Kids Can See It, So Why Can’t We?

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
Plato

Sometimes the innocence of children allows the truth to be more clear for them than it is for us as adults. We have filters we use to see the world, and that has an impact on our perception of reality. Studies in social science have made it abundantly clear: if you follow a conservative ideology, you are more inclined to be skeptical of climate change, even if you’re a meteorologist or an atmospheric scientist. And the more educated you are, the more polarized your belief system tends to become.

This video is amusing and enlightening all at the same time. If you can get past the corny jokes—I challenge you not to chuckle—you’ll get the message loud and clear. What’s happening to our planet is abundantly clear. Kids can easily see that.

Now it’s up to us adults to somehow acquire the same level of perspicacity as our junior members of society and figure out what we’re going to do about it.

 

Are We Overreacting to Trump Pulling Out of the Paris Accord? No We Are Not!

This past Thursday, June 1st, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he had decided to pull the US out of the Paris Accord. No big surprise given that it was one of his election pledges. However, this decision has come with criticism from all sorts, not just the far-left but other conservatives as well. But is it truly ridiculous for Trump to pull out? Aren’t there some economic arguments that justify his move? Take into consideration the following points:

1. One of the world’s largest superpowers just withdrew from an agreement that is currently either signed or ratified by all but three of our planet’s countries. (Even North Korea has supported the Paris Accord.) Is Trump truly smart enough that he and his cabinet have figured out something else that the rest of the planet missed?

2. The Paris Accord was set up by the United Nations to fight climate change by the year 2020. Perhaps ambitious goals to some—especially to the typical Trump supporter—but the goals set out within the Paris Accord are totally achievable if we are willing to work together as a global community of citizens to fight this growing threat, truly one of the greatest our civilization has ever faced. The agreement was created in the spirit of a global treaty, not something that should be considered optional. More importantly, it represents global unity to fight a global threat and the goals that can be accomplished if we work together to protect our planet.

3. The Paris Accord has currently been adopted by 185 nations around the world, including many who contribute a very small contribution of pollution into the atmosphere. These small countries still make an effort to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions in the hopes that their own pollution will one day drop to zero. So which countries haven’t signed the Paris Accord? Number one: Vatican City. Turns out, the Vatican can’t officially sign the agreement until it becomes an official member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, Vatican City is currently in the process of becoming a member so that they can sign the agreement in time. Number two: Syria. Given that Syria has been in a constant state of civil war since early 2011, perhaps they deserve a pass on trying to solve a global problem. Number three: Nicaragua. Despite Nicaragua only contributing 0.03% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the Nicaraguan government has decided not to sign the agreement because it doesn’t make sense to participate in an agreement if other countries who have signed can’t be punished for breaking the agreement (like the US just did). Despite that fact, Nicaragua has still taken significant steps independently to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions with the goal to rely on 90% renewable energy by the year 2020. These three countries are either in the process of ratifying the accord or have a valid reason not to participate. However, the US has no comparable excuse whatsoever to withdraw from the Paris Accord, considering that more than 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from our neighbours south of the border.

4. It’s hard to see how withdrawing from the Paris Accord can help the US economy. After all, the coal industry employs less people than Arby’s, and withdrawing isn’t going to make coal more valuable as a product for the economy. It’s a) the naturally shrinking market for coal and b) automation that have hurt the job market for people working in coal mines, not being a signatory to the Paris Accord. In fact, this move will likely cost Americans jobs rather than stimulate them because moving toward renewable energy is good for the economy and definitely creates jobs. As an example of his misunderstanding of the situation, during President Trump’s speech last week he boasted about an amazing coal mine that just opened, arguing that this coal mine will lead to more jobs and will stimulate the American economy. However, a brand new coal mine is really quite foolish: coal is no longer a suitable energy source and is certainly not renewable. In 2017, green energy is becoming one of the top producers of energy all over the planet. The money invested in building a coal mine in 2017 could just as easily be put towards renewable energy solutions which have a much better future and would still create jobs. What does President Trump think will happen to those jobs once the coal has run out? If that money were invested in renewable energy instead, those jobs would have a future. It is simply a ridiculous and regressive idea to think that building a coal mine in 2017 is a smart idea as far as carbon emissions and job creation is concerned.

In conclusion, President Trump has made a very foolish and selfish decision to remove the US from the Paris Accord. His misplaced motivation—jobs and the economy—are trivial in comparison to the growing threat of climate change. Job creation should not be seen as a federal issue in the face of a global threat as devastating as climate change will become. The so-called jobs created by pulling out of the Paris Accord are not going to sustain the US economy in the long-term. Quite simply, there is no point in creating jobs if you don’t have a healthy planet for those jobs to live on.

Wealth Inequality in America

“It is neither wealth nor splendour; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.”
—Thomas Jefferson

I love this video. And given that it’s been one of my post popular posts, it’s worth posting again. It explains the major discrepancy of wealth that exists in the U.S., and makes good points arguing that things need to change, arguments that are hard to contradict in my mind. Spend a few minutes watching this, and then I’ll point out what its significance is to fighting climate change.

Some of you may be surprised to learn that despite the fact that I support this video’s message, I have traditionally voted conservative. I believe that hard work deserves its rewards. But I also believe that being conservative means I want to conserve things. Things like the environment. And I definitely don’t think that being conservative is the same thing as being selfish. Something that too many conservatives in North America seem to have forgotten lately.

So what does this have to do with combatting global warming and climate change? Everything, really. One of the solutions we need to fix a broken planet is to rethink the way our economy works, because it will be much harder to care for the environment if the economy continues unchecked. The system of communism didn’t work in the Soviet Union and ended up being revamped. So why should unbridled capitalism continue here in the western world if it’s not working perfectly either?

Think of all of the protests that have taken place because people are unhappy with the unequal distribution of wealth with the 40 percent of U.S. dollars held by the top one percent of people. Occupy Wall Street is a prime example. And it’s not about handouts for lazy people. As the video aptly questions, does the CEO of a company really work 380 times harder than the average employee in that company? Does one hour really earn that CEO what it takes more than one month for his or her average employee to earn?

The bottom line is this: the current economy encourages the top earners to value selfish motives over what is best for society as a whole. Thus, Exxon-Mobil and the Koch brothers do their best to keep making money, fighting anything that might alter that arrangement every step of the way, regardless of the associated harm to any externalities such as the environment. Not every top earner falls into this category, but the evidence supports that most do. So these people won’t make major efforts to preserve the environment and tackle global warming.

And the bottom earners are just barely eking out a living. They don’t have the funds to invest in the environment or climate change. Every penny they have goes to basic survival.

And that leaves the middle class, the group best equipped to fight the fight. And they’re disappearing as the video makes clear. Unless this group can be resurrected, we may well be doomed to fail in our efforts to make the changes necessary to stave off a real climate crisis.

I think I’m right of centre on the political spectrum. But if this sounds like left-wing thinking, it’s only because I’m certainly left of the top one percent.

But that’s only because they are so far right that they’re off the scale.

In more ways than one.

Earth Day 2017: Give Earth a Hand

“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
—Walt Whitman

Today is Earth Day. Please take the time to celebrate it in some way. Whether you are someone like me who works hard to educate people so they know how to combat global warming and climate change, or whether you’re someone who denies the problem even exists, this day is still for you. There will be some part of our planet that you care about but is threatened in some way, whether it’s clean air, fresh water, rainforests or oceans, there is something about our home that you love but may lose. So think about that and decide what you can do about it to give Earth a hand. At least today, if not every day.

After all, it’s the only Earth we’ve got.

 

10 Million by 2050

The future ain’t what it used to be.
—Yogi Berra

There’s no doubt that an ever-increasing global population plays a big part in global warming and climate change. More people means more land to live on, more land for crops, and more livestock for food. Clearing all this land and the construction, agriculture and livestock that go along with it generate a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. As the global population increases and as technology continues to progress with populations either living according to first-world standards or at least trying to, the emissions per person steadily increase as well.

According to the United Nations, on October 31, 2011 we reached a global population of seven billion people and it’s currently estimated that we are fast approaching 7.5 billion less than six years later. With more births than deaths, the number continues to climb. Our species has had many ups and downs in population over the centuries, but ever since the plague finished doing its damage around 1350—leaving us with about 370 million human beings at that point—our numbers have been steadily rising. Better sanitation, antibiotics, vaccination, and modern medicine (especially pertaining to childbirth) have all led to less premature deaths than we used to experience. Before modern medicine, a couple needed to plan for about five children simply to keep the population count neutral. Those days are long gone.

And slowly but surely, women’s rights are steadily improving around the world. There is certainly room for improvement in many parts of the globe, but ensuring that women are educated and able to be part of the workforce, and that they have control over their own bodies with respect to family planning have contributed substantially toward the steady decline in birth rates seen all over the world in the last fifty years. Only the poorest war-torn nations continue to have higher birth rates, in part to offset the higher mortality rates those countries still continue to experience.

Since birth rates are declining, might we ever expect to reach a plateau in the rising global population?  Continue reading