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Climate Change Activists Need to Get Real

climate-change-activistsPresident Obama’s climate change legislation may have no chance of passing through Congress, and it could be the fault of environmental activists.  A recent research paper by Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol places the responsibility for the climate legislation’s failure to pass.  Skocpol argues that environmental groups in Washington ignored the extremely polarized Republican opposition to the legislation.

The primary misstep of the environmental lobby, the report argues, is the consistent argument of climate change as the motivator for environmental regulations.  Skocpol explains…

political consultants and public relations wordsmiths urged environmentalists to redouble euphemistic locutions already deployed during the cap and trade battle – to talk about “green jobs,” “threats to public health,” and the need to “reduce dependence on foreign oil to bolster national defense,” anything but the threat of global warming and catastrophic climate upheavals.”

Reducing carbon emissions is certainly an admirable goal for environmentalists and the Obama Administration alike, but what Skocpol’s paper teaches us is that it cannot be done at the expense of citizens and businesses.  Even President Obama relaxed his climate change aspirations at times, such as when he signed the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011 that exempted US airlines from a European law restricting carbon emissions.  Obama has not turned out to be the climate change warrior that so many environmentalists had hoped for, but perhaps the problem is that the environmental lobby is overly optimistic.

In an interview with the UK’s Guardian, Skocpol calls on environmentalists to be “realistic” about the progress toward mitigating climate change.  The fact is, many regulations that the environmental lobby would like to see implemented will place a financial burden on average Americans in the form of higher fuel prices or heating bills due to alternative energy costs.

Conservatives and Democrats alike agree that the shift to renewable energy must happen eventually.  After all, our fossil fuel supply cannot last indefinitely.  But, the change to a clean energy economy cannot happen until it is beneficial across the board for every American.  The concern of climate change alone will not drive a diversified Congress to pass radical legislation, and the environmentalists in Washington need to accept, and learn from this failure.

Jessica Kennedy
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Jessica can be found on Twitter and Google+.

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12 Comments

  1. The point of view expressed above is not “getting real”. It comes from an inability to put things into perspective. It is like my friend’s child last evening, who didn’t want to let his parents put peroxide on his scrape because it would hurt a little bit for a very short time. This is because he has no idea how much suffering he would go through, and for how long, if it got infected. His parents decided to do what could save him from tremendous suffering later, despite the fact that it caused him a little bit of discomfort now.

    If politicians in power are too immature and short-sighted or too ignorant to understand the situation we are in, the answer is not to stoop to their level. The answer is to teach them and to persuade them to do what is necessary to prevent the destruction of everything we and they value in the future. And if that fails, the answer is to replace them with people who have the capacity to understand and to deal with this problem.

    No type of change will ever be “beneficial, across the board for every American,” from every individual point of view or from the default short-term point of view that politicians have. This is an impossible requirement designed to doom the change to failure.

    At this point, many Americans are already suffering great harm from climate changes, while others are raking in tremendous fossil fuel related profits. At some point, every American will be hurt tremendously by the effects of global warming and the climate changes it will cause. So if you simply consider the future instead of only the present, a clean energy economy would already benefit every American. There inevitably will be some pain involved, as is the case for any change on such a large scale. But if we aren’t willing to sacrifice a little in order to prevent a horrible future, then we will suffer a million times more later on.

  2. Jessica Kennedy
     – 

    Thank you for your reply, Brian.

    I think you’re right – it is about a short term vs long term way of thinking. And, I think policy makers are really only concerned about short term outcomes. After all, that’s what wins elections – what they accomplish in a few years (jobs, economy, etc) vs what they accomplish that will benefit future generations. People don’t care enough about that.

    When people do realize that a clean energy economy will already benefit Americans by reducing the effects we’re already feeling then I think change will commence. I just fear that will take so long no changes will be implemented until it is too late to make an impact.

    A more moderate approach could help us make some changes, even if not the sweeping overhaul of our energy system that is eventually needed. At least some improvements are better than none at all.
    At least I hope so.

    Thanks again!

    Jessica

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