Sunday, June 04, 2017

Reflections on the Politics of Climate Change - by John Abraham, Professor of thermal sciences.

Ideology and tribalism blind many people to the consequences of their climate denial and obstructionism.

2Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni talks to U.S. President Donald Trump during a G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, Saturday, May 27, 2017. Perhaps he’s whispering that climate change is real and withdrawing from the Paris treaty is a stupid idea. (Photograph Credit: Jonathan Ernst/AP) Click to Enlarge.
From a political standpoint, if we think about the silly things President Trump is doing and how it will affect the world, the one thing he may be most remembered for is his climate inaction.  Climate change will have very long lasting consequences that we will be dealing with long after he is gone.  Long after other issues like immigration, the economy, debt, jobs, terrorism, or new words like “covfefe” have passed from our minds, the implications of our climate effect will linger.  Frankly, no challenge we are facing (except perhaps a potential nuclear war) presents the consequences that climate change does. 

And this, sadly, will be the legacy of conservatives in my country.  As we wake up to more severe weather, more droughts, heat waves, rising seas, severe storms, the world will remember that these issues could have been solved long ago but for an ideology and tribalism.  It will be the job of scientists, historians, and the media to continually remind people of this.  Climate change could have been solved.  Those who will be blamed will certainly claim “But I didn’t cause this climate change.  You cannot blame this on me!” But we can and we have to. People need to be accountable for their actions.  If you are someone who has stood in the path of climate action, you own the results.

And that is the sad part.  Because as I mentioned earlier, this means a significant part of the population will be tarred with the legacy of climate change.  And that population does not, as a rule, want the climate to change.  No one wants sea levels to rise or droughts to increase.  But this observation does not change the fact that without the obstruction of climate action, we would be in a very different place. 

Another sad result is that my country has become a pariah – we have gone from leader to obstructionist on climate change.  This saddens me.

What is ironic is that many of the people who deny human-caused climate change are the same people who live and breathe so-called “patriotism.”  But this patriotism has become a “my country right or wrong” parochial slogan that is anything but patriotic.  To call your country what it is, to be honest about our strengths and our shortcomings, to work to make your country better, to never settle for status quo – that is patriotic.  And as a patriot, I am deeply saddened by my country’s lack of leadership on this important issue.  And as a patriot, I will hope for, and work for change.

Read more at Reflections on the Politics of Climate Change

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