Ac­tion needed

The Covington News - - Opinion -

While there are a num­ber of steps private cit­i­zens can take to re­duce their car­bon foot­print, no mat­ter how much we re­duce, re­use and re­cy­cle it will not be enough to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of global warm­ing. To se­ri­ously ad­dress cli­mate change it will take a mas­sive in­ter­ven­tion by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, which un­til now has shown a reck­less dis­re­gard for the con­se­quences of non­ac­tion.

“Ab­so­lutely the most im­por­tant thing we can do right now is to be sure that we’ve elected an ad­min­is­tra­tion that is pro- en­vi­ron­ment,” says Ge­or­gia Tech Phi­los­o­phy Pro­fes­sor Bryan Nor­ton, who stud­ies en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity. “ While in­di­vid­u­als cer­tainly can make a con­tri­bu­tion, it’s just lim­ited be­cause so much of the emis­sions are due to [ gov­ern­ment] poli­cies.”

Though it’s hu­man na­ture to fo­cus on the is­sues that ap­pear to most im­me­di­ately af­fect you, such as the loom­ing re­ces­sion, it’s fool­hardy to think that cli­mate change isn’t tak­ing place right now. A num­ber of re­cent nat­u­ral dis­as­ters have been at­trib­uted to cli­mate change in­clud­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and the re­cent Ge­or­gia drought.

Dis­as­ters like th­ese will only be­come more preva­lent in the fu­ture and the un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity is there is lit­tle to be done about pre­vent­ing them. What we can do is take ac­tions now to blunt the worst of their ef­fects such as wide­spread flood­ing and famine. But to take ac­tion we must have a pres­i­dent who un­der­stands what the fu­ture holds for this planet and has the po­lit­i­cal courage to in­sti­tute some tough poli­cies, which likely will be very un­pop­u­lar in the be­gin­ning ( es­pe­cially with SUV driv­ers and big oil com­pa­nies).

I’m talk­ing about poli­cies like a high en­ergy tax on gaso­line. Sub­si­dies for the de­vel­op­ment of al­ter­na­tive en­er­gies, such as bio- fu­els and so­lar en­ergy, will not be enough to make their use wide­spread through­out the coun­try un­less there is a high tax on gaso­line. We need to once and for all break our ad­dic­tion to oil. Ex­pect the with­drawal symp­toms to be painful but in­fin­itely prefer­able to the al­ter­na­tive.

While the pres­i­den­tial race has re­ceived an enor­mous amount of press cov­er­age and en­joyed record pri­mary voter turnout, the is­sue of cli­mate change has hardly been touched on by ma­jor me­dia out­lets. Ac­cord­ing to the League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers, which has mon­i­tored all of the ma­jor television shows and pres­i­den­tial de­bates, of the 3,201 ques­tions asked by television’s top five po­lit­i­cal talk show hosts to can­di­dates, only eight ques­tions specif­i­cally men­tioned global warm­ing.

Since it seems the main­stream me­dia has no plans to be­gin grilling the can­di­dates on cli­mate change, it’s up to private cit­i­zens to make their con­cerns known by con­tact­ing the can­di­dates’ cam­paigns and ques­tion­ing them di­rectly at town hall events.

Of the three can­di­dates, Democrats Hil­lary Clin­ton and Barack Obama have ex­plained the clear­est po­si­tions on cli­mate change. Both Obama and Clin­ton have said they would re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 80 per­cent from 1990 lev­els by 2050. While giv­ing lip ser­vice to the “ sa­cred duty to be proper stew­ards of the re­sources upon which the qual­ity of Amer­i­can life de­pends,” Repub­li­can John McCain has yet to com­mit him­self to any spe­cific GHG re­duc­tion amounts. Still all three can­di­dates have said they would sup­port a ca­pand- trade sys­tem to re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

Un­for­tu­nately all of this talk of GHG emis­sions misses the boat. Global warm­ing is not only caused by GHGs. It is also caused by the melt­ing of the po­lar ice caps, which for­merly re­flected much of the sun’s heat back into the at­mos­phere and away from the planet. With­out the ice­berg’s re­flec­tive power, the sun’s heat is now be­ing ab­sorbed by the ocean which has caused most of the planet’s re­cent warm­ing.

No mat­ter how much we re­duce our reliance on GHGs to fuel our en­ergy needs ( which we un­equiv­o­cally must), global warm­ing will con­tinue be­cause we have en­tered into a cy­cle of pos­i­tive feed­back, which be­came self- sus­tain­ing in the mid- 1970s. In other words, there’s no stop­ping it now folks.

What needs to take place as soon as pos­si­ble is a rad­i­cal change in the tone of dis­course, from pre­vent­ing global warm­ing or re­duc­ing global warm­ing to adap­ta­tion strate­gies for global warm­ing. We will need to adapt in a num­ber of ways. We will need to change the way we grow our crops, the way we travel, the way we be­have as con­sumers and where we live.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the As­so­ci­ated Press, 634 mil­lion peo­ple live in ar­eas that are less than 33 feet above sea level and are threat­ened by flood­ing caused by the melt­ing of the po­lar ice caps. Ur­ban ar­eas with more than 5 mil­lion peo­ple that are un­der threat by flood­ing in­clude New York, Mumbai, Shang­hai and Tokyo.

Th­ese peo­ple will need to be moved away from the flood zone, which will be prob­lem­atic to say the least. Still it must be done and the peo­ple housed some­where else. While Amer­ica can prob­a­bly han­dle the re­lo­ca­tion of its own what about the many mil­lions that live in poor Asian na­tions, where will they live? Or are they to pay the price for the avarice and ne­glect of west­ern na­tions?

De­spite the enor­mity of the task ahead, we have a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­dress it. As Al Gore wrote in his book “An In­con­ve­nient Truth,” “… by seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity that is bound up in this cri­sis, we can un­leash the cre­ativ­ity, in­no­va­tion and in­spi­ra­tion that are just as much as part of our hu­man birthright as our vul­ner­a­bil­ity to greed and pet­ti­ness.”

Rachel Oswald

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