Do People Cause Climate Change?


The debate rages on. Global warming – real or not? Do we humans cause it? Is it a political issue?

It’s hard to believe that anyone in Congress believes that global warming isn’t for real. There doesn’t seem to be much serious evidence that the surface of our planet is not warming. And while there is overwhelming evidence that humans are – at the very least – contributing to it, it’s marginally easier to accept the argument that human behavior is not contributing to it.

But what if – by some miracle – there were sudden consensus on climate change – and Congress decided to take drastic action starting on January 1? We’d still be behind the eight ball. Back to that pessimistic prediction in a moment.

Today the soon-to-be Republican majority in the House of Representatives decided to scrap the Select Committee on Global Warming. “We have pledged to save the taxpayers’ money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress,” said Michael Steel, speaking for House speaker-elect John Boehner.

            “The Select Committee on Global Warming was created by Democrats simply to provide political cover to pass their job-killing national energy tax. It is unnecessary, and taxpayers will not have to fund it in the 112th Congress.”

            On this Web site – and in our book Enough of Us – we try to stay out of partisan politics. So let’s frame the debate in another way. There are those in Congress who are worried about leaving future generations with an enormous national debt. Very considerate. And saving today’s grandchildren a penny apiece by killing this committee is a very generous gesture.

Beijing Smog Photo courtesy Kevin Dooley

            Let’s say, just for argument’s sake, that global warming is real. Are the same people who are unwilling to burden future generations with their grandparents’ national credit card debt willing to take the chance that they will leave those same progeny with a virtually unlivable environment?

            If we were to balance the national budget tomorrow, but allow our air, oceans, freshwater, flora, fauna, plains, mountains and natural resources to go to hell in a handbasket, how much would we be burdening those future generations, both in quality of life and in financial costs?

            It seems to us that the national debt naysayers – Democrat and Republican – are, ironically, making an enormous bet against the actuality of – and the responsibility for – climate change. Congress has been investigating, debating and discounting global warming for years. If they are right, bully for them. But if they are wrong, the United States, by far the world’s greatest per capita polluter, will be left in the dust as an environmental global leader.

            Since its inception in 2007, the Select Committee has held more than 75 hearings focusing on the impacts of global warming, ending America’s reliance on foreign oil, and the creation of jobs in the clean energy sector.

            However, the committee is not empowered to write clean energy or climate legislation. Such legislation traditionally originates in the House Energy and Climate Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. Since the Republicans will take over those committees in 2011, and with everyone in that party tripping over themselves to prove how far to the right they are, things are looking bleak for reform. And if global warming is what the vast majority of scientists and energy experts say it is, things look even bleaker for future generations of Americans who will have to foot that bill.

            Back to that eight ball we mentioned. As long as our population continues to increase, we might never improve upon our production of climate changing waste. That’s because as we create greater efficiencies in clean energy production, agriculture waste, and any variety of industrial pollution, the demands of consumer society will continue to due to our increasing population.

            The global warming elephant in the room is us. People. Americans. And everyone else in he world. But if we live in denial about climate change, and about how overpopulated we already are, we cannot lead the world in becoming more environmentally efficient.

            Wouldn’t it be ironic if China one day eclipses us in that arena and the United States is then referred to as a Second World country?


  1. Very well said! You certainly have found a flaw in their argument — it’s great to save the grandkids a penny or two, but, oops, they have no planet to live on. Or perhaps these family values folks don’t really care about the next geneations all that much and just use them as an excuse to stuff those pennies into their own already bulging pockets.

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