“Fighting climate change” is demonstrably futile, as each of us proves every day. “Fighting pollution” is something we can all rally around
One of the more entertaining facets of our human existence is how we can, through the randomness of exposure to millions of people and circumstances, wind up viewing the tail end of a fight without seeing the full tortuous path of its development.
A friend and I were once discussing Christmas dinners, and he ruefully admitted that his family didn’t really do that anymore after one episode where “my aunt hurled a turkey carcass at my grandmother and told her to get the f__k out of my kitchen.”
It’s not hard to visualize that temporary insanity and, frankly, find comedy at its finest. On the other hand, there are no doubt years of frustration and anger and combat that went into that situation, and each of those steps was probably not irrational in its own right. But the climactic scene was.
Globally, we are now at the stage where we are hurling turkey carcasses at each other in the climate change wars. We are at the stage of irrationality where emotion has trumped reason, and no progress is being made.
If seen from a high enough altitude, the global warming fight has descended into utter madness. People are gluing themselves to buildings and streets to draw attention to an issue that the whole world is becoming deafened to through over exposure. Children lecture political institutions on how they should behave, and the institutions listen raptly. Industries the world cannot live without (or won’t live without) fight the most absurd battles in order to keep feeding the very citizens that are trying to kill it.
The paradox here is that the tension has been driven to a fever pitch by groups that fear that greenhouse gas emissions are going to destroy the planet. They are scared, and scared people act in peculiar and unhelpful ways.
What makes this so bizarre though is that the ever-more frantic actions of the warriors are having not the slightest impact on global emissions. Every year the demand for oil, natural gas, and coal goes up. A thousand people by electric vehicles, and fifty thousand more buy pickup trucks or SUVs. Air travel, the most conspicuous form of GHG emissions (no one anywhere ever has to fly, but we choose to do so), continues to rise.
We are tearing the world apart like a turkey carcass, throwing various bones at each other, and it is doing no good at all, simply and only because of the framing.
The climate change war has become a political war, and politics are never resolved. Never ever ever. As soon as someone tells you climate change is a social problem, or a capitalist problem, or a racist problem, or whatever, that means the discussion is about to go off the rails, and before you know it a turkey leg will be coming at your head like a fastball.
The answer to the stalemate however is incredibly simple. What if we all reframed the debate as a fight against pollution? You will find billions of people who will argue the merits of fossil fuels (because their lives depend on them), but how likely is it that you will ever find a single person that argues in favour of pollution?
Fighting against pollution means fighting against plastic waste, not unrealistically trying to abolish plastic. Fighting against pollution means putting in better insulated windows, not destroying the building’s natural gas heat source. Fighting against pollution means driving more energy efficient vehicles, not destroying vast industries that provide livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people, and that simply can’t be stopped quickly for economic and political reasons.
The end result could be what both sides want – 7 billion people living in a world with a much smaller footprint. The way we’re headed now will have no benefit, but will see a lot more carcass-throwing. Is that what we want?