The media are wrong about climate change

They’re letting us down by failing to report on the size of the problem and solutions required

Have you heard that a cautious, science-based and largely apolitical group, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world must utterly transform its energy systems in the next decade or risk ecological and social disaster? And that human actions, including the burning of fossil fuels, are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the warming since the mid-20th century?

Given how much more important this issue is than the latest tweet about the Supreme Court or any other typical partisan issue, you would think that every media outlet would be constantly reporting that this is a huge problem, one that we need to start addressing immediately. But our media is letting us down in many ways.

The first is that they have been ignoring or downplaying the climate issue for years. Perhaps they believe that climate change does not poll very high or is not an issue that drives readers/viewers. In reality, polls have made clear for years that a majority of Americans support climate action and clean energy like solar and wind power.

Granted, the general public rarely speaks about climate change. This may be because the scale of the problem is so large that we don’t think we can do anything about it or we are climate change deniers.

Why are we deniers? There is a growing body of evidence that organizations funded in part by the fossil fuel industry have deliberately tried to undermine the public’s understanding of the scientific consensus by promoting a few skeptics.

Why should we believe the scientific consensus? Because we believe and rely on scientific experts in most aspects of our lives. How can you possibly know, for example, whether your commute over a bridge every day is safe and mundane or a dangerous juggernaut of ill-conceived engineering? You must rely on experts. Even if you yourself are an expert, you cannot personally check every strut or truss for corrosion or every blueprint and inspection report for oversight. You must believe in scientists and engineers.

The good news is that there are solutions. We have the technology to transform the way we use and produce energy, the thing we lack is political will.

In New Hampshire and the rest of the country, the technology exists today to quickly transform our electricity production from natural gas, a huge source of climate change-emitting gases, to solar, wind and biomass. At the same time we can significantly reduce the amount of energy we use through targeted efficiency programs.

Another solution is to reduce carbon emissions, the primary source of climate change, through Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s preferred climate solution, known as Carbon Fee and Dividend. A national, revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend system (CF&D) would place a predictable, steadily rising price on carbon with all fees collected minus administrative costs returned to households as a monthly energy dividend. This simple approach is fair, efficient, beneficial and global. It is specifically designed to enable bipartisan support. Carbon Fee and Dividend uses efficient market forces to address the root of the problem while helping those who are being disproportionately harmed by the effects of the pollution. In just 20 years, studies show, such a system could reduce carbon emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels while adding 2.8 million jobs to the American economy.

The opportunity is there for political leaders to be heroes for generations to come by taking this challenge head on, like we did when we put a man on the moon.

Ted Vansant is founder and president of New England Commercial Solar Services.

Categories: Opinion