Month 8, Day 4: This Is All The Good News You Got?

The Chicago Tribune ran an AP story noting that the American climate negotiators are now reduced to reassuring their European counterparts that, yes, we will still honor our commitments.

While the collapse of climate legislation was a long-anticipated disappointment, it’s good to know that the United States still intends to honor its commitment to reduce CO2 emissions over the coming decade. Given that the USA has five percent of the world’s population, but emits twenty percent of its carbon dioxide, a seventeen percent reduction from 2005 levels is only a tiny step on a globally responsible path. If we wish to be taken seriously as a leader among nations, though, we must do better than a minimal reduction. We’re going to have to do some hard work, make some meaningful sacrifices, and prove ourselves capable of doing the right thing for generations yet to come. Is it possible? The current political climate is stranger and more overheated than the planet’s, but the laws of physics pay no heed to election-year exigencies. We must act decisively and rapidly, or all seven billion of us will face a future of almost unimaginable harshness.

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 5: We Cannot Afford This Kind Of Cheap.

The Chicago Tribune ran the same AP story, but they handled it a little differently. Since they’re not a Murdoch paper I felt more comfortable using words of more than one syllable.

The destruction of the Gulf of Mexico makes it clear: fossil fuels are far more expensive than we think. Years of extensive government subsidies to the oil industry kept prices artificially low, and “externalities” like environmental destruction, health effects, expensive wars and catastrophic climate change are never figured into the price we pay at the pump. That must change if we are to survive and prosper. President Obama is absolutely correct: we can procrastinate no longer when it comes to building a clean energy future. When nay-sayers claim that getting off fossil fuels entirely is “unrealistic,” they forget two important facts: first, America has a long history of solving difficult problems with creativity and gusto — and we’ll create a renewable energy system with the same spirit. Second, the devastated Gulf of Mexico makes an irrefutable case that continuing to depend on oil is more than “unrealistic.” It’s suicidal.

Warren Senders