Climate Concerns of the Future

“Our political structure is indeed paralyzed,” said Kevin Knobloch, Umass Alumnus and President of the Union of Concerned Scientists who returned to the Student Union Ballroom Monday to discuss the failure of the political system to address the looming catastrophe of climate change.

Of immediate attention was the six-fold increase in the number of day’s over 90 degrees Fahrenheit he mentioned. If we can decrease our fossil fuel emissions by 80 percent of the 2005 levels by 2050, we may give ourselves an even chance at preventing the harshest impact. Snowpack is decreasing; ponds are freezing later (or not at all) and lowering earlier. Summer heat has become very intense – the Massachusetts average climate will be equivalent to that of South Carolina’s by the end of the century.

Climate Change: Profiles in Paralysis lectured by Knobloch investigates why our political institutions and leaders will not protect us from climate change, and how we can make them. His main point addressed the concerns of global warming in terms of driving down greenhouse gases and creating a clean energy economy.

While the leaders have failed over the last two years, Knobloch highlights six reasons why the political system has failed over the last few years. First, is a result of the deepest recession since 1929 that saw the stock market crash in 2008. Consequently, Americans have been left jobless, underemployed and fearful.

Secondly is the Republican Party’s filibuster of every major bill that supports a green economy. Their failure to participate in good efforts to write a bill has been paramount. Constantly stating their desire to cap pollution, cap permits for selling, and trade has led to an economic downturn and decreased political progress

Thirdly, has been the cautiousness of the Democrats about legislation even when given the chance to shape these laws. Their lackadaisical approach has cost the U.S. millions and set the country farther behind China has the top green producing country in the world.

Ineffective leadership has also prevented this. Leadership never adequately led or drove negotiations to win the necessary 60 votes. Obama did not pout his campaign promise into legislative outline.

A broken Senate has also negatively affected this passing of laws. While the House is putting these laws up for the Senate, they have failed to pass them. Increased use of the filibuster has led to a power in the majority. With anonymous corporate donations, the effects have been consequential.

Ruthless, overreaching opposition by fossil fuel industries have maintained their grip over the U.S. Companies such as Peabody Coal and Southern Company have actually spent money to weaken any bill.

In order to correct these actions, Knobloch identified three strategies for improving these failures. Green industries and activists must expand their political stronghold by 2012. It requires faming goals that are exciting and motivating for climate activists. Next, he suggested the institution of down payments on greenhouse gas reductions at local levels over the next two years. These payments go towards the increase in fuel economy for cars and trucks under the National Vehicles Policy. Finally, he suggested weakening the political power of the opposition through advocacy for climate policy. Clean energy creates jobs and is good for the climate, thus we must make these changes.

Knobloch emphatically said, “These projections keep me up at night, literally keep me up at night.” Some changes he said, must be through intergenerational change.

“Everyone must lead, follow or get out of the way,” he said. He added that the impact of the Umass campuses have had on the green future have been outstanding. Umass Amherst is projected to be an entirely carbon neutral campus by 2050.

Knobloch capped his invigorating speech with a very simple, yet concise realization of the current green industry in which he said, “While China is booming, we are paralyzed.”

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