Biden’s bet that Washington can work is very dicey. Climate can’t be compromised. We’ve run out of time, squandered all our chances over the last three decades to deal with carbon emissions leisurely.
A long, slow transition to clean energy is no longer possible without incurring more heatwaves, more fires, longer, harsher droughts, more frequent and more deadly tropical storms, higher food prices, more hunger, more early deaths from air pollution that already shortens seven million lives every year. Insufferable heat and hunger in whole regions will cause political unrest and millions of destabilizing climate refugees. Governments will struggle to cope with forces beyond their control. Some will fall, but their successors will be no more able to provide the food, water, air quality, and ambient temperature that their citizens need and demand. Economies will shrink as productivity and trade decline. Prices, scarcities, and hunger will rise. The poor, as always, will suffer the most. Many will die, many protest, still more emigrate. All will roil the stability that societies and civilization itself both need and provide.
Without a stable, hospitable climate, the bedrock upon which civilization rests, human societies, even human life, become precarious. The civilization we have painstakingly accreted over centuries can crumble. It can fall apart. If we don’t take extraordinary efforts now to forestall that fate, it will. That’s why the climate is not an issue amenable to compromise.
The science doesn’t lie. It’s reality. It can’t be ignored any longer, treated as if irrelevant, a mere annoyance that can be brushed aside while more important issues command our attention. There is no more important issue. It is existential. If we don’t devote our full attention and our best efforts to cutting the carbon emissions that are killing us, we are doomed.
Half measures won’t solve the climate crisis. A compromise won’t work. Saving civilization requires a national and an international commitment to undertake the myriad changes small and large in how we live our lives without depending on the combustion of dead plants that over millennia have become the fossil fuels upon which our civilization is built and upon which we have become dependent.
Almost like the social drinker who isn’t aware of his or her growing dependence on alcohol, we’ve become addicted to coal, oil, and natural gas to grow our food, ship it, and cook it; light, heat, and cool our homes; propel our cars, trucks, trains, and planes; manufacture the steel, concrete, and asphalt that construct our buildings and roads. Our detoxification will be difficult and wrenching, but we can do it. It’ll be stretched out over the next 30 years, but it has to start now. We don’t have to go cold turkey, but we do have to enter treatment. We have to commit ourselves our societies, and our civilization to kicking the fossil fuel habit. We’ve got to go green, commit to getting out energy only from sources that don’t conspire to make our home, the Earth, uninhabitable.
We won’t have to give up our comforts or our lifestyles, just change how we power them. The benefits will far outweigh the costs. We’ll breathe better, live longer. Our food will be cheaper, taste better, and be more nutritious. We will exploit nature less, preserve and restore it more, enshrine a new paradigm — sustainability, over the old one — progress. We will learn, because we have to, that enough is enough., And that there is enough for everyone. We’ll make all the changes big and small that greening our energy fully will entail because our lives will be better for it, and so will the lives of our children, and theirs, and theirs. It’s worth it, do let’s get on with it. We’re ready. Let’s go. As Captain Kirk of Star Trek often said to his crew, let us the American people, say to Congress and President Biden, Make it so.