What needs to change?
Unless the public understands and feels the urgency, the political, social, and economic changes will not occur at the pace necessary.
“The ultimate solutions to climate change are workable, cost-effective technologies… yet scientific, engineering, and organizational solutions are not enough. Societies must be motivated and empowered to adopt the needed changes.”
– Jeffrey Sachs, Former Director of The Earth Institute, Columbia University –
Reframing the Problem.
Meaningful action on the climate crisis has been caught in a Catch-22. The prevailing narrative has been that only government and industry can generate the large-scale changes needed. While this is true, it’s become apparent that government and industry will not make the necessary changes unless they are forced to do so by the actions of voters and consumers.
Examples: If people shifted their diets to eat less meat, the agriculture industry would have to adjust their practices. If more people bought only recycled paper products, those industries would have to change. Numerous other examples could be given.
The importance of individual action has often been minimized. Why bother to change a lightbulb when the impact is miniscule in relation to the scope of the problem and the tons of CO2 emitted every day from other sources? This has left people feeling disengaged and powerless and, when faced with an overwhelming problem about which an individual has little control, it’s natural to put it on a mental back-burner.
Engagement across the political spectrum
The engagement of nearly all Americans, in both Blue and Red states, is necessary. Even if Green New Deal laws and regulations are enacted – which is by no means certain – they need to be supported by voters across the partisan divide or they will be met with obstruction, resistance, and an electoral backlash.
The public is more likely to accept the inconvenient truth when their actions are seen as important — which I believe they are. The level of public engagement and motivation required has been compared to the sacrifices and commitment of Americans during WWII – but we’re not even close.
“With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed..”
– Abraham Lincoln –
The conversation about solutions suggests that we can continue consuming energy and resources at our current rate with the only difference being that solar and wind will supply all the energy needs. This is not realistic. While the transition to renewables will change the supply, it is individual and community actions that will reduce demand – and both are now imperative.
The actions needed to reverse global warming will also require shifts in personal lifestyle, such as diet, shopping, transportation, and, in some cases, occupations. These changes will not be made unless we make a compelling argument for the necessity of doing so.
This is the problem that needs to be addressed.