Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Climate Change and the Economy, Stupid

After surviving a horrible winter on the East Coast, one must wonder whether or not global warming truly exists. I have told my daughter to drop the reference to global warming because people will brush her off and point to the 4 feet of snow piling up next to the driveway. Also, it is too difficult to explain the science in arguing that the 80 plus inches of snow dumped during the winter is a result of global warming.

However, if you change the message and say that it is climate change, a person might stop and listen. This is especially true when you point out the extreme weather that we are getting from huge snow storms to massive flooding to the reduction in certain types of local plants, vegetables and wildlife. Perhaps explaining this in a broader picture will be a more effective message. In fact, the number of Americans that believe in global warming has dropped down to the 50% range. It seems to me this is a result of bad marketing. In the northeast, we just had one of the heaviest snow falls for winter in recorded history and are now facing one of the wettest springs. These are better arguments than telling a person that the polar ice caps are melting. More importantly, if you can tie in the economy with this message, then a person might really start listening.

Let's face it, America needs another economic revolution. We went through another gilded age in which many of us ended up with higher debt, lower wages and a growing economic disparity between the wealthy and the poor. We are looking at 10% unemployment rate and a fragile economic recovery with no really foundation to build from.

So we have a teetering economy and climate change. Many of us may want to get back under the covers and waive the white flag to the Gods of fate. Actually, now is the best time to take action to help the economy grow and confront climate change.

First, we need to reevaluate how we design buildings, houses, sewage systems and our general infrastructure to handle the new type of weather patterns. We may need to reassess our sewage and flood control systems to deal with additional rain on the East Coast and redesign water capturing systems in the West to deal with droughts.

Second, we need to preserve, recreate and reassess our local plants and vegetation. This might be tricky as the climate changes because plants that might normally grow in one area now can grow in another or can no longer grow in that original area where is was indigenous. We need to evaluate what can be effectively grown in certain areas and promote it.

We also need to diversify our agriculture system. We have become primarily a two crop agriculture system where corn and soybeans reign. We need to diversify our crops and rely on locally grown products. This will help revitalize local economies and maintain the community.

Third, we need to take action to improve our energy and transportation infrastructure. As I mentioned in the past, the United States is falling way behind other countries in providing renewable energy resources, especially at the residential level. We need to take an initiative similar to the US took with the race to the moon in the 1960s or revamping its military in 1940s. We need a concerted effort to push this technology through to become part of our daily lives. This will help create the next revolution for Americans.

Also, we need to reassess how we get from point A to point B. I believe the latest down turn has demonstrated that America can survive with only one major US car manufacturer. Perhaps, the days of every American having a car are over. If you add up the expense of owning a car, it might make sense to reduce the number of cars on the road.

I just took the train down to South Carolina for vacation. It was a 14 hour trip with two kids; however, for the most part it was very enjoyable. I got to read and watch a movie along with spending quality time with my family. More importantly, I did not have to deal with traffic or place wear and tear on my car and my carbon footprint for this trip was very small compared to driving or flying.

Last, we need to reevaluate how Americans work. The days of 9 to 5 job in an office seem to becoming a workplace relic. There are some many alternatives in regard to how we work. We can telecommute, work from a location close to home or work at different times of the day or days of the week. As we become a global society, our work patterns are dictated less on the American work schedule but rather the global work schedule.

Clearly, this is not a panacea to stopping climate change and turning around the economy however, the combination of these will help prepare us for a changing climate, reduce further negative impact on the environment and help the economy grow in a more sustainable manner.