It took a famous actor to say it. Leonardo DiCaprio, during his recent Oscar Award acceptance speech for the nature-themed film The Revenant reminded us that: “2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. Climate Change is real; it is happening right now…It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species.”
DiCaprio was right about the importance of this issue and about 2015 being the hottest year on record. Even more disturbing is that according to the National Center for Environmental Information at NOAA, nine of the ten hottest years on record have happened since 2000, and the tenth was in 1998. Climate change at this pace and magnitude should concern us all.
So why aren’t we in the U.S. doing much about it? Our current presidential politics offer a revealing glimpse. This issue barely merits a sidebar in the campaign, and from some candidates, it elicits outright denial. When asked is climate change real? Trump and Cruz deny its existence. Rubio acknowledges that it exists, but does not believe it was caused by humans and is unwilling to take action. Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley and Kasich not only agree that it is happening, but that it was caused by people, and requires action. The Obama Administration has attempted to lead on this issue, but has often been blocked by members of congress who are beholden to the fossil fuel lobby, including (especially) the Senate Majority Leader.
National Geographic continues to be a beacon in educating people about climate change. In its powerful November 2015 issue “Cool It.” The venerable earth-friendly magazine stated resolutely that “Climate change is here.” The issue further reported that “The earth has warmed 1.5 degrees on average since the late 19th century and that most of the warming has occurred since 1960.”
Meanwhile, countries like Germany and Denmark are taking serious, corrective actions. Germany, with the fourth largest economy in the world, is a good role model for the U.S. in dealing with climate change. According to National Geographic, Germany is “pioneering an epocal transformation it calls the energiewende – an energy revolution that scientists say all nations must one day complete if a climate disaster is to be averted.” Its goal is to cut carbon emissions by 40% from 1990 levels. As of 2015, it has already achieved a 27% reduction. Nearly 30 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar…more than twice what the U.S. gets today.
Denmark is also taking impressive steps to deal with climate change, as proudly stated on their official national website: “Danish strategy for adaptation to a changing climate.”
“Climate change is a reality. In the years to come, we can expect more extreme weather incidents such as droughts, flooding, storm surges, tornados and rising sea levels. These changes mean that society must adapt within a number of areas.”
“Creating a green and sustainable society is one of the key goals for Denmark. More than 20 per cent of Denmark’s energy already comes from renewable energy, and the goal is to reach 100 per cent by 2050. Much of the renewable energy comes from wind turbines, where Denmark is a world leader when it comes to developing new technology.”
Beyond the compelling scientific reasons for dealing with this issue, there are moral reasons too. Pope Francis addressed these in his Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality:
“The world is on the brink of suicide if it doesn’t address climate change…We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf Gen1:28) has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church.”…instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship…Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us”
If we care about our children and our grandchildren then we need to act now.