Dear Partners in Green

It came to me the other day that a major problem with our approach to Climate Change is our concept of time. We tend to think in the short term. Today and tomorrow, maybe even next summer, but ten or twenty years out? 

But we have been warned that by 2050 humans need to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions entirely to avoid the most catastrophic effects of Climate Change later this century. 

Is there hope for us in light of our inability to think long-term? And 2050 is not really that far off.

I found a discussion online* in which Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, addresses short-term and long-term thinking. He believes that institutions, including companies and governments, that have the power to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be even more obsessed with the present than individuals are.  

Companies are focused on quarterly earnings and growth, which encourages short-term behavior, such as leasing new land to drill for fossil fuels, that makes long-term climate change worse. 

And our political leaders think short-term. We have a presidential election every four years.  And members of the Senate get elected every six years and the members of the House every two!  

However, Leiserowitz believes there are ways to highlight the quick payoff for addressing climate change. In the political realm, that could mean that elected officials get more votes because they support policies that reduce emissions. The promise of a benefit in the next election may be more galvanizing than the goal of protecting future generations, even if the latter has a more moral weight. 

The Inflation Reduction Act is another example of a short-term action with a long-term benefit as it focuses on the present to drive climate-conscious behavior by including financial incentives for people who buy electric vehicles or install solar panels.

But the fact remains that our relationship with time is dangerous and does not bode well for our future. I wonder if short-term thinking involves our psychology or our culture. 

In any event, it is dangerous. And as extreme weather events increase, the fact of Climate Change becomes more and more obvious, making it a problem of the present, not of the future.

We have no time to waste. We have been warned that greenhouse gas emissions need to drop dramatically and immediately to avoid runaway warming later this century. We have big societal choices to make, and those changes need to happen now. In the present, people working together to demand action from their leaders is going to be absolutely critical. 

For well over one hundred years, we have known of carbon dioxide levels altering temperature through the greenhouse effects: Swedish Scientist Svante Arrhenius in 1896, England’s Guy Callendar in 1938, and in the United States, Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” released in 2006. To name just a few. 

Still, here we are today. The future we were warned of is arriving. Our relationship with time is a major key factor.

This month:

  • Imagine what life will be like for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
  • What are you willing to sacrifice for them?
  • What will they be saying about you and your generation? 
  • What would you say to them? Write them a letter.  
  • And try to live lightly. Limit your driving and your flying. Reduce meat consumption, lower the thermostat, speak up, and vote. 

Time is of the essence!

What other song could I choose?

Wishing peace and health to you and your loved ones.

Thank you for being on this journey.

Till next time,