Climate Change Conundrum: Can I Save the Planet and Keep My SUV?

Yes, Climate Changes

“Climate change” has turned into a battle cry. Climate activists say we are all doomed unless we drastically reduce global CO2. Climate deniers say human activity has little or nothing to do with climate change. Then there are those in the middle that say “Can I save Mother Earth and still keep my SUV?”

How many folks are in each camp is hard to say. However, a quick search on the Internet results in nearly 100% hits in favor of “climate change” being caused by human activity, more specifically activity that has raised CO2 and methane levels since the Industrial Revolution and particularly since the 1950s. The prescribed remedy is to implement government mandates to reduce CO2 to specific levels. Another quick search on the Internet reveals that as of 2018, very few countries of the 195 that signed on to the Paris Agreement reached their CO2-reducing targets.

A layperson might tend to guess that there are a lot of climate activists talking a lot about reducing CO2 through legislation and regulation but hanging on to their SUVs, their abundant manufactured goods, and their comfortable life styles. The more astute activists, such as those in California, show how climate-responsible they are by exporting their polluting activities -- natural resource extraction and manufacturing -- to other countries while continuing to be voracious users of resources and goods.

How about the climate deniers? They are out there, but apparently unable to state their case as efficiently as climate activists. Their pronouncements often contribute to their looking as if they have gone over to the Dark Side, along with Wall Street and bad polluters. For example, climate deniers are correct when they say climate change is mostly a result of natural events. When compared to city-sized blocks of ice barreling down from the Earth poles at the end of the last Glacial Period, a couple of feet in sea-level rise do not seem like a lot. But the two feet of water might be sitting on somebody’s living space at some point in the future. Not good.

On its website, NASA (the people who put a man on the Moon) quotes numerous studies on volcanic eruptions, heat plumes, solar activity, and many other natural events that cause glaciers to break up and/or melt and sea levels to rise. However, what today we call “climate change” is a separate issue. NASA says,

The heat welling up from Earth’s interior beneath ice sheets and glaciers has nothing to do with the relatively rapid change in climate over recent decades, driven mainly by human emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere. Heat sources from the deep Earth can remain steady for 50, 90 or 100 million years; human-driven climate change is occurring over mere decades and centuries.

The “human-driven climate change” of which NASA speaks is today blamed for placing coastal areas at risk of sea- level rise and intensification of weather conditions, both of which come with human and economic pain. For example, at this moment farmers in the Midwest are facing “unprecedented” rainfall that flooded their farms and destroyed their crops. Their long-neglected levies did not stand up to the onslaught of rising waters.

What Now?

Kids’ Climate Strike 2019

Kids’ Climate Strike 2019

When we do not see planned for or anticipated results, most of us would change strategies. Not so climate activists. They double down. United Nations Climate Action leads the persistence.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society. To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will host the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September to meet the climate challenge.

Why would the 2019 Climate Action Summit succeed when previous summits, accords and pledges failed? Why would the same strategies that failed in the past succeed in the future?

Why the Failures?

It seems that climate change has been a “defining issue” for a while now, and still needing “unprecedented effort.” How much more effort? What will we be asked to give up besides our cars, backyards, inexpensive plastic kids’ toys and, livelihoods? Plans fail when their present costs are perceived to outweigh their future benefits.

Climate change suffers from another human frailty: the temptation to never let a crisis go to waste. Many are riding on the coattails of a desire to save Mother Earth from an untimely demise. Both profit-generating transit-oriented development and ultra-progressive green new deals claim they are essential in fighting climate change. Both deals are experiencing pushback.

How About a Plan B?

The fight against climate change has so far focused on actions by the United Nations, the governing bodies of individual countries, and a vast bureaucracy. A Plan B could try to change that focus by increasing awareness of what voters, residents and businesses can do for themselves. For example,

* Voters can demand that their legislators shift spending of taxpayer money from non-productive endeavors, such as copious subsidies to specific sectors, to productive physical infrastructure that benefits everyone. Strong and well maintained levies, bridges and roads would have protected our Midwestern farmers more than UN pronouncements on “sustainability.”

* Consumers and investors can shun and shame businesses that do not invest in mitigating the pollution their operations generate.

* Businesses can devise strategies to operate successfully in the face of change. They study and strategize for changes in consumer preferences, population numbers, and capital availability, so why not strategize for changes in climate? Our Midwest farmers, for example, would have benefited from private flood insurance and grain storage designed with floods in mind.

* People can take responsibility for not building adjacent to tinder-dry vegetation or right in the middle of flood zones. Green vistas are beautiful but can be deadly. Views from a beach-front condo are lovely but can be risky.

Plan B can add to individual expenses, but so can boondoggles in Plan A, such as the Bay Area’s Measure AA and California’s Senate Bill 50. We need to see taxes and fees as personal expenditures not social contributions.