Climate Change & the National Debt

Like the national debt, climate change seems to be one of those hot-button issues that both polarizes and inflames people. It’s pitiful really. Nothing gets done. Problems get kicked down the road to the next generation. Win-win opportunities are missed. And the problem gets bigger. Why? The reasons are many and most are probably beyond my comprehension, but I think one big reason is that most of us have become so blinded by our own egos that we cannot possibly comprehend that another might have a valid perspective on the issue. We rigidly and vehemently cling to the notion that ‘I am right and you are wrong’, to our own detriment and the detriment of those innocents around us. I think its time to return to some old fashioned values of listening, respecting, and working with others – and not taking ourselves too seriously. Compromise and collaboration are not the dirty words that extremists on both sides of any issue might have us believe. The issue of climate change, like our national debt, is likely not going away even if I want to stick my head in the sand and pretend that it is. But I’ll probably never make the progress on it that I think is needed if, in my grandiosity, I keep trying to push square pegs through round holes.

So, I am a believer in climate change and that it is human induced. I also believe we need to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and remove excess carbon that is already in the atmosphere. I believe the consequences of doing nothing are not good. And I also see great benefits coming to America if we act, regardless of whether the ‘experts’ are wrong about climate change. Who can argue with the national security benefits that come from reducing our dependence on foreign oil or the health and visibility benefits from reducing coal burning air pollution? Who can argue with the economic benefits to come from the development of clean energy solutions?

Now that you know something about my principles on this issue, you might be surprised that I have a lot in common with opponents of climate action. I don’t want to be told what to do – especially if these ideas are hatched by academics, scientific experts, engineers, government bureaucrats, or unrealistically radical environmentalists. I have worked in the environmental field long enough to experience a certain intellectual elitism from many people in these groups that turns me off, and to see firsthand that the experts are often wrong (after they’ve mucked it up). Earth’s climate is big and complex – its ‘God’ big, and I think we humans get ourselves in trouble trying to play God. On the climate change issue, I feel that we run a real danger of exceeding our human limitations. There is also the issue of development. I like development – I like to see people gainfully employed and doing good, worthwhile work that gives them a sense of accomplishment. Sure we could cut our greenhouse gas emissions if we stopped working, but at what expense to people’s well being and society at large? Certainly the frenetic pace of development over the last two decades was unsustainable and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – but development, if done wisely, is a real good thing in my opinion.

I write all of this because I think people have a lot more in common than the tone in our country at this time would suggest. If we ever hope to make progress on climate change (and the national debt), I think it’s high time we find those commonalities, and without fear, let people see a little more into us than we might normally offer.

-Andy Brown, president & CEO

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