Sunday, May 01, 2011

Fudging Climate Change the best strategy?


ClimateChangeFor many activists promoting green practices, clean and renewable energy (like wind turbines), and better transportation, the best strategy is to shy away from interjecting Climate Change. Their reasoning, I suspect, is that the American public doesn’t really accept climate change and down deep inside cannot believe that something so dire and pervasive will be our future. True, Climate Change is downright distasteful. So, reminding the public that Climate Change is based on science and accepted by most climate scientist produces such an avoidance reaction that many activists believe that it’s best avoided altogether. (Note President Obama’s State of the Union Address in January of this year where he avoided referring to Climate Change for fear of irritating the public and the new Climate Change deniers just thrown into office: Obama State Of The Union Speech 2011: FULL TEXT & VIDEO)

Of course, the importance of green practices, which attempts to conduct sustainable business practices, is compelling on its own. Businesses and corporations have been polluting our environment for a long time. But even they are beginning to understand in a very economical way that they can no longer treat our environment as their toilet. It’s not only more profitable to operate one’s business in an environmentally friendly way; it makes you more competitive in a world economy that is going green.

Clean and renewable energy that saves us from the depletion of our natural resources such as mining for coal and drilling for oil is a worthwhile endeavor—even if Climate Change didn’t exist. Billions of tax dollars for both industry and individuals can be saved by using naturally replenished energy like wind, solar, and geothermal. These don’t pollute and put particulates into the air we need to breathe.

Active transportation, walking and bicycling, for short distances is good for the public health (it is part of a campaign against childhood obesity), and our communities that have been carved up and marginalized by our car culture. Even without the Climate Change argument (that 27 % of greenhouse gases come from transportation) a compelling case can be made to shift our transportation to less expensive, less dangerous, and healthier modes of travel. Just this week, the American Lung Association’s State of the Air: 2011 reports that Monroe County got an “F” for “High Ozone Days”: Monroe: State of the Air 2011 - American Lung Association

My argument is that activists advocating for the elimination of exemptions (that bypass our Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act) for hydrofracking and the myriad of other environmental issues, should keep Climate Change at the core of their strategy. Climate Change -- no matter how distasteful to the public and how successfully Climate Change cranks have been in dismissing this catastrophe— is happening. Climate Change changes every environmental issue. Hydrofracking should hinge on the fact that it is still drilling for a greenhouse gas that will warm up the planet—even if it is less polluting than coal, which recent studies bring into question. Because Climate Change is occurring so quickly, transportation issues should not be de-prioritized until our cars have burned every gallon of gasoline.

There’s no way around it: The public needs to take responsibility for Climate Change. Let our leaders speak with absolute clarity on the greatest issue of our times. No one’s beliefs, nor any corporation’s ideology, should be pandered to or trump our ability to address this issue. Climate Change is not only warming up our atmosphere, it is making our oceans more acidic because it has long been absorbing our excess carbon dioxide emissions. Check out this online documentary: Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification, a short film by NRDC: Natural Resources Defense Council

Creating the illusion that climate change is not really the issue in efforts to change the public’s behavior on activities that increase greenhouse gases merely reinforces the public’s will not to believe. We shouldn’t be infantilizing the public by pandering to their desire to hear only what they want to hear. It is not quixotic to continually remind the public and our public officials that climate change is real. Skirting around the issue of Climate Change steals from the advocate his or her greatest argument and most compelling point. We must assume that the public will do the right thing once they have been given information honestly and forthrightly. Wasn’t that the whole point of creating a Democracy?


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