10 June 2010

Good news on the bad news front

The worst news humanity has ever received is that we are changing the climate of our planet, and if we don't stop we will quite likely wreck our civilization. Or worse. As this wasn't bad enough, recently we have heard that many people are losing interest in climate change, the greatest challenge we have ever faced. And worst of all, that decline in interest seemed most prevalent in the United States. If Americans don't care -- the people who produce 20 per cent of the world's greenhouse gasses -- we are in dire trouble indeed.

But now some good news. A survey released this week found that 61 per cent of Americans believe global warming is occurring, up from 57 per cent in January, and 50 per cent believe it's caused by people, up from 47 per cent. Sixty-three per cent believe it will affect them personally. The survey also found strong support for doing something about it, with 77 per cent supporting the regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 87 per cent wanting more funding for research into renewable energy sources. 

Maybe there is a silver lining to B.P.'s catastrophic Gulf spill after all. When Americans see the destruction just one offshore oil well can do, one of many thousands, they may realize that all the activities of humanity accumulated might just be capable of changing the climate. The sight of innocent birds trapped in the smothering grip of oil can in itself jog our conscience about our treatment of the Earth.

Fifty per cent of Americans now coming to terms with the well-established scientific evidence is progress, but it almost certainly won't be enough. Convincing politicians who are under the spell of oil, coal and chemical industries will take more. Nonetheless, if the trend continues, it may be strong enough to affect the November elections, and that would be healthy progress indeed.

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