Why both the Right and Left terrify me on climate change

Why both the Right and Left terrify me on climate change

This week I read two articles that terrified me.

The first, written by Wen Stephenson with The Nation (which I read to stay up to date and well-informed), described how the environmental politics of Pope Francis go far beyond those of the mainstream American Left. He writes that the desperate and radical pleas from the Pope are matched only by the desperation of the current climate crisis. The author notes that even the most ambitious plans currently put forward by the United States and the world at-large fall far short of the 2ºC temperature-rise threshold needed to avert catastrophic ecological disaster, and that even the so-called “Hail Mary” policies that the Pope calls for may not be enough to turn back the clock. A bleak outlook that our future depends on radical, immediate change that remains far beyond the political horizon.

The second – more terrifying – article that I read was from The Hill (which I read because I’m a masochist), written by Republican Representative Lamar Smith, chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, titled “Climate Change: Seven Indisputable Facts.” Rather than using this forum to discuss the catastrophic implications of climate change presented by the very NASA scientists he oversees, he took the opportunity to resolutely deny that human-powered climate change is even possible. Today I read that the GOP-controlled Congress is going a step further and making every effort to gut the research programs that would contribute to a rational policy debate on climate change.

Maine’s Second-District Congressman, Bruce Poliquin, despite being an avowed Catholic, has chosen to stand with Smith rather than with Pope Francis. He voted to block funding for climate science and has taken every opportunity to vote against addressing our warming planet. He has declared himself to be skeptical of humans causing climate change and responded to a Bangor Daily News candidate survey question on the issue in 2012 with “Climate changes over long cycles. Everyone wants a clean environmnet. [sic]”

Taken together, we see an environmental Left that lacks the strength to avert catastrophe, and a fanatical Right that refuses to even acknowledge that any crisis is even occurring. And pundits ask why an almost nihilistic outlook has taken shape among many Millennials.

I guess what really blows my mind, though, is the fact that Rep. Lamar and his ilk seem to believe -not know, but believe- that it is impossible that humanity could incur such an impact on the earth as to irreparably harm it. The irony is that the generation that currently holds a monopoly of power in our political system was the first to be born in an era in which this idea was dramatically put to rest. Since 1945, we have possessed the technological means to end our world in the blink of an eye, and yet there are those who still react with incredulity that there is anything we could do to damage our environment beyond repair. We disingenuously claim humility, believing that the earth is so big and we are so small that we could never possess the power to destroy nature itself, and yet we still hubristically attempt to bend it to our will without regard for cost.

I fear they may still live long enough to begin see their error. I’m terrified that it’s already too late.

Photo via Flickr/Catholic Church England and Wales

About author

Grady Burns
Grady Burns 40 posts

Grady Burns is an activist on issues involving young Mainers. He serves on the Auburn City Council and is president of the Maine Young Democrats.


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