1 – The Basic Science 2 – The Skeptic Debate 3 – The Expected Consequences 4 – The Solution 5 – A Letter to Your Grandchildren Acknowledgments To Learn More
“What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live . . . our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”
—President Ronald Reagan, June 19, 1984 (remarks at the dedication of the National Geographic Society headquarters building)
“My greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up, of someday having my own kids ask me, “When the stakes were so high, why didn’t you do all you could do, why didn’t you stand and fight for my future?”
—Congressman Paul Ryan (on becoming Speaker),1 Oct. 20, 2015
In this short book, I have only touched on the many details that lie behind the issues of global warming, its consequences, and its potential solutions. After all, if we consider just the science alone, thousands of scientists around the world have devoted their lives to studying the climate and how global warming will affect it. No single person could ever become an expert in every subtopic of the research. Nevertheless, I hope that by now I have convinced you that, despite what you may hear in the media and from politicians who choose to remain ignorant, the basic facts are simple and clear. Let’s summarize them one more time, in a slightly different way than we have before:
- The laws of physics tell us that, because we are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, we should expect global warming to be occurring.
- Data collected over many decades by thousands of scientists support the conclusion that the warming is occurring as expected and that this warming will be detrimental to our future.
- While the problem of global warming will not be easy to solve, we have the technological capability to implement solutions that will not only prevent us from suffering its worst consequences but will actually lead us to a stronger economy and better lives.
With that in mind, I’ll close by suggesting a more personal way of thinking about the role that you can play in solving this important problem.
On average, we are all about 50 to 60 years older than our grandchildren are or will be. For example, if you’re reading this in 2016 and you are a high school student, your future grandchildren are likely to be in high school some time around the year 2066. If you are in your prime career years today, your grandchildren will be in theirs in 2066. If you are a senior citizen today, your grandchildren will be approaching their own senior citizenship in 2066. So imagine sealing a letter in a time capsule for your grandchildren to open 50 years from now, like the sample one in figure 5.1. What will you say to them about what you did — or did not do — in the face of today’s understanding that global warming poses a real and serious threat to their future?
In case it’s still not clear, my own way of completing the letter is simple. I will continue to do everything I can to educate people about the simple and basic science that lies behind the issue of global warming; I will do everything in my power to push for a carbon tax like the one discussed in chapter 4, since I believe that is the clearest and simplest path to solving the problems; and I will support only those politicians who acknowledge the reality of global warming2 and are willing to take serious steps to protect the futures of our children and grandchildren. I hope you will join me in making similar commitments to the future.