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Tuesday, August 6, 2013
“So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgement of science . . . has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists . . . have acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it. . . . So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it is too late.”
— President Barack Obama, Georgetown University, June 25
President Obama’s speech on climate change represents a momentous shift in consciousness on the part of our president. Reflecting the urgency of the problem, his talk may well go down in history as heralding the beginning of a new world era. At the least, his words were a strong and public recognition of the planetary crisis taking place and the necessity of a shift in our national priorities, long overdue in light of the rapid increase of carbon emissions with resulting critical events: droughts, heat waves, floods and major storms.
Considering the importance of this talk by our president, it received shockingly poor coverage by the media.
Climate change and global warming are the primary challenge of not only this century but centuries to come.
The future of our lives and those of our children depends on how the U.S. responds to this critical issue.
This was, in fact, the heart of the president’s message.
Though he made no promises of stopping the production of fossil fuels and extolled the new boom in natural gas, he asserted his conviction in “a low-carbon, clean energy economy that can be an engine of growth for decades to come.”
By “cutting back on dirty energy, using more clean energy and wasting less energy,” the president hopes to achieve this within two decades or so.
But can we afford that much time if we continue using fossil fuels and dirty energy such as the Canadian tar sands derivatives that would flow into the U.S. via the Keystone XL Pipeline should Obama actually approve that project?
Another troubling question, perhaps the most difficult one our nation faces, is our system’s fixation on growth as the magic bullet that will cure all our problems.
When the president stated midway in his talk that “we can and must address climate change in a way that will promote jobs and growth,” it seems impossible not to wonder — as I do and, I can attest, as do a growing number of others, including scientists and even economists — whether it is possible to go on expanding economic growth, consumerism and development and retain a liveable planet.
Indeed, with the potential of 9 billion human beings on this planet within the next 50 years, on an Earth with resources already stressed to meet the present needs of 7 billion, a major dilemma confronts us.
How can a healthy economy function or provide for its people on an unstable and sick planet? Surely we can find new ways to prosper within the limitations of a fragile planet with its own needs and laws, which almost all other species observe.
Obama’s proposals for a new energy policy is a significant move in the right direction. It may not be enough.
But in all fairness, Obama must be given much credit and admiration for his courage in launching a new conversation, late as it is, on an Earth-changing problem that will not go away, and for inviting the American people, all of us, into this essential discussion, and for asking for our involvement and help as follows:
“Americans are . . . not a people who fear what the future holds, we shape it. What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands. . . . Speak up for the facts. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. . . . Make yourself heard on this issue.”
Let’s join him in this challenge.
So much that we care about is at stake.
Weather JournalWarmth next 2 days hits icy wall