This mostly wonderful essay by the Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board about local efforts, including those of the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC), gets at the heart of what folks in our region can do to address Climate Change.
Editorial: Climate change is everyone's problem While the United States is no longer leading the world against climate change, state and local efforts aimed at helping stabilize the earth’s temperature are building steam. While these initiatives are critical, they are also not enough. We must do more. Even New York state, which has set some of the nation’s most ambitious targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, is falling short according to a new report from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Economic researchers outlined a more dramatic clean energy investment plan that they say would “put the state on a true climate stabilization trajectory,” create jobs, and show the world what needs to be done. Now. The reason for urgency is obvious. A time series heat map created by NASA shows the average variation of global surface temperatures between 1884 and 2016. Cooler averages are marked in shades of blue. Warmer averages are colored red. Blue goes from being the overwhelmingly dominant color, to nearly disappearing off the map within the past 35 years. (November 15, 2017) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle [more on Climate Change in our area]
While I agree that Climate Change is everyone’s problem, I’m having a problem with the last sentence: “We do not need to be participating in this week’s United Nations climate talks in Bonn to increase our own knowledge about what needs to be done, and to take individual responsibility for helping change the world.” The statement is literally correct, but sidesteps the responsibility of all the players (including media, government, and businesses) involved in this crisis.
First, I’m not sure who the ‘we’ in this sentence refers to: the D&C newspaper, ‘we’ (as in the public), or ‘we’ as in the US federal government. If the “we” refers to the D&C, I think that this major print publication should be reporting to the local public what is going on at the COP23 climate talk in Bonn and why it is important that our government chose to pull out of the Paris Accord, but showed up anyways peddling more fossil fuel use. In this quickly warming world, we must be able to continually depend on our local major media to communicate accurately and effectively how this crisis will affect our ability to plan sustainably in this region. The media is our collective information system that we now depend on for a precise model of reality—a reality that is already changing with more harmful algae blooms, more flooding, and more disruptive winters due to a warming Arctic. [See Rochester, NY’s Climate Action Plan.]
However, the federal government is also ‘we’, and its forfeiture of our responsibility is incredibly important, and should not be depicted as insignificant, as this editorial and many other recent pronouncements have implied. Efforts by other actors, such as New York State, California, Jerry Brown, and Michael Bloomberg are to be applauded. [See: ‘America’s Pledge’]
But these efforts are no replacement for a strong federal role. The United States needs to participate in the climate talks in a leadership and responsible role both for moral reasons (most of the greenhouse gas emissions that have already changed our climate are ours) and because only nations can enter into treaties, change a nation’s laws, and make sure public monies are directed towards the sciences that tell us Climate Change is a clear and present danger. In order to effect change on a scale and time frame that will matter, nations working together are the most likely (or perhaps only) actors who can make it work.
If left only to “individual responsibility”, this crisis is most likely to be ignored by the majority, or result in ad hoc, conflicting, and insufficient solutions until it’s too late.