Congress has been unable to pass any strong legislation dealing with climate change, arguably the most pressing problem facing us and future generations. It appears that many people, especially those in power, are often unwilling to address problems until they have become an undeniable crisis.
Interestingly, many of the people who long challenged the concept of climate change now accept the fact that the climate is changing. No longer able to deny the existence of climate change, they now say the climate is constantly changing as part of a natural process.
Their new position dismisses the idea that the current change is related to human activities. To maintain this position means that they reject the conclusion from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group I report from September, which stated: "Human influence on the climate system is clear. It is extremely likely (95-100% probability) that human influence was the dominant cause of global warming between 1951-2010."
It is certainly possible that those in power who continue to oppose strong action on greenhouse gas emissions could be right. However, if they are wrong, their decision could mean that young people today will face a far less hospitable planet. Severe weather events could be more prevalent, more droughts and severe water shortages could occur, and more lands could become deserts. Wars over water could break out, and there could be billions of environmental refugees.
However, if there is much chance that the IPCC is correct, wouldn't a more prudent approach be to start addressing climate change sooner rather than later? After all, finally starting to seriously address the issue now means that far less drastic and costly approaches would be necessary in the future.
Opponents to taking action have oft-used the choice of jobs or the environment — a false dichotomy. For example, according to a 2009 report conducted for the American Solar Energy Society, a focus on energy efficiency and the phased conversion to renewable energy sources would create 4.5 million net new jobs (taking into account job losses in industries affected by the conversion) by 2030.
It will take a mass movement to force those in power to act prudently. Politicians won't act for the public good without a powerful mass movement forcing them. It is up to us, especially the youth whose future is being stolen, to become involved.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.