Politics and Climate Change

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

Scientific evidence that climate change is real and raising havoc with our collective lives has been steadily mounting. This is all the more clear given recent reports emanating from many quarters,
 
 
the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, on the impending collapse of the East Antarctic Ice Shelf. Even conservative columnist David Brooks believes we need to institute a global carbon tax with rebates shared with those on the bottom end of the inequality ladder.

But if we read our local newspaper or listen to newscasts we find a vacuum of serious discussion about anything we might do to mitigate this global disaster or adapt to challenges facing the human family. There is nothing visible in the Michigan legislature or executive branch showing any real leadership on the issue. What is going on in local city or county government is a mystery. 

From my vantage point I see no local or state official who sees this worthy of their time. Perhaps the problem is the human inability to fathom the impacts of parts-per-billion or with projections longer than daily stock reports. Perhaps the size and complexity of the threat has so many in positions of leadership frozen in their tracks. Perhaps we have a predisposition to look for a silver bullet, usually one that has a technological sheen to it, that we’re waiting to arrive gift-wrapped on our doorstep.
Regardless, we can no longer use denial as an excuse, and what the best science can tell us is that once we reach a certain tipping point, the genie cannot be put back into the bottle for hundreds if not thousands of years. So how might we move from our catatonic state into one that begins to face and address the challenges? What are the possibilities and how might we unleash the creative juices of the human family to dream up new solutions?
We know the most effective, fastest, and least expensive approach is to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels from production through disposal. We each are empowered to do so. Turn stuff off except when we’re actually using it. Insulate. Drop the thermostat a degree or two in the winter and raise it a degree or two in the summer. Drive less. Ask our government and businesses to do the same. One way or the other we will share the hardships of nature’s response, so why not start now and think of it as preventative medicine?

While individual actions definitely matter, policies can make better choices easier. The carbon tax with rebates based on income needs would transform the marketplace. Currently the market ignores the costs of climate change, shifting them onto not only future generations but those least able to adapt to the impacts now being felt. We need leadership. In this election year, we should ask every candidate for every office what they propose to do about it if they are elected. Their answers should determine which lever we pull in November. Time is wasting

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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