WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
Ex-congressman: Work on solutions, not arguments
Special for USA Today
Action will come on climate change when we realize that we’re all in this together, that the danger is paired with opportunity and that action fulfills a beautiful calling to love God and love people. Action will come on climate change when those truths are put into a song that the soul can sing. So far, the song has been a dirty little ditty that divides us, a marketing jingle that segments us into sides.
Contrast that with the songs that ended the Vietnam War. One Tin Soldier riding away made us cry. It stirred our souls. It made us ask what we were doing. That song made it to the Top 40. There are no Top 40 songs about climate change. Instead, the climate dog whistles play on Fox News and MSNBC, on talk radio and NPR, on college campuses and on factory floors to opposite and predictable effect.
The truth is we’re in this petri dish together. We’re conducting an experiment in the only home we have, and we’re getting measurable results. 2016 is on track to be the hottest year in Earth’s recorded history, beating the previous record set in 2015, which itself beat the previous record set in 2014. Bark beetles are eating their way through our Western forests. Zika and dengue are headed north, toward us. Seas are rising into some coastal cities’ storm sewers and onto some of our very valuable military bases.
Meanwhile, many of us look for other explanations. “Surely it’s sun spots,” we tell ourselves. “It’s all natural variation,” we say. I know those absolutions well, because I pronounced them myself for six of my 12 years in Congress.
“You’re stupid,” the other side tells us. “We’re all going to die!” they scream. “You must accept regulation.”
It’s a confrontation, not a conversation, much like an argument between spouses over going to the doctor. “You’ve got to get that spot on your arm checked by the dermatologist,” says one while the other dismisses it saying, “No, it’s changed colors only because I hit it on the car door.”
So the argument goes, full of fear on both sides. For the one there’s the fear of losing a spouse to an untreated melanoma. For the other there’s the fear of surgery combined with the fear that the doctor’s visit will result in the pronouncement of a death sentence. If the patient can be convinced to act soon enough, the melanoma can be removed and life can be joyfully continued.
So it is with climate change. Diagnosis isn’t a death sentence. We can fix this. We can have more energy, more mobility, more freedom. We can be realistic about drilling for the fuels that fill our lives, and optimistic about better batteries, better solar cells, better and cheaper and perhaps smaller nuclear power plants. We can fund the research and development into those fuels of the future and then step back and let the private sector race to commercialize them with no subsidies and with climate damages priced in. We’ve done it before with DARPA, the internet and the personal computer; we can do it again with energy.
Some are understandably fearful about what those changes may mean to their businesses, but they need to be reminded that they’ve been successful because they’re innovators. They’re the ones who’ve figured out directional drilling and fracking. They’re the ones who’ve made higher-mileage cars. They’re the ones who’ve gotten more e.ciency out of power plants. They’re really good, and they can figure out the fuels of the future.
Their value is more in their spirit and skill than in the commodity extracted or combusted. That tune will be singable when it’s recognized as a calling — a calling to love God and love people. Loving God means responding to His love and grace and doing what He commands. He has commanded us to tend the bit of Eden that’s left. And He has commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. What better way to do that in the energy field than to light up the world with more energy, more mobility and more freedom? Imagine the dark village lit up at night with students studying and adding their creativity to the world’s creativity. Imagine free enterprise serving them as customers and creating wealth in the process.
There’s a calling and an opportunity in climate change — once we figure out that we’re all in this together. America is indispensable to fulfilling that calling. We’re a nation that’s blessed in order to be a blessing. The world needs us. It’s time to lead again.
Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, is executive director of republicEn.org, a team committed to free enterprise action on climate change.