We need stories.
Whenever the world gets a bit too complicated, too big for us to comprehend we, humans, huddle around the campfire and imagine ourselves into the stories that help us find our place again.
We are at a moment in history, a cusp of something so big and monumental that it will change the way we live forever. How often do you get to say that?
How often do you get to be there at the start of an epic story? To have the chance to see and be a part of how the story ends.
Why The Story of Climate Change is like...
Epic scale stories used to understand climate change and how we face the challenge it presents.
In 1961, President Kennedy declared: “We will send a man to the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade.” At the time we had just sent a man into space for 15 minutes. We did not have the rockets, the navigation or the life support systems for a moon trip and most people, including my parents, thought it was complete folly. Seven years later we had developed and demonstrated the technology -- ahead of schedule. We had a clear ambitious goal and a deadline, and we rose to the occasion.
We can do that again with the climate. Shifting the world’s energy from fossil fuels to renewables could be accomplished before 2045, with CO2 levels peaking about 430 parts per million. (Source: ConsensusForAction)
The Second World War
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, 68 percent of Americans acknowledge, "Global warming is at least a somewhat serious problem." Nonetheless, it's unlikely that Washington has the political will to mobilize America to combat global warming.
This grim reality is reminiscent of the beginning of World War II, when the U.S. dithered for 21 months until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced us to act. (Source: Huffington Post)
We have been here before. In the 1930s, some politicians of all parties ignored the threat of war brewing in Europe and failed to take the steps to deter aggression or prepare early enough to defend ourselves. At the time, the two main excuses put forward to justify inaction and appeasement were that there was not enough money to pay for proper defences, and that the British public would not support a government that took tough measures.
Yet by the end of the 1930s, public opinion was far ahead of Chamberlain’s government in demanding tough measures, and the costs of the war itself ultimately far outweighed the costs of the measures that might have prevented it. (Telegraph)
The Tobacco Industry's Denial
In 1953, a scientific study demonstrated that mice painted with cigarette tar developed fatal cancers. In December of that year, tobacco companies created the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) to cast doubt on the link between tobacco and cancer. It worked. Between 1954 and the late 1970s, more than 100 lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies and not one plaintiff received money, the authors say.
In 1979, tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds hired Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, as a consultant. His credibility helped TIRC counter research linking smoking with health problems. As one tobacco industry executive put it in an infamous memo, "Doubt is our product.
...What Singer and Seitz did for tobacco, Nierenberg did for global warming.
(Source: USA Today)
The Abolition of Slavery
There were many supposed arguments against abolition. The most absurd ideas generally were about not rocking the boat: ideas such as "slavery is natural and has always existed," or the enervating idea that it's impractical to change such a big system. On energy and climate, the status quo pitch goes like this: "We've relied on these fuels for so long and will for a long time to come."
But often the seemingly most effective argument against change – which the Confederacy leaders raised in Lincoln – focuses on economics: it will cost too much. When it comes to tackling climate change, we hear extreme versions of this objection all the time. (The Guardian)
Averting the worst consequences of human-induced climate change is a "great moral issue" on a par with slavery, according to the leading Nasa climate scientist Prof Jim Hansen. (The Guardian)
The Civil Rights Movement
I think Climate Progress is right to argue that we may need the equivalent of a new civil rights movement built around climate and energy—at least if we’re going to make rapid reductions in our carbon emissions, which will require changes in behavior and changes in politics.
We haven’t gotten there yet—in fact, in the U.S., greens generally seem to be losing support. There’s a million and one reasons for that, but it’s worth remember that civil rights or gay rights were hardly universally popular when advocates like Martin Luther King Jr. or Harvey Milk began pushing them. (Time)