Sunday, December 27, 2009

Connecting the Green Dots

The Copenhagen Climate Conference is over and almost everyone, including President Obama himself, admits failure: “I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen.” (Obama on Health Reform Politics, Copenhagen Climate Outcome, 12/23/09 PBS: Newshour) Consequently, depending on how you connect the dots of this historic event, you will tend to view Copenhagen as positive, negative, or not relevant to your life.

‘Green Dots’, or specific environmental events like say an oil spill or an attempt by 190 nations to come to an agreement on how to tackle climate change, can be connected in many ways in the public’s mind. I mean this in the sense that one has the inalienable right to view these events in any way they wish. Logic or using science as your model for framing arguments may not be your thing.

A corporation might view Copenhagen as a success because it wouldn’t be compelled to conform to some arbitrary carbon capping. Just as possible, a corporation might view attempts to set a world-wide standard on carbon trading as positive since reducing carbon emissions on their own would be a corporate wildcard: there would be no way to measure and thus compete with other corporations on curbing these warming gases.

If you’re a climate change denier, you might relish Copenhagen’s dysfunctional status, as it simply confirms your conviction that climate change is all a hoax and better removed as a spoiler of our petroleum-based economy. Or, climate change deniers might just hate greenies, just because it’s fashionable in some circles.

If you are like many Americans, you might not care one way or the other whether Copenhagen was a success or not. Some may not find anything connecting Copenhagen to anything in their life. According to a “…recent Harris Poll, among the latest of several over the past year, shows that barely half of the American public believes that the carbon dioxide that's building up in the atmosphere could warm up our planet.” “For Public, Climate Change Not A Priority Issue : NPR Dec.7, 09) In other words, about half of us are not connecting the dots between the evidence and the word of most scientists about the causal relationships between the buildup of greenhouse gases and Climate Change in any rational, logical, or scientific way.

This is disturbing because if you were listening to the reports coming out of Copenhagen, many people around the world are getting annoyed at American intransigence on not making concessions to those who have not had a chance to develop their nations—as we have gobbled up much of the commons, especially our atmosphere’s and ocean’s ability to absorb any more carbon dioxide.

Actually, there’s only one way to connect the green dots. Our ability to connect the dots in our lives in any haphazard way we wish will become vanishingly small as we bump up against Nature’s uncompromising laws. Then, we’ll adapt (if we can) and our lives will be driven by those constraints whether we like it or not. Copenhagen’s failure was not Obama’s failure; it was ours.

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