Global warming has become a highly charged political issue. The players in the climate change drama cast into different roles. It seems like you must be a Democrat to be interested in combating global warming, or if you’re a Republican, you cannot be environmentally motivated.
“The Earth’s climate does not care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. It doesn’t care whether you’re liberal or conservative. Climate change will affect all Americans no matter what your political beliefs, your religious beliefs, your race, class, creed, et cetera, okay. And in the end, the only way we’re going to deal with this issue is if we come together as a country and have a serious conversation, not about is it real. But what can we do about it,” Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and a Research Scientist at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University said in an episode titled, “Encore: Ending the Silence on Climate Change” this month on Bill Moyer & Company.
For many years fossil fuel company interests have waged an active disinformation campaign that has borne fruit for them. They learned well from tobacco war strategy, which was to make people believe the science isn’t clear and that the experts do not agree. This leads the average person to reserve judgment on climate change. They aren’t likely to take global warming seriously until it seems that the experts reach a conclusion. Unfortunately that day will be long coming because these big, powerful companies will continue to spread misinformation.
The climate change disinformation campaign has spread so far that it’s even affected politics. In last year’s presidential election the question was, “If we focus on protecting the environment, won’t that harm the economy?” The truth is that there is no inherent contradiction. The U.S. could, in fact, lead the Green Industrial Revolution.
What is also interesting is that Republicans weren’t always painted with the not caring about global warming brush. They actually led the charge on issues such as acid rain. President George H.W. Bush passed cap and trade legislation on sulfur dioxide. It was one of the most successful environmental programs in American history, and it was accomplished at a cost far below even best guess estimates at the time.
The answer to the politicization of climate change is that the U.S. needs a groundswell of grassroots movement for environmental change. We need to get organized and demand change of our politicians. This country’s political system simply is not conducive to making the changes itself to deal with the global warming crisis we desperately need. Let’s take partisan gridlock out of the picture. We can begin by mobilizing and directing the 16 percent of Americans that are the Alarmed, defined in my last post on climate change communication, but are unsure what to do to make a difference in climate change.
This year offered several events that shone a spotlight directly on the important and urgent issue of climate change, but the question remains, “Was it enough to bring about meaningful efforts to reduce climate change?”
June of 2012 presented the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which disappointed many as international representatives hemmed and hawed instead of establishing true endeavors to tackle global warming. Meanwhile the continental United States embarked on summer heat waves that were some of the hottest in its history.
This year also saw drought cover more than half the country; farmers suffered as their crops and animals died.
Then October of 2012 brought superstorm Sandy, this year’s biggest example of extreme weather and a deadly harbinger of the devastating effects of climate change. Can we continue to sit idly by in the face of all these signs that global warming is making broad changes to our planet? Should we leave these environmental problems for our children to face as we continue down an unsustainable path?
The close of the year is a time to reflect on the previous events of the year and make resolutions for the coming year. Let’s pledge to make 2013 the year where we confront climate change in every possible way. We can all embark on energy efficiency efforts; reducing what we can and lowering our carbon footprints. Every bit helps. Then it is a powerful combination to offset the rest of our carbon emissions. It would be a genuine shame to let the lessons of this past year slip from our consciousness while there is still time and so much that can and should be done to address climate change.
In what is easily the best environmental action in a generation, this week, the Obama Administration announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks (think minivans and sport utility vehicles). By 2025, these vehicles will be required to average 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates CAFE standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures vehicle fuel efficiency. An agreement in support of acceptable standards was made between the government, automakers and their unions, and environmental organizations.
The stage for these historic fuel economy standards was set by an energy law enacted in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Additionally, the 2009 federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were tied to better fuel efficiency.
Fuel-efficient cars and trucks were the U.S. auto industry’s saving grace. It makes good sense on multiple levels to continue these efforts. For one, 570,000 new jobs can be created by 2030. Not to mention saving consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reducing U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. This also translates to strengthening national security by lessening the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
What about fighting man-made global warming? The new standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025. This reduces emissions by 6 billion metric tons, which is more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010. We thank President Obama for his leadership on combating climate change, pollution prevention and national security.
Starting in 2017, the standards will be phased in over the course of eight years. New fuel-saving technology is projected to increase the cost of new car or light truck by $3,000 on average. This means consumers will pay a little more when they buy the vehicle, about $50 more a month over a five-year loan, but they’ll more than make up for it at the pump with expected gas savings per vehicle between $7,000 - $8,000. And that is good for the environment and our wallets.
Undeniably, the vehicle fuel-efficiency standards represent an unbeatable combination of protecting the environment and strengthening the economy. They’re also the nation's single largest effort to combat climate-altering greenhouse gases, but we can’t stop building our carbon-reduction portfolios now. Wonderful news like this should push us to continuing to find more ways to reduce our carbon footprint, as individuals and a nation. Now let’s go invest in some renewable energy projects!