Before I started this class, I didn’t know anything about global warming. Well, maybe an odd fact here or there, but I didn’t know why it was happening, or if it was happening, what we could do about it… so I didn’t know anything important about climate change.
That changed pretty quickly. We watched An Inconvenient Truth, The Great Global Warming Swindle, and other similar documentaries. The class was left to form their opinions. Most of us decided global warming did indeed exist, and humans were causing it. But so far, I don’t think we’ve been even close to answering the question this class is founded on: Why is there such a gap between the ninety-seven percent of climate scientists who believe global warming is human caused and the fifty-two percent of the public who don’t?
We’re just skating on the thinnest layer of this question, barely even skimming it. We’ve danced around it, talking about presidents and policies and cars and clouds and little things because that’s pretty much the best you can do when tackling the elephant—or dinosaur, maybe—that is climate change.
Answering why there is such a big gap is impossible. With humans, and our emotions, you can’t just pinpoint a reason why we act and react like we do. It could be growing up under someone who pounded in your head global warming is not caused by humans. It could be because we’re scared to face global warming and instead turn our backs. It could be that we aren’t doing anything because, when you boil it down, our most primal instinct is to react to what is happening now and what’s right in our faces.
But why are we wasting time arguing about why some believe global warming is anthropogenic and some don’t? Why are we trying to get people on “our side”? Why can’t the forty-eight percent of the public and the ninety-seven percent of climate scientists do something, something big, something in your face, something right now?
Sweden, according to Wikipedia, emitted only 0.16% of the world emissions of carbon dioxide in 2008. The United States emitted 23.53%, the second highest percentage after China. If the United States is viewed as one of the world’s foremost, most successful countries that others look up to… what happens when they see what we’re doing about global warming?
The U.S. pledged to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020, but that promise was contingent on Congress passing an aggressive cap-and-trade bill. Instead, the bill ended up in the trash, and the U.S. hasn’t made it clear how it will meet its emission goals.
That’s not very impressive, especially compared with the European Union’s goal:
The EU and its 27 member states have pledged to reduce emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
If the U.S. really wants to begin to make a change for the better, the government had better get its act together. The States didn’t sign the Kyoto Protocol, which is an effort to get countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses. What a great model to look up to.
Let’s take a look at Sweden for a second. Since the 1980s, Sweden has taken steps to help combat climate change. Currently, they have a carbon dioxide tax if the CO2 is emitted through fossil fuels. Since 1991, they’ve introduced new programs and policies about climate change, including the Green Certificate Scheme, which encourages solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy production and use. This is just a taste of what Sweden has done.
The idea of a CO2 tax puts off a lot of people, but think: our country’s in a huge debt. These taxes, while helping erase that debt, would also encourage people to go green. And if the public knew why they were paying those taxes, and if global warming was brought to the front of their minds, they might be a bit happier to be more efficient. We might not even need a tax.
So let’s get the information out there, because someone has to do it. Shout it from the rooftops. Give everyone information. Let people be people, and do what we do best: create. Create a solution.