Finding the No-Spin Zone on Climate Change

In this Huffington Post article, Hunter Cutting presents an interesting viewpoint on climate change communication: the challenge and responsibility can be grasped by a child, so why do we get caught in a spin with adults? As Cutting simply states, it’s because global warming isn’t a science problem — it’s a political problem. We know it’s occurring, the damage it’s causing, and how to mitigate it. As a child would reasonably ask, then why aren’t we doing something about it?

The No-Spin Zone on Climate Change

Cross-post from Huffington Post
by Hunter Cutting

Being a parent means you get to talk to kids about climate change. Not your own kids, of course. With them, you’re lucky if you can deduce what homework they have each night. But when their friends come over after school, that’s when you get a chance. And, encouragingly enough, I’ve found a no-spin zone in talking with kids about climate change — something I rarely encounter when talking with neighbors and colleagues steeped in op-ed page rhetoric. And it’s in these no-spin conversations that one of the important truths about climate change comes out: global warming isn’t a science problem. It’s a political problem.

There is no mystery about how global warming works or how dangerous it is. Even kids grasp the basics. The carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels is heating up the atmosphere and driving increasingly costly climate disruption. The next part is a little more tricky, but still simple: once carbon pollution gets into the atmosphere it sticks there. There’s no cleaning it up, no going backward. The math has been done, and it turns out that we have about 15 years on the current burn path before we permanently load the atmosphere with so much carbon pollution we risk truly catastrophic changes.

Naturally enough at this point in the conversation, the kids are pretty bummed out. But still they ask if there is anything we can do about it. And once again, the answer is pretty clear. This time it’s the engineers, economists, and business consultants that have done the math. Investing in energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy is not only feasible, it often saves a lot of money. Over in Germany the government is looking at a plan to switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Right now, 25 percent of the German electrical grid is already powered by renewable energy.

To be sure some of the technology we’ll need for the end game decades away is still very expensive or even in development. But kids also understand that’s no reason for delay since we can tackle those problems when we get there. “Well, if we can get started now,” my sons’ friends ask, “what’s the problem?” As anyone who has tried to explain the crazy ways of the 21st century to kids, that question is a lot harder to answer.

One issue, of course, is the myopia of corporations who can’t see past their next quarterly earnings statement to look up at the future staring them in the face. In fact, these companies often argue that they have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize short-term profits regardless of all else. It’s an outlook that a lot of smart CEOs have debunked, while banking big bucks for their companies. But it’s still so dominant among otherwise reasonable people that economists call it a “market imperfection,” i.e. it’s a reality of the markets.

So, it turns out there is a role for government after all. And it’s a role that most Americans support, as evidenced by poll after poll reporting that Americans support government action to switch our nation over to clean energy to protect our climate. The support is clear and widespread, but it’s not deep or passionate, not yet.

And that’s where you get to the nub of it. We’re not delaying action on climate change because we don’t know what causes it. We’re not stalling because we don’t know what to do. We’re not barreling along the business-as-usual path because we don’t have any viable alternatives. We’re not switching to clean energy because Americans don’t support it. We’re headed for the cliff, with our foot stomped down on the accelerator, because fossil fuel interests still control the energy agenda in Washington D.C., preserving the status quo at our expense.

Read the full article here.

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply