Global Warming and Self-Respect
The fossil fuel industry and its obedient servant, the Republican Party, have adopted the same delaying strategy used years ago by the tobacco industry when cigarettes were found to cause cancer. First there was a flat denial of global warming. Then, when that was no longer tenable, the argument became “Yes, there is global warming, but it’s nothing serious”. A variant was “Global warming is natural; it has happened before” (in geological time!). When that no longer worked, the fossil fuel flacks moved to their present position, which is “Yes, global warming is serious, and yes, it is human caused, but we can’t do anything about it. The fix is too expensive. The Chinese and Indians won’t cooperate. Et cetera.”
This reminds me of an anecdote of a friend who was a boy during World War II. He lived close to large aircraft factory. Before the war, there was a fence along the highway, a gate with a guardhouse, and a driveway leading across a field to the plant. At shift changes, the workers would queue up to pass through the gate. Not long after Pearl Harbor, the fence had been pushed to the ground, and at shift changes the workers drove across the field in waves, six and seven people in each car, some with men standing on the running boards. My friend’s comment was: “Those people weren’t going to let anything get in their way.”
We were lucky to have such parents and grandparents. When they were presented with a challenge, they set their jaws, and put their shoulders to the wheel. How do we compare? What legacy are we going to leave for our children and grandchildren?
The Republican position on climate change isn’t just defeatist; it is nihilistic. The only thing they are looking forward to is dying before the problem becomes acute.
This is, to put it mildly, total bullshit. The American people at the beginning of World War II were at great disadvantage. The army was tiny. Nazi subs were sinking ships at a blistering pace. Critical technologies like radar were in their infancy. Only a handful of people had even imagined an atomic bomb. But in less than four years, a tremendous tonnage of merchant and naval vessels had been launched, superior radar sets were ubiquitous, two separate models of atomic bombs had been deployed, and the war was over.
We are in a much better situation today. True, we face an enormous challenge. But our tools, which are being constantly improved and reduced in price, are already at hand. All we have to do is pick them up, and get busy.
To most normal people, getting busy will come as a psychological relief. All this negativity is mentally exhausting. There is little that buoys one’s spirit more than seeing everyone getting behind a worthy common cause.
Moreover, for New Mexico there is a special reason for good cheer. The wind resources on our eastern plains are the closest available to Arizona and southern California. Those regions will want our wind power to balance their solar power. The market for New Mexico wind power, in other words, will far exceed what New Mexico itself will consume. The excess will require tremendous construction activity over decades, including building transmission lines to carry all that energy to the west. Even after the initial construction, operations and maintenance will employ tens of thousands. This is the true source of New Mexico’s future economic prosperity.
As for China and India, anyone who has served in the military is familiar with the phrase “leading by example”. If you want people to do something, you need to be willing to get out in front. For at least a century we have been the largest carbon dioxide polluter on this globe. It is only right that we should take the lead in fixing the problem. China and India have enormous pollution problems, and they know all too well that they need to change. We shouldn’t give them any excuse not to push ahead vigorously.