here matters. Hundreds of us altering behaviors will not make a difference. Even a few thousand voluntary changes fail to improve the situation. Tipping the carbon needle backward requires millions.
But we millions in America go about our business: driving to work; keeping the lights on; flying to visit relatives; heating living space; refrigerating and cooking food; keeping computers whirring. We will not change. Perhaps we cannot.
Some of us realize that arresting climate change demands government action. The simplest fix—establishing a carbon tax then letting people, utilities, businesses react to avoid paying them—seems as unachievable now as it ever was. Those aforementioned deniers ensure zero progress on that front. Absent the tax (or its weaker alternative, cap-and-trade) we have no incentive to modify behavior, save for assuaging our guilt, I suppose.
Nevertheless, let’s imagine Obama or his successor boldly campaigning for a carbon tax. Let’s also imagine that enough people in Congress sign on. Would we applaud and support the effort? Or would we take the next opportunity to “throw the bums out”?
Yet, if we think about this for a bit, we may justifiably conclude that our political leaders react to us rather than the other way round. Yep, democracy, properly practiced, inverts follower and leader. As it happens, it’s when enough of us demand action in the marketplaces of either commerce or politics that things happen.
Oh, how saccharine, you say. You’re ready to put your finger down your throat. I’m resisting the urge myself, the author. But consider the polls that suggest that we both recognize the threat of climate change and, more important, support initiatives to do something about it.
Most Americans (83%) say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
Now we have to figure out a way to translate that sentiment into action. I’m all ears.