This past weekend saw a very large demonstration in New York in favor of addressing climate change. Support for helping the environment is widespread and spans a lot of political and cultural chasms. You don’t need to be a climatologist to know which way the wind blows.
Even if the case for climate change is oversold, and I’m not convinced it is, the kinds of policies that are most often advocated are policies that we already largely agree are good on their own merits. It is good to lower carbon emissions because pollutants are bad and oxygen is what humans and other animals breathe. Moving towards greater adoption of renewable energy sources is a good idea from a cost savings and energy conservation standpoint already.
Real policy solutions are always going to involve embracing policies you don’t like. No political ideology have a monopoly on the facts, and one of the things that make science so great is that it will never fall completely in line with the preconceived notions of any activist party line.
So it is with climate change. If we are going to improve the environment, it’s going to mean that friends on the left and the right are going to have to embrace or at least tolerate policies that would normally be anathema to them.
Here are five points that people should look at that will be sure to irritate the normal politics of right and left, but will be important to making environmental change.
Invest in public transportation. New York is able to be the size that it is population wise because we have a real public transportation system. It is often a nightmare of ineptitude and maddening lateness and overcrowding, but it exists and millions of people are able to use it each day. Take a look at cities that have had no planning and lack a suitable public transit system for their populations. Atlanta is a morass of strip malls and traffic jams. Los Angeles is a smoggy land of idle chrome and gas fumes. New York is more competitive than these cities because it can attract people and move them around even if they don’t have enough money for a car. That cuts pollutants and allows for more economic growth.
Limit immigration. Immigration, legal or otherwise, increases carbon emissions because it increases the population of the largest carbon emitting countries. Some environmentalists understand this but in the U.S. only the most marginalized political groups are calling for any meaningful immigration reform.
Agree to expand the use of natural gas and nuclear power. Wind and solar energy are great, but we don’t have the time or the money to increase its use enough to meet our current energy needs. Even in European countries where renewable energy is at its greatest use, it still accounts for a relatively small percentage of power use. Nuclear energy allows for maximum power generated with a small amount of fuel and carbon emissions. Also, natural gas deposits in the U.S. can now be tapped with hydro-fracking. Natural gas is cleaner and it holds the possibility of making the U.S. an energy exporter.
Start holding corporate polluters accountable. If I threw a dirty diaper over the fence and onto the White House lawn, I’m pretty sure I’d be held accountable and not only charged criminally but made to foot the bill for cleaning up my mess. Yet BP took a giant oily dump in the Gulf of Mexico and it is still in business. If the U.S. Coast Guard says you still have a mess to clean up, finish the job or go broke trying. There’s nothing socialistic about asking someone to clean up their own mess. If personal responsibility is good for me, it’s good for BP and like corporate polluters.
Keep money local. Embrace capitalism and consumerism in the best way possible and support local farmers. Buy American when you can, and that includes in the vegetable isle. I’d rather keep as many dollars as I can in the U.S.A. as long as they are still worth something. Also, it takes less energy and carbon emissions the shorter distance the food has to travel to you. It may sound like some real hippie shit, but in this case the hippies are right.