By E.S. Browning
If you learned you had cancer and needed chemotherapy soon, what would you do?
You would probably grit your teeth and take the treatment.
That’s what I did when I got cancer. I had trouble believing I was really that sick because I just felt a little tired. The doctors assured me that if I delayed treatment until I felt really bad, it would be too late. The chemo was awful — and I’m very grateful for it because it saved my life.
Now the world’s leading climate scientists are telling us we will destroy our climate unless we quickly change the way we produce our energy. And what are we doing?
We are looking the other way and hoping the vicious hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and water shortages won’t get worse. But if we don’t do a lot more than we are doing now, they will get far worse, just like a deadly disease. If we responded this way to cancer, people would think we were crazy.
Fortunately, the things we need to do to protect ourselves are a lot less painful than chemo. Consider:
- Coal. The single most important thing we can do worldwide to stop destroying our climate is to stop burning coal. And we know exactly how to do it: provide subsidies to electricity producers to make shifting rapidly away from coal worth their while. We would provide aid to people working in coal businesses to help them find new work. There are widely supported, specific proposals for this but one or two senators with industry ties are preventing it from being done.
- Electric cars. The second biggest threat to the climate is gasoline. Our major auto makers are already committed to making electric vehicles. Why are we dragging our feet? We know how to swiftly switch to electric vehicles. We need better batteries and we need a nationwide network of rapid-charging stations. Why don’t we have a well-funded emergency program to develop both, quickly? Instead we are limping along with smaller efforts. This is not complicated. It’s a lot better than floods and wildfires.
- Alternative Energy. The third big thing standing in the way of solving our climate problems is finding new ways to generate power. Solar, wind and hydro power need to be made cheaper, more widespread and more easily accessible. We aren’t spending enough or working fast enough to do that. But that is far from enough. Current plans call for shifting to natural gas. It is better than coal or oil, but it also harms the environment and needs to be replaced as quickly as possible. Nuclear power needs to be made so safe that people will welcome it again. We need other new ideas. Why aren’t we moving faster?
- New Technologies. We need to move faster to develop new technologies that can help solve our climate problem. Several ideas already exist for removing excessive carbon dioxide and other climate-damaging gases from the atmosphere. There are also ideas for cars powered by hydrogen and other energy sources that may be even more climate-friendly than electric vehicles. Why aren’t we spending more on the needed research?
These are not impossible dreams. We know what to do to pursue these goals. All they require is national resolve and money, which we so far are finding excuses not to provide.
Climate change is like a deadly disease. It creeps up on you quietly, bit by bit. If you act early, you can prevent it from killing you. If you wait until you are in terrible pain, it is too late.
We have quickly found a national cause in aiding the people of Ukraine, a country most of us couldn’t find on a map. I strongly support this effort. We should do more.
But think about it. Which is a greater threat to us? War in Ukraine or our collapsing climate?
We should keep supporting Ukraine. But we also should start taking care of ourselves, and the most urgent crisis to address is one we keep trying to forget: the preservation of our climate.
We wouldn’t refuse our children and grandchildren chemotherapy. We mustn’t refuse them the protection they need against the single most deadly threat our world has ever faced. Why aren’t we mobilizing to protect ourselves?
E.S. Browning is a retired newspaper reporter who wrote this piece for The News-Press of Fort Myers, which is part of the Invading Sea collaborative of Florida editorial boards focused on the threats posed by the warming climate.