One of the more maddening characteristics of being human is that we don’t usually get our priorities straight until we’re past the age where we could have prevented the worst consequences of our actions. Youth is wasted on the young and all that. In my case, it took me too long to realize that it was far more important to lift barbells correctly rather than adding weights quickly. I’d like to go back and tell my younger self that keeping my back safe should have been my priority. Not how much weight I could lift in the shortest possible time.
Likewise, I suspect we will look back on this presidential election and wonder why we got our priorities so screwed up. Why wasn’t Climate Change the top priority? Many of those who will live to 2050, when there will be nine billion of us trying to thrive on a rapidly warming planet, will be wishing we could change the outcome of one of the last times in our history when we could have pivoted and saved ourselves from the worst consequences of Climate Change. One of those last moments would be now, 2016, as someone takes the helm from President Obama just as the Paris Agreement goes into effect.
While our elections churn on in the most distracting and godawful way, the terrible ticking of the Climate Change clock goes on. We’ve reached the point (400ppm) where the lowest concentrations of carbon dioxide each coming year are the highest we have ever experienced. The glaciers are melting from above and below in ways our experts don’t completely understand, which may cause a devastating sea level rise much quicker than expected. And the closer we get to a price on carbon emissions, the less likely it will be nearly enough to address the problem. [See: Why We Need a Carbon Tax, And Why It Won’t Be Enough by Bill McKibben]
Key in shifting our attention and actions to address Climate Change is leadership by the most powerful office in the world, the President of the United States.
But the opportunity to focus on Climate Change during this election season has been completely hijacked by the specter of placing a person in the highest office who lacks the basic standards of human decency. First Lady Michelle Obama totally nails this crisis and why it must be addressed now:
Michelle Obama Gives Powerful Speech Roasting Trump For Predatory Comments (VIDEO) "The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign has said things about women that are so shocking. So demeaning," she said. "I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that." (October 13, 2016, TalkPointsMemo.com)
When something truly awful transpires (what if Hurricane Mathew had remained a level 5 all the way up the US eastern coast?) and bankrupts our government’s ability to recover, many will finally understand why years before this terrible calamity we should have put addressing Climate Change front and center of this particular election.
As things get worse, ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ may be the epitaph chiseled on humanity’s gravestone.