Cara Pike at Climate Access has a good run-down of the reasons, outside of the broken legislative process which I think is a relatively small problem in dealing with climate change, why the United States is such a laggard nation in fighting global warming. In brief:
1. Unprecedented risk–we don’t see it every day but it’s scary and we don’t know hot to deal with it and there aren’t a lot of models of this kind of problem to work from.
2. Public is overwhelmed–many voices, they don’t all work together, public is easily confused and don’t know who to listen to.
3. Fatalism–what are you going to do, at least we can play golf in January
4. Opposition–ExxonMobil sucks
5. Scientific Certainty–Scientists never say anything is certain and that opens the door to naysayers
6. Values–these conversations haven’t challenged people’s values of patriotism and duty to save the nation and planet. A moral imperative is needed.
7. The long term–there’s not a long term strategy to deal with this problem over the decades.
I place different emphasis on these things. The opposition is huge. The unwillingness of scientists to just say that global warming is happening and forget about the .000001% chance that maybe it isn’t is a major problem. If scientists aren’t willing to engage the public and media in terms they understand, by which I mean strong statements of certainty, the opposition has already won. The values issues is interesting because my first thought is that it’s a disastrous strategy to focus on it except that in the past environmental reform has been driven by such concerns. Sadly, we think our patriotic duty is to kill brown people and buy another SUV.
Again, I think it’s significant that the opposition is only one of the seven identified problems and that this opposition isn’t split between politicians and corporations. That is a problem, but it’s hardly the only one and we focus on it exclusively at our peril.
I look forward to the upcoming discussions on all 7 of these issues at Climate Access.