By Daniel T. Masterson
Fear can mobilize the masses. Even more so if people truly believe that their fears are founded.
I believe that the recent wave of unusually warm weather has been terribly scary. If you connect the dots of climate data from around the country, things begin to look bleak.
It is not just the region where you live; huge portions of our country are experiencing warmer-than-usual weather. The climate of the expansive geographical region of the United States is changing; be afraid — and be inspired to act.
Fear of Nazi domination inspired us to fight in World War II. Fear of communism legitimated the Cold War. Fear of terrorism perpetuates the War on Terror or, as it is now being called, the Long War.
Though it may be argued that the U.S. government purposefully inspired these fears in its own citizens, what happens if the citizens get afraid all on their own?
Can we inspire fear in our government? Is the U.S. government, as our pristine Declaration of Independence claims, truly beholden to its people?
Climate change might be hard for the vast majority of people to perceive. Each person’s experience is limited to his location, but it must be made explicitly clear that a network of catastrophic changes is affecting people throughout our nation and around the world.
Throughout the entire country, temperature lows have been a far cry from their normal levels. Temperatures have been 15 to 20 degrees higher than normal lows for mid-December. In Maine, since November, this year’s lows have consistently been 20-30 degrees higher than what is expected by analysts.
Natural disasters related to climate change are growing in frequency and intensity. The environment, especially melting ice, has shown drastic visible changes in the last few decades. And a growing number of reports — such as last month’s “Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change” to British Prime Minister Tony Blair — are confirming our worst fears. As Al Gore states in his film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” “what changed in the U.S. with Hurricane Katrina was the feeling that we have entered a period of consequences.”>/p>
Reacting to global warming is in the best interest of this generation, future generations, and even the economy. Many people see climate change as too uncertain and not harmful enough to warrant the type of business-harming action that the environmental lobby seeks.
This is based on flawed economic logic. The final goal of American economic policy is to bolster our economy. This includes business, which is one part of our economy.
We must, however, also account for the need for environmental preservation, resources sustainability and healthy trade relationships to foster growth. These factors are just as important as business in preserving America’s economic strength.
All is not lost. People are acting and as Margaret Mead stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”>br />Universities all over Maine are beginning the adopt sustainability agendas. Maine is one of 12 states battling in the Supreme Court for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to introduce more stringent emissions regulations.
And cities throughout the country — lacking federal measures — have begun to adopt local greenhouse gas cuts. However, the world is still waiting to see the change on the highest levels of business and government that will redirect the course of history.
The potential worldwide catastrophe demands awareness and even fear. This issue will, in the next decade, be unavoidable for policy makers — and the sooner this happens the better.
The choice is ours: create a storm of public opinion in the face of governmental lethargy or face the coming storm of climate change.
Daniel T. Masterson, a native of Gorham, is a research assistant at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.