The Internet is abuzz with rumors that President Barack Obama will announce a new climate change strategy within a matter of weeks.
Certainly, the rhetoric appears to be ratcheting up. Speaking in Berlin this week, Obama made explicit mention of the need to step up the fight:
"Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down, but we know we have to do more. And we will do more."
These words are welcome, of course, and any efforts to cut emissions will be a step forward from the lack of progress we witnessed during Obama’s first term. But here’s the thing: Even the most ambitious efforts to tackle climate change are woefully short of what should — and can — be done if we put our minds to it.
Obama has promised 17 percent cuts in emissions by 2020, compared to a 2005 baseline. The EU has pledged to cut 20 percent by the same date, based on a 2009 baseline. Meanwhile the non-partisan General Accountability Office says climate change is happening right now and costing us billions, the World Bank warns that global warming threatens to undermine the war on poverty in the short- to medium-term, and even conservative economists warn that our addiction to coal costs the U.S .economy more than it benefits us.
When I interviewed Alex Steffen a while back, he argued that being realistic is important, but our realism should be based on actual reality. With climate scientists warning us that we are already experiencing radical if not catastrophic climate change, nothing other than a rapid, decisive transition to a near zero carbon economy is truly "realistic."
You don’t fight alcoholism by gradually drinking a little bit less each year. Instead, you figure out what you need to live your life sober — and then you go all-out to set up the conditions for success.
It’s not a question of how much we can afford to cut our emissions and by when. It’s a question of how quickly we can build something better.
Let’s get ambitious. And let’s push our politicians to do the same.
Sami Grover is a writer and the creative director at The Change Creation, a brand creation agency that works with entities who make the world better, fairer or truer. He writes on a broad range of topics including sustainable business, the collaborative economy and clean energy.
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