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In the last several years, America has witnessed a dangerous outbreak of fact denial, often with deadly consequences. But not all fact denial is created equal.
First let’s look at the factless rejection of the legitimacy of last November’s election. With all facts indicating that there was not widespread voter fraud, some 40 percent of us chose to embrace the baseless claim that the election was “stolen.” Not even Attorney General William Barr’s investigation, which found no significant voter fraud, could convince these people otherwise. The ultimate result? The storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, that killed five and caused millions of dollars in damage. Beyond that? The emboldening of whitewing extremism.
In January of last year, there was the rejection of the fact-based dire warnings that we needed to take swift action to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Instead of taking heed, nearly half of us, following the lead of our then president, rejected the science. The Brookings Institution estimates that as many as 240,000 American lives could have been saved had we acted with urgency. Shockingly, even now, after the virus has killed over 500,000 of our countrymen, many continue to deny that the pandemic even exists.
Yet, as tragic as these examples are, they will pale in comparison to consequences of our rejecting climate science. Some 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists have warned us that humans are rapidly and dangerously destabilizing earth’s climate. Already many of their predictions have come true: including more violent storms, more devastating droughts, floods, and wildfires, the migration of tropical diseases, and rapid species extinctions. And they tell us, things will only get worse if we don’t cut our heat-trapping gas emissions in half by 2030.
How much worse? Up to eight feet in sea level rise by 2100. One billion climate refugees. Unprecedented mass starvation. Over 1 million species extinguished. Nearly $8 trillion dollars in global losses.
The good news is the worst of this is avoidable, if we can set aside politics and ideology and let facts and science guide us. By allocating America’s brain power with resources commensurate with the scope of the crisis, we still can reduce our CO2 output by 50 percent in time.
First, eliminate the approximately $20 billion dollars we spend annually on fossil fuel subsidies. Impose a permanent ban on all new fossil fuel exploration and infrastructure, including pipelines and refineries. Invest substantial resources in public/private research and development of renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, and electrical storage. Provide subsidies to businesses and the public to help underwrite the transition to sustainable living, including solar and wind installations and the purchase of electric vehicles.
Won’t doing all this cost a fortune? The short answer is yes. Yet, when compared to what it will cost if we fail to get the climate emergency under control, it doubtlessly will be the best investment we ever will make.
Jonas Magram is a longtime climate activist, businessman, community volunteer and musician. He lives in Fairfield.