Climate change: our problem, our choice

See Disclaimer. Also published in the Forest Grove Times News (Citizen’s View, August 28, 2019), Beaverton Valley Times (Citizen’s View, August 29) and (via link) TheTimes (Tigard/Tualatin/Sherwood)

Climate change is here. The data says so. The vast majority of scientists agree that it is so. People living along coastal margins, in the US and abroad, are living it. Farmers across the world are living it, too. Native People have empirical evidence of it. Denying it in the year of 2019 is irrational—as is denying that humans are responsible for most of the change.

Yes, there are—and there have always been—natural variations in climate. But change at this pace, with such obvious causes, is not natural. Pretending otherwise is negligent, arguably criminal.

Let’s thus focus on the questions that most matter at this time: How do we mitigate further change? How do we adapt to the change that we cannot avoid?

The answers require that we examine our core values and priorities. But, ultimately, we face a simple choice: Caring only about today, or choosing to also protect the future of the human race.

If we are old enough, rich enough, and material comforts matter the most to us, we might be able to live the rest of our lives reasonably sheltered from the worse of the impacts. We will be inconvenienced, and may even have to move around the country—or perhaps the globe—to escape climate extremes. But we might still make it in relative comfort.

However, our kids and certainly their kids and grandkids, will not be so lucky. Neither will be those who lack the riches to survive change, or the luxury of mobility to minimize its impacts.
They will inherit and endure the brunt of the climate change impact, without much flexibility or hope to curb it. The world’s population is too large and growing, we are using resources too fast, and nature is forcing us to change the economic and social paradigms too abruptly.

At some point (and arguably already), essential resources will run out in increasingly larger parts of the world, wealth and health inequality will be aggravated beyond a no-return point, and climate-driven migrations will become the norm. That is not the world that most of us want our grandkids to inherit.

Most religions look at life as sacred, and at suicide as a sin. How can they thus justify not addressing—in some cases, even not acknowledging—climate change? How can they oppose rational measures against over-population, such as sexual education and birth control methods? Isn’t this opposition a form of collective suicide? And, as such, isn’t it a sin?

The most powerful among us care deeply about their lasting personal legacy. Family dynasties, foundations and named buildings are just basic examples of such concern. But what good is a legacy, if the Earth becomes unsustainable? In fact, wouldn’t the right legacy involve a substantive net positive contribution to a sustainable Earth?

Politicians get elected by promising us a better future. How can they then live with decisions that will leave us no future—or at least no future we want to live in? How can climate change education, mitigation and adaptation not be front and center in their political platforms, and in the implementation of their legislative and executive responsibilities?

I realize that much of the world’s population lives challenging lives. Starvation, poverty, neglect, violence, migration, and illiteracy affect way too many of our fellow human beings, even today. If people don’t know where their kids’ next meal will come from, under which roof they will sleep tonight, or even which country will let them in, how can they possibly worry about the world decades from now?

But those are not the people whose carbon footprint must be primarily curtailed. Those are not the people who control the means of production or the culture of consumerism. They are not those who negligently—arguably criminally—relax or circumvent environmental regulations without which climate change and over-exploitation of natural resources will make our shared Earth increasingly (and quickly) less livable. They are not the people who shamelessly claim that a strong economy and environmental protections are mutually exclusive.

It is past time for us to make climate change a litmus test in life and politics. None of us is perfect, thus we are all part of the problem. But we can all be part of the solution, too, by not remaining aloof to the threat, and by willingly contributing towards mitigation and adaption. Technology evolution is giving us many opportunities to reverse course—such as (but certainly not limited to) focusing on cleaner (and, yes, renewable and increasingly cheaper) options for most of our energy needs. But no technology will suffice, if we don’t also embrace objective knowledge and much needed cultural and political change.

Thus my plea:

  • As rational human beings: Let’s get informed! Learn about climate change from objective sources.
  • As individuals, families and communities: Let’s adopt lifestyles that do not require a disproportionate net carbon footprint.
  • As business leaders: Let’s act in ways that are economically and environmentally savvy—and responsible. It really is not “either or”—it is both!
  • As citizens: Let’s elect politicians—at local, state and national levels—who have informed views on climate change, and make mitigation and adaptation thinking an integral part of their legislative or executive actions.
  • As politicians: Please earn and be true to our trust and concerns as voters.

Let’s not treat this as someone else’s problem: Our choices matter!

— Antonio Baptista


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