Monday, October 09, 2017

Back to Paris Accord should be top Climate Change priority for US

As we go further into Climate Change, a wormhole of environmental impacts from which we may not emerge, our priorities are going to change. However, ultimately, we will be striving for a sustainable future. The Holy Grail, as it were, for addressing Climate Change is to quickly change our collective behavior towards our planet so that life for our species goes on as long as possible. Along the way through the wormhole, we will continually have to adjust our priorities and cut our losses to achieve our ultimate goal.

I don’t know if all people agree with this goal, but they should. Life loves life and does what it must to keep on living. Even when we develop artificial intelligence (AI), we are finding that if self-survival is not programed into the software it will either develop a form of self-preservation itself or we must do it if the artificial entity is going to achieve our goals. You cannot achieve any goals if you and those who were supposed to come after you are dead.

On the moral argument for addressing Climate Change

It’s senseless to argue about the moral imperative for the United States getting back in the Paris accord and leading universal efforts to address Climate Change, because there is no moral argument against it. No nation can thrive if all are overwhelmed by Climate Change. The US (along with other developed nations), which emitted most of the greenhouse gases that are now causing climate disruptions, has the economic and military might to lead. That infers a profound moral obligation.

If nations are not persuaded by the moral imperative for the world to act as one on this crisis, they probably never will. Presently we are seeing a last-ditch stance against life itself in favor of some irresponsible freedoms—like free-speech for climate denial and gun ownership--as our country is reeling from record-breaking hurricanes and the recent massacre in Las Vegas.

The moral arguments for addressing Climate Change and gun control are already obvious. We just don’t want to be held to these obligations. They are being ignored and still disputed despite overwhelming evidence. Pope Francis already made some of the clearest arguments for addressing Climate Change in his Laudato Si in 2015. More delay will probably not bear fruit. Humanity must decide if we are to be bound by the moral imperatives of addressing Climate Change, and not only because it’s the right thing to do. If we do not, we are likely to perish.

Violence and punishment, as our species has traditionally used to enforce moral dictates, will not work against those who would have their way regardless. (Not to mention that violence against those who disagree with us is itself immoral.) It would take only a few bad players, players who can achieve their selfish goals and poison our life support system in secret, to destroy the efforts of all. Market forces, which caused Climate Change, won’t solve this crisis either because many of the problems (like ecosystems collapse) cannot be priced adequately.

Why the Paris Accord must be our top priority right now

Much of the rational debates and discussions about Climate Change are about how to get to our ultimate goal on a scale and timeframe that will matter—to us. (Life in some form may well go on after we trash the place and we pay the ultimate price, but it won’t matter to us—because we’ll be gone.)

Trump, working his darndest to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to address Climate Change, and pulling out of the Paris Accord, has produced a flurry of climate activism. Cities (like Rochester, NY), states (like New York and California), environmental groups, and many businesses are doubling down on their efforts to adhere to the Paris recommendations: keeping humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions down, updating our infrastructures, and trying to get renewable energy to replace fossil fuels. So much is being done by these groups trying to shift the market forces towards favoring renewable energy, that these heroic efforts have spawned the belief that what Trump or the federal government does or doesn’t do about Climate Change doesn’t much matter. This attitude is mistaken. Further, the US pulling out of the Paris Accord would be a major blunder by our climate-denying president that humanity may not be able to recover from.

It is unlikely we will be able to work around a leader hell-bent on continuing an anti-environment, pro-fossil fuel agenda:

  •  THE TRUMP EFFECT, Tracking the impact of the president’s policies | Paris Climate Agreement, Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris accord, dealing a blow to international efforts tackling dangers for the planet posed by global warming. (Reuters)
  • 48 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump (10/05/2017, New York Times)
  • International concern as US moves to end clean power plan The Trump administration plans to repeal and replace landmark policy that underpinned US commitment to Paris Agreement and a key climate deal with China News that the Trump administration will move to repeal and replace the clean power plan (CPP) – a major initiative to cut emissions from the US electricity sector – has been met with concern overseas. On Wednesday, the Reuters news agency reported on a document leaked from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) outlining a plan to scrap the Obama-era measure. It also called for input on a replacement policy that would reduce carbon emissions in fossil fuel power plants. Industry is reportedly lobbying for a weaker rule. (October 4, 2017) Climate Home


First, Climate Change is a human-caused phenomenon that has no single remedy. Climate Change, though about warming our planet, includes a long history of human abuse to our life support system that will have to be addressed along with the great warming and our propensity to continually enlarge our numbers and needs on a finite planet.

Renewable energy use is growing in leaps and bounds. It may, as many proponents suggest, bypass fossil fuel simply because it’s doing better in the market. But this crisis involves more than switching to a non-polluting form of energy soon. We will still have to adapt to a lot of heat stored up in our atmosphere and our oceans.

Despite all the talk of cities and states binding together to address Climate Change and how compelling the market is for renewable energy, there is no substitute for all the nations of the world having a platform from which to share information and work on strategies for addressing Climate Change. Governments of the world must work together on Climate Change because there is no substitute for nations ratifying treaties, leading the public and business, governing their own nations, and making sure nations don’t thwart each other’s actions.

Science must be the guide to address Climate Change because it is a universal discipline that all nations respect—however dicey that may seem in the US at the moment. Tailoring or pandering our language so “hope” can shine through is problematic because there are so many ways hope can create delusional efforts, ones that don’t match the scale and scope of the problem. A respect for science is the only way we can ensure that our selfishness and our ideologies don’t take over. Science, with more scientists and their wonderful instruments, are the quickest way humanity can get in sync with nature. Anything else, like preserving our way of living on fossil fuels, is not likely to work on any time scale.

Nations of the world all share the same ultimate goal: to survive. They cannot do this by circumventing working together on the world stage. Many are thinking that it’s a given that the United States will completely withdraw from the Paris Accord, and therefore everyone who is not the federal government must work around the Trump administration -- businesses and individuals, cities, and states.

But there isn’t a work-around; there is the Paris Accord or there are ad hoc efforts that won’t be sufficient. All options are not on the table anymore and our options will get fewer as we drag our feet ever longer.

There are those who are putting their faith in human technology, the human spirit, and even super-smart AI. We’ve long known about the possible Climate Change scenarios, and even seen them played out in the recent record-breaking hurricanes. Yet, massive damage to people and their infrastructures are accompanied by a constant yammer that ‘this isn’t the time to talk about Climate Change.”

That is to say, being smart and knowing what to do are not enough. We must summon the collective will to survive in a warming world, which is different than what our traditional threats have been. We must become the world’s steward now, not at some hopeful time in the future. And what’s even stickier for us violent-prone people is that we cannot force the necessary change on an unwilling populace, like religious wars of the past. We must want to get through the wormhole, all of us.

Somehow, we must convince our world leaders that we work together or we perish separately. We cannot thrive anymore if our environment, our life support system, is not everyone’s top priority.

Time passes.

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