When will a critical mass of people decide that “I have to do something about climate change”? I’m not talking about the personal steps, which certainly are a tiny but positive effort, like buying an electric car, installing solar panels on your roof or replacing all your light bulbs with LEDs. I’m talking about politics.
We have all the information we need to take precautionary steps on this issue. It’s not a scientific issue, it’s not a matter of one more report will do it. One more national climate assessment, that’s what will solve the problem. One more new analogy and people will get it. Information is not the answer. The answer has much more to do with who we are as humans, and how we function politically. (Katherine Hayoe)
My oldest and still close friend, Steven Brubaker, has provided me with a good example of the kind of activism it will take to turn things around. He’s an architect and part of a group called Architects Advocate, which has just put out an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump calling for immediate action on the climate. More than 275 architecture and design industry firms from at least 24 stats are signatories. Their next steps include “…outreach to regional and local elected officials as well as discussion forums with members of the general public to highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with climate change.”
One of the barriers to individuals taking action, as I see it, is the lack of a vision that shows us what our lives will look like if we are able to make the changes necessary to rein in carbon emissions and start to slow, then halt, human-induced global warming. Of course there’s substantial disagreement on that.
There’s the view best articulated by Naomi Klein, who argues that capitalism itself is the main barrier to breaking free from fossil fuels. Thus we need a political revolution ala Bernie Sanders.
There’s the Al Gore view that all it takes is the political will to switch from fossil-fuel power to renewable-energy power, chiefly wind and solar. Once we switch to electric cars and heat and cool our homes with renewable energy, everything will be alright and we can go on with our current lifestyles mostly intact.
There’s the “Carbon Footprint” model, where individuals voluntarily calculate their carbon footprint and pay to fund “offset” projects that reduce atmospheric carbon, either by carbon sequestration or reducing emissions.
There’s the counter-culture model, that we have to quit eating meat and dairy products, drastically reduce our use of air travel, rely on human-powered transportation, source food locally and make other lifestyle changes, some of which may be seen as radical.
Each of these paths forward has strong advocates and serious detractors. There are no easy solutions now. Here’s the problem in easy-to-understand numbers: It’s Time To Redo the Climate Math.
We have pressing problems in this country that will obstruct the shift to a green economy and weaken the resolve to muster the political will if we don’t deal with them – income inequality and race-based oppression chief among them. But we can’t put climate action aside. We need to find ways to act on these problems together.
I don’t have the answers, but I do know this: we have to put a price on carbon and we can’t wait much longer, and that’s a political problem. We have to be climate voters and we have to make our elected officials know that we expect them to do their part to fight climate change. I recently wrote to both of my U.S. senators urging them to oppose confirmation of Trump’s four climate deniers in key cabinet posts: EPA, Energy, Interior and State.
Here’s another good piece from the New York Times that will help put it all into perspective: Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change.
And another from Canadian climate activist Rolly Montpelier: Unsettling and Ominous – Climate Alarm Bells of 2016.
It probably isn’t too late yet, but we clearly don’t have much time until it is.