We Have Only Just Begun
I have written several times about the fact that it was in 2006 that the U.S. crossed the tipping point on Global Warming. It has only been in the last year that the understanding of the global warming issue has become mainstream in this country. Two years ago it was environmentalists that spoke of it, now almost everyone does.
As someone who has long been concerned that this country and the rest of the world were marching blindly forward toward an overheated planetary nightmare, I am happy to see that almost everywhere I look there is the subject of global warming. Last week, the cover of Time magazine was â€œThe Global Warming Survival Guideâ€. The current issue of Vanity Fair is the second annual â€œGreen Issueâ€. Last week Discovery Networks announced that they were converting one of their networks into a â€œGreenâ€ network. Starting today, Home Depot will introduce labeling for nearly 3,000 products that conserve energy, or promote energy conservation, sustainable forestry and clean water. They expect to increase the number of products to 6,000, or 12% of their products, by 2009. In addition, these products will get preferential treatment such as prominent shelf positioning and being highlighted in marketing efforts. Good work Time, Vanity Fair, Discovery Networks and Home Depot.
Now the truth of the matter is that everyone is learning it pays to be green. Media outlets, retail chains and even car companies are falling over themselves to be green, to be environmentally friendly, to become carbon neutral, to contribute percentages of sales to environmental organizations. Everybody wants to â€˜out greenâ€™ the competition in hopes of increasing readers, viewers and customers. This is all good. As I wrote in a column here, it will be a good thing to make global warming an economic issue. It really doesnâ€™t matter to me whether these initiatives are altruistic or financially motivated. New patterns are being developed, more people everyday are getting onboard, the momentum is accelerating so much that in a couple of years the competitive advantage will be diminished. The inverse will become true, that if you are not clearly doing your part to help slow down global warming, you will be punished in the marketplace. An even worse fate will fall to those companies that are discovered to be playing the global warming PR game without committed follow through.
All this explosion in awareness and action regarding global warming is a wonderful thing, but we as individuals, as Americans, as consumers, as companies, as voters have only just begun. The goal is to slow down and then reverse humanityâ€™s contribution to global warming. The adverse affects that humans are having has not yet been measurably slowed. Even if tomorrow all our greenhouse emissions declined, there is still years of warming ahead because of what we have already done, because of what already has been lost. So we have only just begun.
You may feel good to talk about your conservation efforts at a party, or to show the world you drive a hybrid, but donâ€™t get smug. Even a Toyota Prius produces more than three tons of carbon dioxide emissions (as opposed to the automotive average of six tons). The goal is not to feel good, though if that is a nice by-product, fine. All of us can do more, all of the time.
Currently it costs more to be green. We pay more for a hybrid that a less green car in the same class. We pay more for fluorescent bulbs than incandescent bulbs. Installing solar panels takes 12 years to pay back. All of this will be temporary. We must now pay more and buy more. That will change the marketplace as prices fall and green becomes the new normal. This is a short term price to pay for the planetary damages we have all been a part of through the years.
Finally, do what you can to make sure that the politicians you might vote for know that your vote is conditional on how committed, knowledgeable and leading edge they are on the issues of global warming, energy independence, and sustainable energy. Some of us may press on such issues as gay marriage, abortion, the war in Iraq; all of us need to additionally press on these issues of energy.
It is absolutely wonderful that we have gone through the tipping point. It is the first step. We have only just begun.