Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter 4
The Impossible Revolution
So far I have been arguing that climate change is real and that its irre-
versible form is virtually upon us. The moral imperative to act is over-
whelming. Yet we do not. Why are we in the United States incapable of
acting even under this immense imperative? If we are to understand this
crossroads in time, we must grapple with whatever in our collective hab-
its makes it so difficult for us to face this moment with genuine foresight
and sanity. At first glance, it is not all that clear why we are so stuck, why
we seem incapable of addressing a threat that has such enormous con-
sequences for us all. What features of this crisis have led us to such an
impasse? What atributes of our political culture might explain our hesi-
tation? And what does our inability suggest about our overall dilemma
and its consequences?
The practical steps we could take to address our crisis seem rather
simple. We just need to raise the price of fossil fuels—as well as the cost
of generating greenhouse gases through the poor management of farm-
land and forest—so that the market reflects the physical realities in which
we live. If we do so, we will all have a practical incentive to shift to new
and less destructive practices. If we increase these prices in further steps
over the ensuing years, we would change our practices even further, even-
tually reaching the point where we would not be contributing to the
planet's warming at all. We should also fund research into developing and
implementing new technologies so that solar, wind, tide, wave, and geo-
thermal energy can become readily available; the mechanisms for captur-
ing and storing carbon dioxide can be installed on a large scale; and our
agricultural and forestry practices can become ecologically sustainable.
These ideas of raising the cost of unsustainable practices and funding
new research are fairly straightforward and by now thoroughly familiar to
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