Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Warming Wednesdays: why we don't act on climate change


Weatherdem thinks he knows:

... the screaming isn’t helping, is it? You’re not an idiot. The volume of words isn’t the issue. The issue is you are motivated by things outside of the climate realm – things like having a job; a job that pays a living wage so you can pay for your mortgage and car payment and keep your children educated and happy. An existence in an affluent world that allows you the time and energy to think of complex problems beyond your perceived immediate needs. If those needs aren’t met – if you have insecure affluence – you place climate change and the environment far down on a list of priorities – just like a majority of other Americans.

... Like previous efforts, [the latest American Association for the Advancement of Science report] will not spur people to action, mostly because the actions listed are about limits, stopping, restricting, reversing, preventing, and regulating. The conceptual model from which these words arise works in direct contrast to the fundamentals of American culture. We are a people who are imaginative, who innovate, who invest.

As I have written before, there is no way we will achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions without substantial investment into innovation of new technologies that we research, develop, and deploy at scale. There is nothing limiting or restrictive about this framework. It it the opposite of those things. This framework recognizes and sets out to achieve opportunities; it allows for personal and cultural growth; it is in sync with the underlying cultural fabric of this country. It directly addresses people’s perception of the security of their affluence in the same way that developing countries’ economic growth allows people to move beyond basic material needs to higher order needs.

The reality of insecure affluence among many Americans today might be an indirect outcome of the 1%’s efforts to increase wealth disparity, but it is real. We have to address that disparity first in order to address the real, valid perceptions of insecure affluence. Only after Americans feel their personal wealth is secure will they have the resources to devote to higher order needs such as global climate change. That can happen with concerted focus on investing and innovating a post-carbon economy. But you won’t see that at the top of any policy prescription from the majority of climate scientists.

He's not so much saying that we have break the stranglehold of the one percent here, but that if scientists really want action, they'll put as much effort into imagining how we can use their expertise to innovate out of the civilizational carbon trap as to bemoaning that we are in it. I don't know whether that is realistic, but there is something to this.

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