John Colson: Some hopeful news … for a change |

John Colson: Some hopeful news … for a change

John Colson
Hit & Run

Do I detect a turning of the tide concerning public perceptions of climate change, in both a metaphorical sense and a physical one?

If this truly is underway today, it is about damned time.

Scientists and others have been warning for nearly half a century about the impending and disastrous results of dumping unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

According to a recent piece in the New York Times by former Vice President Al Gore, current estimates are that we are pumping out about 140 million tons a day of these life-killing emissions worldwide. That’s a tough number to digest, at least for me. I can’t quite grasp what 140 million tons of gasses even looks like, much less compute how much we have cumulatively generated around the globe over the past century or so since the Industrial Revolution.

But according to one online estimate, our annual carbon dioxide emissions alone — and CO2 is the biggest culprit on the list of greenhouse gasses — grew from about 2 billion tons a year in 1900 to roughly 36 billion tons in 2015.

That is “billions,” not “millions” of this stuff being generated every year.

It’s a hell of a lot of gas that shouldn’t be wafting through our skies — that much, I believe, is now obvious to all but the most determined deniers.

And the legions of such deniers appear to be losing out in the war for public acceptance and support, which is the good news in this scenario.

According, again, to Gore (it’s a pretty interesting piece, in the Sunday Review section of the Sept. 22 edition of the NYT) the scales of public opinion are tipping pretty drastically and speedily toward acceptance that climate change is mostly being caused by human activities, and that it is the single biggest existential threat facing our world.

Gore, as is his style, trots out a lot of statistics, numbers and evidence of trends in support of his arguments, including reports that solar, wind and other nontraditional energy sources today provide cheaper energy in about two-thirds of the world than do any of the fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas.

Much of this is due to a shift among energy utilities, many of whom have moved away from fossil fuels and toward renewables, and more of whom are looking at making similar moves.

Right now, Gore reports, the fastest growing job in the U.S. is working as a solar installer, and he cites U.S. Bureau of Labor numbers as proof.

The second-fastest growth in jobs? Being a wind-turbine service technician, a statistic one can easily believe after driving through just about any state in the Midwest through virtual forests of the ungainly looking turbines looming over corn and wheat fields everywhere.

Even more hopeful (and Gore is all about hope in this piece) is the shift in attitudes among voters.

He noted that the world’s young people have taken up this challenge in a big way, and last weekend’s World Climate Strike protests, which pulled hundreds of thousands of kids out of schools and into the streets, is a pretty convincing metric to go buy.

Here in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the strike Friday drew hundreds of students in towns across the region, speaking out and demanding that politicians forget their petty squabbles and sinfully selfish ways to focus on climate change.

Otherwise, the students made quite clear, things will not go well for climate deniers or ignorers in the 2020 national election cycle.

Any number of polls have shown that the tide of public opinion is surging away from climate denials and toward the views held by that troublesome Swede, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose brave solo campaign to raise climate awareness in her home country has blossomed into a worldwide movement.

Those Swedes, by the way, have been on top of this particular game for decades.

Back in 1972, Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme, while hosting the first-ever environmental summit held by the U.N., urgently called for the leaders of the world to establish a unified approach to safeguard the global environment, including the creation of binding principles that could lead to isolating and punishing those whose environmentally destructive actions are now being called “ecocide.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is today’s poster boy for environmental devastation with global consequences, for the ongoing and intensifying destruction of the Amazon rainforest under his watch.

Anyway, back to the statistics. A recent CNN poll indicated that the climate crisis is the No. 1 concern among Democrats who are registered to vote. Other polls have found that 79% of U.S. adults and 86% of U.S. teenagers now believe the climate crisis is human-caused, and even more importantly, so do 60% of Republican voters.

All of this might seem to presage a defeat for our Climate Denier in Chief, Donald J. Trump, and for his more outspoken and rabid supporting cast in the Republican party, in the 2020 elections.

Perhaps it is as Gore pictured it at the end of his NYT piece, in which he expressed the hope that the American people are about to “issue a command on the climate to those who purport to represent them: ‘Lead, follow or get out of the way.’”

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