George Carlin once said, "the planet is fine, the people are f***ed." Well, it's the people I'm worried about. Long after people are gone, the planet will find its equilibrium once again, and all of the world's critters we did not succeed in driving to extinction will work it all out. But is that what we want?
I could tell you again about how the climate crisis is impacting the world's 'Have Nots' in the global south. The people who didn't cause the climate crisis but who are suffering from it first. Because that's what I find most compelling when I think of the reasons why we need to take big steps now to save the climate. But I think you know that already, so I want to talk about something else.
Here's how I see it. Those of us who believe in something called "science" have known for a long time that we are headed straight toward a catastrophic climate change that will end life as we know it unless we do something big to stop it. And... then there's people like Sen. James Inhofe who think the climate crisis is some big hoax, there's people who think the climate is changing but it's due to sunspots or something, and there's people who don't know what to believe.
As you likely know, a major reason why so many Americans don't believe in the climate crisis is because there's been a well-funded opposition that has tried to sow doubt. "Let's wait til the facts are all in." Why should we inconvenience everyone and have them do terrible things like using public transportation if we aren't 100% SURE that we really, really need to? See - here's a scientist that the oil industry funded who says that the climate crisis isn't real! The scientists don't all agree on it.
Given that, we've had two major game changers this summer.
1. Richard Mullen, a Koch funded climate skeptic, came out saying that he is now convinced that the planet is warming and humans are to blame. (So do we need to keep waiting for all of the facts to come in? I think it's safe to say the facts are in if the guy funded by the Koch brothers is now on board.)
2. NOAA just came out and said, yup, recent extreme weather IS due to climate change.
We're going through the worst drought since 1956 and it's wrecked an estimated one-sixth of our corn crop. Which is no small deal since we produce 40% of the world's corn and we're the #1 corn exporter. Oh, and soybeans are screwed too. But buckle up, this is just the beginning.
What I am interested in is: has any of this convinced Americans that the climate crisis is real and it's a problem and we should do something about it NOW? Well, we're nothing like our neighbors to the north - only two percent of Canadians don't believe climate change is real. But it doesn't appear that polls have been taken since mid to late July, when a lot of this really came to a head.
A poll taken in late June makes it clear that for Americans to get serious about the climate, Al Gore needs to make another movie. Still,
Nearly three-quarters say the Earth is warming, and just as many say they believe that temperatures will continue to rise if nothing is done, according to the poll...Just a caveat here: the latter poll questions ask "assuming global warming was happening" to the people who don't believe in it. So, assuming everyone believed that the climate crisis was real, they would want the government to do something about it. As for the 73% who think the Earth is warming, well.. when asked why temperatures were going up, 30% attributed it to "things people do," 22% said it was due to "natural causes," and 47% said "both equally." Translation: It would not be correct to say that 73% of Americans believe in man-made climate change.
Seventy-eight percent of those polled say global warming will be a serious problem if left alone, with 55 percent saying the U.S. government should do “a great deal” or “quite a bit” about it. Sixty-one percent say the same of American businesses. Just 18 percent say the government is doing enough to solve the problem; 13 percent say businesses are taking sufficient action.
A Gallup poll from March - before this hot, dry summer - found that 52% of Americans think that the climate crisis is already happening, and 29% think it will happen in the future. Only 15% think it won't happen. Most - 53% - think it's caused by human activities, but 41% think it's due to natural causes. We are not yet a nation convinced in a man-made climate crisis.
But on top of that, we live in a country where a majority of people taking a position doesn't mean that the government will actually do jack squat about it. But, we also happen to have an election coming up. So what will the main election issues be? Paul Ryan's impressive workout routine? Will the climate even get a mention?
I don't know what it will take to get the climate on the table in this election, but I do know that after people started camping out in a square in New York, the term "one percenter" became part of our lexicon. It took something new and drastic, and it worked. OK, so it didn't give us the Buffett rule or the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall or anything like that, but it really shifted the national dialogue in a big way. It got an awful lot of people to move their money into credit unions and community banks. And we need to do something like that with the climate.
350.org is asking folks to sign a petition to get Romney talking about the climate. I'd like to know: Are they also delivering a similar petition to Obama, who also isn't talking about the climate? And what are they doing in addition to delivering their petition? Because it would take something new and drastic on the order of Occupy Wall Street to really get the ball rolling.