By Jeff Dorian, Citizens’ Climate Lobby
It is a fallacy to say that a person’s reduction of their fossil-fuel consumption or emissions will help reduce global warming. With little or no evidence, it proposes that such actions will lead to a chain reaction resulting in a desirable end.
This slippery slope involves an acceptance of a succession of events without evidence that this course of events will happen.
In Kimberly Miller’s opinion piece entitled “Nine things you, as a Florida resident, can do to reduce damage of climate change,” part of The Invading Sea series, she wrote, “A lot of tiny little contributions may equal a bigger contribution.” (Miller is a reporter for the Palm Beach Post. Her op-ed ran in the Orlando Sentinel on Sept. 16.)
Let’s take one suggestion: turning up the A/C thermostat. Of course, economizing is a good thing. Will it help global warming? Even if everyone does it, and I mean everyone, and we all buy Energy Star efficient appliances and carpool and the rest of the actions she lists, we might, at best, put a negligible dent in worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions.
Is there evidence that might happen? Those who follow this mantra believing it’s the path to a livable future are being misguided. These are “feel-good” behaviors that lead one to believe their efforts are enough. A fallacy.
The New York Times on Aug. 31 printed a piece titled, “Worrying About Your Carbon Footprint is Exactly What Big Oil Wants You To Do.” Fossil-fuel companies pay lip service to reducing their own carbon footprints, but lobby against government policies to reduce the sale of their products on a large scale. They want the responsibility for global warming to be on the consumer, not them.
Miller’s well-intended article is innocently in accord, encouraging individual responsibility for global warming, defining a solution as individual choices based on principles of “reduce, reuse and recycle.”
The danger with this is in reducing the perceived scale of the needed solutions, focusing instead on individuals’ actions. Imagine you bring a bucket of sand every day to the beach. Would it mitigate beach erosion? What if everyone did it? What if it was required for admission? What if two buckets were required? Still not enough?
Of course not. It requires large-scale replenishment. The even larger solution for increasingly widespread beach erosion is likely prevention of sea-level rise, a global threat. The sand metaphor shows the need to leap from individual action to public policy.
Legislation now in Congress, as well as most of the world’s nations, are scaling up solutions, but it’s still far from enough. Our leaders need to hear support for solutions from voters.
We all likely want to make a difference on the climate crisis. You may not have become involved in politics because of the common cynicism, especially toward federal politics. Consider finding others with the same goals through organizations.
You can make a profound difference.
“Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.” — Alex Steffen, an expert on sustainability.
There are many opportunities for any of us to amplify our voice and empower our climate crisis actions. There are climate groups for both parties, young and old, activists and diplomats. Consider joining a Republican or Democratic climate change advocacy group.
Jeff Dorian is a community volunteer for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He lives in Orlando.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.