Two and a half years ago I had the distinct honor of being invited, along with 200 other individuals, to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in a three-day exercise with Al Gore and The Climate Project, aimed at arming us with the facts about global warming. Since that time over 2,500 individuals worldwide have been similarly trained and together we have delivered over 50,000 presentations designed to educate citizens of the planet on the scientific evidence about a global planetary emergency.
This past weekend nearly 500 climate messengers gathered in Nashville with Nobel Laureate Gore and The Climate Project for a reunion of sorts. And the news is sobering to say the least. Two things have changed dramatically since this monumental grass roots educational effort was launched: one, the situation has deteriorated far quicker and deeper than scientists has thought possible; two, a new national administration has fueled momentum from the highest levels of government down for timely and effective action to combat the climate crisis instead of reliance solely upon the grass roots.
Unfortunately there are more negatives than positives to report at this juncture, but as Gore so smartly insists, there is a realistic opportunity to staunch the bleeding and spearhead a global healing process that is feasible in both economic and environmental terms. But we must act quickly and decisively in order to maximize the degree of mitigation necessary and minimize the inevitable amount of adaptation that is already occurring.
The United States must take hold of this issue and engage both developing and developed nations in a collective effort that essentially shifts the economic paradigm from one powered by fossil fuel consumption to one powered by renewable energy. The opportunity to do so will happen this December in Copenhagen. But in order to set the table for that to happen, Congress must enact a set of carbon emissions reductions targets and policy incentives (i.e. a carbon cap and trade system) that will allow us the exert global leadership. Before Memorial Day it is expected that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Waxman-Markey legislation that does just that.
Truly, a brighter future beckons. We have at our fingertips the important building blocks to begin to construct a world for our children and grandchildren that at the very least gives them a fighting chance to avoid the horrendous consequences of a world choking on pollution, rising sea levels, and increasingly devastating weather incidents such as floods, droughts, lightning strikes, wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes.
I will not recite a litany of statistics to validate the point here, but the fact that there is no meaningful scientific debate that global warming is happening or that human-induced fossil-fuel emissions are significantly contributing to it reflects a sea change in the general public's attitudes on this issue over the past two decades.
And for those who still deny the science, ask yourself this question: Do you want to wean the United States off of its oil addiction habit so we are less dependent upon finite resources and rely upon more abundant resources, such as the sun and the wind?
Of course the answer is yes. It makes common sense, economic sense, and most certainly environmental sense. It is the right choice.
The new greening of America will offer a bountiful array of green collar jobs. It will also have positive and dynamic impacts upon our national and international security apparatus. Competition over scarce resources, whether it be fisheries depleted by an increasingly acidified ocean or lost due to the evaporation of a lake (witness the disappearance of the Aral Sea or Lake Chad), lost crops due to loss of soil moisture, warmer temperatures forcing the displacement of certain crops, loss of drinking water, or loss of corn for human consumption in favor of fuel, can lead to conflict.
Competition among rapidly industrializing economies over oil can lead to conflict. Displacement of huge populations along coastlines due to rising sea levels will contribute to mass migrations, border tensions, and huge humanitarian relief and rescue operations, all increasing the prospect for conflict.
We have the ability to collectively embark upon a new course of action. Given the nature of the season, let me liken it to a baseball analogy: it is like being in the eighth inning of a game where we are behind by three runs and the bases are loaded, there are two outs and the count is three balls and two strikes. Chances are it may be the last best time to hit the ball out of the park to win the game. We need to hit the home run. The situation may arise in the ninth, it may not. Therefore, we need to take advantage of the opportunity in front of us.
Our lawmakers are up to bat. It is their time to shine.