Everyone by now has an opinion on climate change. The record heat of 2012 and its accompanying tornadoes, fires, droughts, floods, severe storms woke many Americans up. The year culminated with Hurricane Super Storm Sandy slamming the east coast.
At last, even politicians like Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo began to speak out about being prepared for the new normal. The greatest opportunity to create green jobs, stimulate the economy, reform energy and benefit everyone is here, now.
In his inauguration speech, President Obama spoke out about the challenge of climate crisis. If this is the case, why no panic, no unity of alarm, quickly followed by big, bold, action? Why no instantly instated reforms? There are several reasons.
Confusion and denial: If something could really be that wrong, one would think society and government would act, right?
After September 11, 2001; there was near instantaneous response in human behavior. In what seemed like just hours, people were pulled from the sky, and new intense security measures were put forward. These “solutions” have had shoe-less people in long lines at airports, with confiscated “terrorist” shampoo and other property, for years. There were other responses that affected every person, invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, privacy violations, even rumors of torture and suspending the rule of law. This shows people can respond on massive scale. In fact, they want to help.
Another answer always comes back to the issue of special interests, politics, us versus them, media, and who profits from humanity’s addiction to dirty fuel. Back to this, in a moment.
An underlying cause that supports the first, is human reaction to bad news with shock, denial and paralysis. After some numbing, many note that there is still extreme waste and polluting culprits.
No one wants to say it. Deniers don’t need to hear “You were warned”, told-you-so scolding. They need to hear they are valued, as everyone is, in this challenge. There is massive waste of energy, oil, disposable goods, throw away values and no concern about them, so it must be okay. Why would humans choose to discard their life support system if they have a choice? Everyone must pull together.
The response is not just denial, but group behavior confirmation bias. If waste of any resource is so bad, why is it still going on? This rationalization is also tied to people being told not just that they are entitled to dirty fuels, but that the dirty fuels are “new, improved and clean!” Don’t buy it. If taking shampoo stops terrorists, surely changing some bulbs, eating healthier, and saving some fuel is acceptable.
People want to do the right thing, but media, politics and obfuscation result in extreme confusion, complicating the science, and ignoring that there are extremely simple ideas here: Earth is warming. Many are dying. Wasting less, polluting less and managing resources efficiently will help. Technology and innovation are possible, and economic growth, too. Demand more. Action is better than fear. Act now.