The scientific consensus today is that climate change will have a devastating impact within the lifetimes of most current Kansas State students. In fact, in 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that unless warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will witness an ecological and human disaster of a magnitude unseen in human history.
With this talk of impending doom approaching, discussions of global warming have become increasingly common in our society. These discussions usually follow one of two trajectories, both of which provide little in the way of effective, concrete solutions to the challenges ahead.
The first of these trajectories deals with personal changes leading to a more “low-impact” life. This involves suggestions like using reusable straws, recycling more, driving less and generally producing less personal waste. Obviously, these are beneficial adjustments which do have an effect on reducing waste. However, this discourse obscures the culpability of the businesses and industries which are the primary contributors to climate change.
The second common trajectory is much more common among individuals who have a personal stake in industries which benefit from practices contributing to climate change. It usually manifests as a form of “whataboutism” between various industries and individuals working in those industries.
The motivations for these reactions are clear. Blaming an industry for climate change would do that industry no favors in the public eye. Furthermore, a loss of business for a particular industry could mean the loss of jobs for individuals working within it.
However, this discourse once again serves to obscure the issues at hand and protect those who are the cause of those issues. Responding to an attack on your industry with an attack on another without admission of the part your industry plays produces no solutions and is merely an attempt to deflect blame.
These discourses produce no solutions to our current crisis. They are both incomplete understandings of the causes of climate change and can both be twisted in order to shield those who are the true perpetrators of this injustice. A holistic understanding of the causes of climate change is necessary. This is why the Green New Deal offers the best paradigm for understanding the degree of change that is necessary in order to save our planet, as well as the best solution that has been.
This proposal is no small undertaking and should be taken lightly by neither its proponents nor its detractors. As it has been laid out in popular discussions and in the resolutions submitted to Congress by Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, it would require a drastic reorganization of our society in pursuit of a net-zero emission society.
No one believes this will be an easy change, but the stakes could not be higher. The same IPCC report referenced earlier also states that this threshold is unfeasible unless emissions are decreased by 40 to 50 percent by 2030, a mere eleven years away.
I know that on the surface this plan provides no comfort to those who cling to the second discourse I have discussed. It is true that because of these changes, many of the industries which provide livelihoods for millions will have to be restructured, but the recognition of that fact is a major reason that the Green New Deal is an ideal choice.
Taking inspiration from the work and training programs of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, it would provide government support for the creation of jobs in transitioning our society and economy into one which is able to drastically slow, if not halt, the slow upward climb of global temperature. Merging environmental and economic policy, combined with a focus on addressing the disproportionate injury from climate change and past economic policy experienced by traditionally marginalized communities, would help guarantee that all people are able to reap the benefits of a more free, prosperous and sustainable society
Climate change is not a new phenomenon. It is a process began gradually over decades and centuries, and it will continue at a gradual pace. 2030 may not be doomsday, but it very well may be the point when we lose all hope of mitigating the devastation. With this urgency, we cannot afford to bicker among over who is to blame or evangelize about what “easy” or “simple” changes you can perform to make yourself less personally harmful. Now is the time for drastic action.
Anything less than a societal transformation towards sustainability, equity and innovation is nothing short of willfully cruel to future generations. I know many find the idea of such a drastic alteration of society unconscionable and unacceptable, but I would argue that what is truly unacceptable is the fact that our children and our children’s children will only ever know the world as we leave it. Our current path results in a world ravaged beyond repair by our society’s callous negligence and insatiable greed.
Sam Morgan is a senior in American ethnic studies and political science. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.