Climate Change


Leonard Zwelling

It was a most unusual Meet the Press on Sunday, December 30, 2018. The host, Chuck Todd, used the hour to address one and only one issue. Climate change. He did so in an unusual way. He did not give equal time to the climate change deniers. He had real scientists participate on his panel. He basically led with three things: climate change is occurring; it is due to the rise in green house gasses; and the actions of humans are significant contributors to the crisis. He debated none of these issues. What he pursued is whether we should try to do something about this, if so, what, and if so, why hasn’t any meaningful action been taken in Congress to alter the effects of climate change on the people of the United States.

In the New York Times on Monday, December 31, David Leonnhardt makes many of the same points (see link).

Why now?

Climate change has been real and quantifiable for a long time and Al Gore has been warning us about if for years. But 2018 seemed to be the culmination of natural events in the environment, particularly acute changes in weather, that have convinced the majority of Americans (at least those who don’t call themselves Republicans) that climate change is really occurring and that people have had a role in bringing it on.

First, as Leonhardt points out, all of the top five hottest years on record have occurred since 2010. The flooding in Houston and after Sandy in the East has caught the attention of even the most avid denier. Climate change is affecting America and the pocketbooks of ordinary Americans.

Second, the current administration in Washington is made up of climate change deniers and they will provide no leadership on the issue of climate change. But states and local jurisdictions are taking it upon themselves to try to throw off dependency on fossil fuel by using wind and solar power and in general moving to lessen the threat of climate change on the environment.

Third, in the Meet the Press hour, there was clearly demonstrated the schism between what most American believe (climate change is real) and what the elected representatives believe (it’s all explicable as expectable variation in weather patterns and that there is no need for alarm).

That pretty much lays out the problem. What’s the solution?

Georgetown, Texas has shown the way by going solar to supply all of its energy grid. More municipalities and states need to do the same in the absence of leadership from Washington.

Climate change must be a major issue in the 2020 presidential debate. Assuming that Mr. Trump stays on the job until then (I’d bet against it) or even if Mr. Pence is the Republican nominee, this should be an area of extreme contrast between the parties in 2020 no matter who the Dems run.

The United States needs to rejoin the Paris Accords for this is a problem that must be solved on the world level with all of our partners and enemies pulling in the same direction if the existence of people on Earth is supposed to stretch beyond 2100.

The time for action has long since passed. America and the world must take the issue of climate change seriously. And, as Chuck Todd showed, most American do. The flooding and fires have done that. People believe. Now if we can only find a way to get the people’s government to believe and move as well.

Leonard Zwelling