In the race between education and catastrophe on the issue of climate change, catastrophe is ahead. Sadly, education is closing the gap all too slowly.
According to Stanford’s Resources for the Future (rff.org), the percentage of Americans who believed in 1997 that Earth had been warming over the previous 100 years, was 77%. 23 years later, in 2020, that number had only increased to 81%. And that is without specifying the cause. The percentages for those who endorse that this warming is related to the burning of fossil fuels and that serious action has to be taken to address this is dishearteningly smaller. But it’s not hopeless.
Personal, governmental and corporate actions are accelerating, with explicit recognition of the importance of reaching net-zero CO2 as soon as can be achieved while avoiding a major economic downturn. Calls for emissions reductions are even coming from the fossil fuel industry (not all of which is greenwashing). The legislation Professor Osborne mentioned is an important tool (which economists strongly endorse). Part of the power of that is the recruitment of every buying decision by every consumer to lean low-or-no-carbon.
Consider what happens when you toss something in the garbage. There is no such thing as throwing something “away.” It just goes someplace else. That is as true for tailpipe emissions as it is for single-use plastic. Awareness can alter behavior – education can avoid catastrophe. I encourage everyone to apply that insight in a global, imaginative manner, and to support activism that seeks to clean up all our acts, and our world.
Gary Stewart, Laguna Beach
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