We need in­sti­tu­tional changes for the good of the en­vi­ron­ment

The Kansas City Star - - Opinion - BY STEVE ROSE [email protected]

It looks like my col­umn last week about our en­vi­ron­ment struck a chord with read­ers. heard from many cli­mate change de­niers. But in­stead of wor­ry­ing about the cat­a­strophic fu­ture of the planet, the vast ma­jor­ity of those who wrote to me dwelled on the same ba­sic theme: Even though there may be 999,999 prom­i­nent sci­en­tists who say hu­mans are caus­ing dev­as­tat­ing cli­mate change, they of­fer up the one in a mil­lion who says other­wise and de­mand that I give that one mas­sive out­lier equal weight.

A let­ter to the edi­tor Thurs­day ac­cused me of hypocrisy, com­par­ing me to fa­mous left­ist en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists such as as Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, in­fer­ring that I am of the same ilk. It also men­tioned Michael Bloomberg, who is not a left­ist — but he likely is run­ning for pres­i­dent, so we can as­sume he will mute any ex­trem­ist views as he starts his cam­paign. That’s much closer to where I am on the ac­tivist spec­trum.

What I have in com­mon with all of these peo­ple is cer­tainly not world­wide fame or for­tune. What we share is the deep­est of be­liefs that the science com­mu­nity is right.

Cli­mate change is real. Mankind is caus­ing nearly all of it, and the clock is run­ning out for us to have any ma­jor im­pact on re­vers­ing or even slow­ing the de­struc­tive trends that threaten the planet as we know it.

Of course I ac­knowl­edge that those of us con­cerned about these is­sues do not live car­bon-free lives. We fly in air­planes (and some — not mine — are pri­vate). Our houses may use tra­di­tional en­ergy sources — which are mostly non-re­new­able — and we all gen­er­ally leave car­bon foot­prints wher­ever we go and what­ever we do, just like every­body else.

So are we all hyp­ocrites? The short an­swer is that the ques­tion is ab­surd, be­cause I have never men­tioned, nor have I pri­or­i­tized in my own mind, how other peo­ple choose to live their lives.

That’s be­cause in­di­vid­u­als are not the main cul­prits cre­at­ing the cri­sis.

Ob­vi­ously, we could make a big deal out of the need to live with­out driv­ing per­sonal cars, fly­ing less in air­planes or dras­ti­cally chang­ing the sources of the en­ergy we con­sume in our homes. But, frankly, those kinds of al­ter­na­tives are way down the list of ac­tion items on my agenda.

Why are we dwelling on the small things when Amer­ica is fac­ing a fivealarm emer­gency that needs mas­sive change quickly?

It is in our gov­ern­ment, util­i­ties, en­ergy com­pa­nies and large cor­po­ra­tions where we can have the most im­me­di­ate im­pact.

Pub­lic En­emy Num­ber One, the great­est ob­sta­cle to what should be an emer­gency ef­fort, is Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. He claims to have read the 1,000-page Fourth Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment just re­leased by pre­em­i­nent sci­en­tists. It de­clares cli­mate change to be of cat­a­clysmic pro­por­tions, and that we need to act to­day.

Trump didn’t re­fute any of its find­ings. Rather, he sim­ply dis­missed it all, say­ing, “I don’t be­lieve it.” He didn’t say why. In­stead, he just stuck his thumb in our eye by ap­point­ing a coal in­dus­try lob­by­ist to head up the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

Hypocrisy is say­ing one thing and do­ing the other. I can’t be a hyp­ocrite on this is­sue, be­cause I have not been in­con­sis­tent. What I have said, and I am happy to re­peat, is that if mankind — Amer­i­cans in par­tic­u­lar — do not be­gin very soon to grap­ple with cli­mate change, it will be too late.

I have no doubt that each and Amer­i­can can win small vic­to­ries in the long run by mak­ing per­sonal lifestyle changes. But for right now, let’s keep fo­cused on where we can have the great­est im­pact: im­me­di­ate ac­tion at our largest in­sti­tu­tions.

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