Broadly speaking, climate change is the natural observable shift in temperature that affects the climate of Earth. For example, at one point in time, a region may have been colder and rainy, but now it is hot and arid; likewise, a lowland area that flooded once in a decade may now flood several times a year.
These changes can happen for a few reasons. Looking back over thousands and millions of years through the study of paleoclimatology data, we see that these shifts in weather and temperate are normal.
The intensity of the sun, ash from a volcano darkening the sky, and the natural emission and buildup of greenhouse gases are all contributing factors that are beyond our control.
However, 97% of peer-reviewed and actively publishing climate scientists agree that human production of greenhouse gases is responsible for the “temperature anomaly” over the past century. Looking ahead to the year 2100, scientists predict a 3 to 5 degrees Celsius rise in the temperature of Earth, which could dramatically reshape our coastlines, biodiversity, and threaten large swaths of populations on every continent, including North America.
This is where the question of pollution and conservation comes from. What, if anything, should be done?
While climate scientists hold near universal consensus that climate change is real and is happening, not everyone agrees. At least, not in how we should go about addressing concerns about rising temperatures. Climate change is often portrayed as a political issue, for obvious reasons. Our representatives set policy, and the Democrates and Republicans aren’t always in agreement. However, it probably isn’t as divided in the way that you think.
How Climate Change is Politicized
You will find Republicans who are quick to agree that we should prevent a rise in global temperatures. But just not at the expense of individual freedom and prosperity.
That is to say, historically, climate regulation has often disproportionately targeted groups of people working in coal or other blue-collar jobs. In contrast, other industries and people that play a role in greenhouse gas emissions, like companies that operate large server farms or factories that are moved overseas to areas with limited pollution regulations, aren’t targeted.
Republicans have been condemned for their apparent rejection of climate science. Sometimes this stubborn rhetoric is born out of ideological concerns that Democrats are guilty of sensationalizing climate change to rile up their base, instill fear, and force through poorly thought-out climate regulation that will increase costs of essential goods and put people out of work.
For some Republicans, they want to let the free-market find a solution. Incentivize businesses to address the climate issue, create new jobs, and continue making life better for people without making government bigger.
Except, among Democrats, there can be a distrust that the private sector won’t do anything more than half-measures while seeking to reap enormous profits at the expense of everyone else. So democrats want sweeping regulatory changes and spending of tax money to force a shift to renewable energy, among other policy changes.
While politicians aren’t too keen on giving in to the other side, we shouldn’t forget about the consumers. Just like with voters voting at the ballet, consumers vote with their dollars.
Do Consumers Care?
What we’re seeing is that consumers aren’t too keen on spending more money on a product that claims to be environmentally friendly without getting more for that investment. Worse yet, those “planet-saving products,” such as Tesla cars, are beyond the budget of most families.
So up until this point, we have made do with minor steps taken across many industries to slowly force change, such as making appliances consume less energy or increasing fuel economy standards. This makes everyone move forward a little, but just not at the pace that some would like.
Should More be Done?
The fact that we have acknowledged climate change exists, and efforts have been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through existing regulations, shows that we can take positive steps. But we should not be waiting around for policy.
If you have concerns about your immune system, you wouldn’t sit around waiting for your body to improve on its own. You would reach for a supplement from a brand like Sunwarrior, Terry Naturally, or Apricot Power to help support your body’s needs each day. Similarly, waiting around for the Earth to be fixed doesn’t appear to be taking place – The Earth needs a powerful supplement.
We agree that climate change is a human concern, but that’s not the real question. The real question is, what are we willing to sacrifice to make the necessary change? This is where things get muddled, and the issue goes beyond plastic bags and paper straws, Energy Star labels, and simply talking about what we would like to change.
Americans, per capita, produce more greenhouse gases than any other country. China produces the most overall, but considering many countries have outsourced manufacturing to the Pacific region, it makes sense that China’s contribution to greenhouse gases would rise dramatically.
To reverse this, we have to use less energy. That means making practical changes each day, such as driving less, setting the thermostat hotter in summer and colder in winter, eating fewer calories to reduce carbon dioxide from the agriculture sector, and buying more local goods.
All of us could agree that action should be taken to stop a rise in the global temperature, but how quickly would you disagree if it meant your thermostat would be rationed or that your car now costs more because it must be a hybrid or fully electric?
We are at a crossroads. Consumers don’t want to give up access to inexpensive goods and services that are all thanks to greenhouse gas emitting energy sources, and politicians don’t want to be in the crosshairs of their constituents by supporting the wrong thing. The way we think about pollution and conservation, unfortunately, is conflicted.
All of use should reflect each day momentarily and decide what we want the world to look like heading into the year 2100. Whether change happens by advocating for policy, or we set the thermostat differently, we are in uncharted waters and we have everything to lose and nobody else to blame for our individual and collective decision making.