Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hot Politics: Pro-Active is still Reactive

Sgt. Pepper said: "We should approach climate change the same way we do with illnesses. When you get really sick, you go to the doctor to get pills (which usually have an economic cost) to reverse chemical processes that are deteriorating the systems within your body. You don't sit at home and wait to see if the illness will be fatal before you seek treatment. Personal health isn't a political issue, and neither should be environmental health."

The analogies between environmental health and personal health keep coming up. Specifically, I am referring to the analogy between Tobacco and Oil industries. Hot Politics said that the Oil industry reaction: To question and challenge the science behind the allegations, is the same route taken by Tobacco industries. Likely, this is a route to be taken for all time. So - we should expect it. It's rational human behavior.

We blame the Government for not taking charge - for not seeing through the scams. But we ourselves are to blame. Our government is elected representatives, they are not our fathers or our mothers. They aren't guiding us through life's lessons. They can't tell the future and don't tell us what to do, think, or accept. In the case of Tobacco, we can habitually smoke or not. In the case of the environment, we can change our habits to lower environmental impact (drive almost never, walk everywhere, set climate control to reasonable levels and use phosphate free soaps) or not. And most of us haven't - and still don't. Though we like to jab at Al Gore.

The government cannot be expected to invest in something we don't invest in. At the end of the day, we are the boss.

If there is anything to be learned from An Inconvenient Truth and Hot Politics - it's the responsibility of the U.S. Government, Academia and the American people to educate themselves and those around them. Not to listen to coal and tobacco commercials or scientists funded by the same - but to get a broader and more long term perspective.

To go back to Sgt. Pepper's argument - when you are sick.. you probably ask a lot of people for advice. Additionally, you try most of the advice you get.

Every political power has a lot of issues to consider, and it's hard to follow one or the other without public support. Ignorance is a hard thing to argue with.

I remember in High School watching the 2000 elections and my friend saying "I don't care about Climate Change." It used to be hard to argue that Climate Change is a more important issue than christian values. Now, it's publicly accepted. We shouldn't look back and blame the Government. Each of us has more important personal changes to make in our lives.


The Dupont rep. said something along the lines "When you lay down the law, our universities our companies will lead the world in finding solutions..."

I think we should all remember that each of us is personally responsible and invested in that law. By our daily actions and our voiced opinions.

1 comment:

jason h said...

I wholeheartedly agree that public buy-in is crucial. If the public is ignorant or apathetic, representative government cannot be effective. However, this is very difficult when the federal government and the media are censoring the scientists. Essentially, the government shapes public opinion by casting doubts on the science then pursues policy that reflects those doubts and calls the whole mess legit.

The fact that the energy business is requesting federal regulation is very powerful. These companies want a level playing field. The fact that it has been acceptable to release pollutants into the atmosphere for decades is beyond me, but the corporations are stepping in and that is encouraging. It makes sense, companies do not want to invest in energy endeavors that the public will reject (i.e. coal plants in Texas). These companies also do not want to invest in emission reduction technology (i.e. carbon capture) that will drive up costs and diminish profits.

I have a feeling that the market could help solve some of the emissions issues. The environment is a public good. We should hold those who damage the environment through carbon dioxide emissions accountable. Hit them in the pocket book and clean energy will become cheaper (well in theory).