And a hundred years ago we didn’t even need electricity.
A recent headline from The Guardian entitled “Fox News chief enforced climate change scepticism” reveals a leaked email demonstrating an official policy of denial disguised as even-handed newscasting. Aside from this mandated skepticism, you may have noted many others in your daily life (or are one yourself) who debate the reality of “climate change.” Such articles invariably produce a slew of comments for and against, with few in-between, each side thinking the other absolutely mad, in much the same manner that only topics of religion seem to inflame. And really, we can treat both subjects similarly, in that the answer itself really doesn’t matter.
Yes, truly, for whether climate change is occurring, or if God exists or does not, does not matter. What matters is the question, and how we choose to approach it. I believe that religion or faith are not required for one to act in a moral manner, and neither should belief in climate change be required to behave responsibly. Nearly everyone agrees that we should have clean air, pure water, and fertile soil, but few are those who act to maintain such. Sadly, far too few. Nearly all of us – myself included – are part of the problem, and minimizing how big a problem we are should be our goal. A particular affliction of my countrymen is an overwhelming lassitude to take any action which infringes upon perceived comfort, though this nearly always means a change from the status quo rather than any real inconvenience. And, as Doctor Horrible so eloquently stated, the status is not… quo.
What is most confounding are those who simply regard environmentalism in general and climate change in particular as some sort of liberal scam, invariably having the objective of taking one’s money and forcing us to drive smaller cars. We may debate the means by which we get there, but how is it even sane to think of cleaning up our air, earth, and water as a “scam?” There are those who point to wind and solar and say “well, they can never meet all our energy needs” which by their reasoning makes them useless. So, rather than do something – anything – we should do nothing? I might liken this to a life-threatening illness which one treatment may not cure, but against which several in combination may work, or at least have a chance. Do you take the chance to live, whatever the cost? Or do you allow the affliction to consume your body until you suffer a horrifically miserable death?
“Their” answer, by the way, is almost always nuclear or “clean coal,” which are a physical and metaphorical cancer themselves.
The saying is an old one, but we all share the air we breathe. This is true, and so we logically have made certain we have the capacity to pollute it all equally well. While there are some 800 million operational automobiles worldwide, this does not even begin to account for the emissions of aircraft, industry, and energy production. In fact, nearly all figures on annual global emissions neatly avoid those produced by military operations, which can be staggering. Officially, the US Military consumes 340,000 barrels of oil per day. That’s 14,280,000 gallons. Every day. Each soldier is responsible for about 16 gallons each day. This works out to around 1.4 million tons of CO2 – or the annual emissions about 194,000 Toyota Camrys. Every day. This doesn’t include emissions from non-petroleum sources such as rocket propellant or explosives nor does it hint at chemical and radiological contamination from weapons systems and nuclear propulsion.
For most, these figures are meaningless. The only thing that matters is that when they get to the pump, they can fill up their tank and keep driving, keep consuming, keep polluting, and keep complaining to their co-workers about their “over-priced” fuel. Honestly, there is no price too high. Gasoline is one of the cheapest liquids you can buy. Never considered this? Take a look at your grocery bill next time you go shopping and see that milk, sports drinks, olive oil, laundry detergent… even water are all more expensive, and some many times over.
These numbers may also not impress you because you believe that humans are not causing climate change (or that it’s not occurring to begin with). So let us assume for a moment that the generally held view of the scientific community – that CO2 is a major agent in climate change – is false, or that it’s not taking place at all… CO2 emissions have no effect on the climate, and humans are not affecting the atmosphere through its production. Well, CO2 is merely one product of combustion, and the others aren’t all that particularly nice to inhale. If you disagree with this then you are welcome to go sleep in your garage tonight with your precious car running.
It is quite clear to me that the only effective means by which to drive the American consumer is through their wallet. While the Government tends to agree with this thinking it prefers to rely on rebates and incentives, tax breaks or refunds. Not good enough – these usually require paperwork and take time and few are responsible enough or can read well enough to take advantage of them. They would simply prefer to purchase the cheapest crap available to them. Corporations resist government limitations or standards, and individuals decry such actions as moving against their freedoms. Freedom to recklessly consume and endanger not only themselves but billions of others, and that is where we come to issue. Presently, I pay a premium on my electric bill to ensure that I am purchasing and supporting energy from renewable sources through the Second Nature program. This is backwards. Conventional energy production should cost a premium, and the balance used to subsidize startup and operational costs for new renewable sources. Still, we must start somewhere, and I’m voting with my wallet.
For an example of how un-quo the status is, take a look at this clip from The Age of Stupid. In it, wind-farm developer Piers Guy has his proposed fifteen-turbine project rejected by local opposition group CLOWD. It sounds like a bad Saturday-morning cartoon organization of villains, and they certainly act the part.