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Seven Generations and Climate Change Reality

December 13th, 2009 · No Comments

We live in a “time of consequences.” We, as individuals and collectively, are setting the path which will determine the living conditions for millenia to come. This time of consequences is both long term and quite immediate.

This is true for the individual. Do you invest in an energy efficient future life? Will you unplug the computer before going to sleep?

And, it is true for society. What is the transportation infrastructure we want 30 years from now? And, what is the legislation that will emerge in coming weeks and months on, for example, Health Care Reform (HCR) and Global Warming?

We live in a Time of Consequences. And, we can chose to live through this time, buffeted by the consequences, or we can seek to act to drive change in a positive direction.

Global Warming

There remain those (sadly not just on Faux News) who deny that something is happening and that humanity is a driving factor. But, the tide has turned on the Skeptical Sea. People are asked to deny their lying eyes and reject the evidence of change, which are ever more evident in our own lives. While we must continue the momentum to isolate Deniers even more, the real battle turns to “what should be done”.

Global Warming should not be a partisan issue.

It truly shouldn’t be.

The true “partisan” debate should be on what are the right approaches to tackle the challenges and how can we best rise to our responsibilities in this time of consequences.

Sadly, science is seemingly ever more partisan, with a serious divide between the anti-science syndrome promoters of “sound science” and reality-based community striving to create scientifically sound paths forward through the perfect storms of economic stress, peak oil, and climate disruption.

A real concern …

Timidness … compromise … working to get through what will be passed … That is the real risk re Global Warming legislation that the United States, international society, and the future face in immediate future. We are arguing about 17 percent targets, below 2005 levels, by 2020. Wow, that sounds serious until you realize 17% is about 3 percent below 1990 levels and that the scientifically sound target is a minimum of 25% below 1990 (and, we likely need to be doing far more than that to get us to 350). And, by the way, want to talk about how we are already something like 30-40% of the way to that 17% reduction as US emissions have fallen over the past several years. (Due mainly due to the Bush recession+ but also the growing introduction of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency investments, and burning of natural gas rather than coal.)

When it comes to “Global Warming” legislation, who seriously believes that we will be able to drink at the trough multiple times. That if a Global Warming bill is passed by Congress and signed into law, that it will be possible to invest the effort and convince ‘moderates’ to pass another Global Warming act just a few years later?

If you pass a big piece of legislation, we’ll have to wait at least five years before understanding it hasn’t worked, which is five years we don’t have.

This is a one-shot opportunity.

We get it wrong, the consequences will last generations.

We must get it right.

Al Gore was (is) right. Addressing Global Warming should not be a partisan issue. It is a moral issue, a challenge for our generation(s) and future generations to come.

Thus, what is right? Is there a single “guiding” principle for judging Global Warming legislation in the weeks and months to come.

Let me try one:

Does the legislation address Seven Generations of Society or Seven Years of Economy?

What are core issues in that question?

  • Society or Economy? Too often, people falsely argue Economy vs Environment (for my thoughts, see: E2 Solution Path), that taking action re Global Warming would hurt the economy. While false, this makes “economy” (defined in traditional economic terms) as the central decision point. Should it not be “Society”? What is good for society, for societal interests? Economy matters, but is this not a subset of something greater?
  • Time: Seven Generations or Seven Years? Does the legislation sacrifice the future for the near-term? Will the legislation’s approaches provide a path for mitigated (reducing) Global Warming to enhance the opportunities not just for the near-term, but for innumerable generations to come?

What is the moral and ethical basis for the legislation? Pocketbook or Society? Enriching the few or Protecting the Many? Today or Today and Tomorrow?

Idealism vs Practicality

While the above seems overly idealistic, separating from the ugly reality of the sausage making that is the legislative process, the good news is that there are paths to achieve these objectives that have extremely high “payoff” across a wide range of arenas. We can win on economy, on jobs, on energy security, on national security, and on mitigating climate change to provide greater security for ourselves, our children, and seven generations (and more) to come.

And, much of this could be done via a no regrets strategy that might actually foster more (such as the Lindsey Graham work with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, as troubling as the initial released material is) cross-party cooperation toward achieving progress toward solutions.

Today’s ‘economy’ can benefit by taking the right step for tomorrow’s society. Clean Energy Jobs, energy efficiency, moving toward intensive organic farming, agro-char/bio-char, etc … the opportunities seem nearly endless for multiple win solutions that can enhance our economic performance today while turning us (the US) toward a path that better addresses society (rather than genuflects to the Dow) and better serves seven generations.

When I look to Copenhagen … and the US Congress … there seem to be two questions:

  • Does this serve seven years or seven generations?
  • Does it achieve enough change in my generation?

NOTE: I do not think that a clean energy/climate bill or an international agreement must to be perfect, needs to achieve everything. A core principle / testing point, however, should be whether the legislation / deal undercuts the ability to make progress toward a better path tomorrow. Thus, for example, having targets that are too weak but starting the process moving might be acceptable. Having a price on carbon being set, even if low, is likely to be reasonable. Structuring a process for protecting tropical forests that is partially, but not fully, funded might be a reasonable start. Giving away $trillions in permits, for free, that can be stored and gamed for future profits (and future pollution) is a path toward making it nigh impossible to improve the situation tomorrow.

Thus, ‘not perfect’ is certainly acceptable as long as that ‘not perfect’ is not littered with landmines and loopholes that cripple our ability to make it better as people realize, more broadly, the value of action.

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Tags: climate change · Global Warming