Those in a position to fully understand and appreciate the looming consequences of our planet abuse have reached the point where politically motivated equivocation is waning. The tempered suggestions of carbon caps and higher efficiency standards are giving way to more drastic and likely more honest suggestions. The fact that those suggestions can and will be used to make these experts look “extreme”, “out of touch” and “crazy” is overridden by a kind of growing desperation. This is illustrated nicely by a recent call for countries to consider a WWII style rationing in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The mere fact that this “wacky” idea was shared with the ever skeptical and judgmental public should suggest a reason to start devoting even more time and energy to your backyard climate shelter.
The rationing idea, put forth by Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, is essentially part of a larger plan to halt the economic expansion of developed nations. According to the professor, this is the only way to reduce global emissions while still giving the undeveloped world a chance to catch up. This could mean restrictions on electricity use, flights, gasoline and other high impact products. It is, of course, total lunacy.
Now, by calling his idea lunacy, I don’t mean to say that he is wrong. This man knows more about our planet’s climate than nearly anyone. The odds are that he is right, or at least near the mark. No, this idea is crazy because it will never actually happen. The populations of every developed country in the world are unlikely to agree to such a sacrifice. I would be shocked to see it considered in Europe, and I would likely pass out if it was even mentioned in the USA (in anything other than a mocking tone of voice). After all, our country does have a less than stellar track record with the acceptance of climate change science.
We are second only to China in carbon emissions (that’s a title we weren’t sorry to lose), and we have a significant portion of our population who won’t believe global warming is even happening until they are wading through Manhattan or stranded in the new Midwestern desert. Even then, most of them won’t believe that mankind had a thing to do with it unless God Himself (or Herself) descends from the heavens, puts His hands on His hips and says “Dear Me, look what you guys have done to this place.” And, even if you could somehow convince the masses that the people who have spent their lives studying the climate might know a bit more than those who have spent an equivalent amount of time in a pre-show makeup chair, you would still have to contend with the fact that, contrary to our background check, the people aren’t the only voice to which our government listens. Optimistically, they are a voice, but as we learned from that classic Charlie Sheen vehicle, money talks. Such is the power of our corporations in the election and continued prosperity of our government officials that even a hint of a bill like this is something that would only be found on the desk of a lame duck senator with a terminal medical condition, and that would be buried under a pile of other stuff out of fear that someone might see it.
I’m sure versions of this resistance to climate science exist in other countries. China is certainly hesitant to accept any explanation that might slow their economic growth. But, I am not much of an expert in other countries. Hell, I’m not much of an expert in this one, but the obvious doesn’t always require expertise. This country is not likely to agree to any limitation of emissions, let alone a rationing system that might impinge on our binge. It is difficult to self-inflict painful choices even when it’s good for you, and the US seems to have grown worse and worse at that kind of decisive governance. No one wants to be the bad guy.
Of course, Professer Anderson knows this. He isn’t an idiot. I am certain he knew how such a suggestion would be perceived, and that is why I find his suggestion so disturbing. Rather than hedge and try for something that might actually gain acceptance, he has placed on the table an obvious impossibility. Why? I think it is because he honestly believes the situation cannot be fixed without such a drastic move and that the time to work through incremental steps is past. Worse, I think he probably feels that being dismissed as crazy will have the same long term results as being accepted with a tamer, more comfortable idea. This, I think, is cause for concern.
So, where does that leave us? Are we in a position where the only hope of halting and reversing our walk down the plank is something that no one will ever accept? Are we too far gone to recover with anything less than an overwhelming response? And if so, what kind of scenario would allow people to accept this kind of painful suggestion? What sort of tactic could circumvent the short sighted interest of the powerful?
I know this post has been outside of our usual set of topics, but I appreciate you bearing with me. I also realize that I have just taken one small soundbite from a huge discussion, but I hoped it could generate an interesting conversation. To that end . . . If you have something to say about my little tangent, do it in the comments.
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