Sunday, May 08, 2016
The Headwind Against Doing the Right Thing.
It's a name associated with science, Oppenheimer. This time it's Michael Oppenheimer, the nephew of uncle Robert known for his work in nuclear armageddon.
Michael Oppenheimer is an astrophysicist and environmentalist who served 20 years with the US Environmental Defense Fund. He also pocketed a Nobel prize for his work. He now teaches at the department of geosciences at Princeton University. When it comes to environmental things, stuff like climate change, his voice is worth a listen.
Recently Dr. Oppenheimer delivered a lecture at the University of Rhode Island on sea level rise. He addressed the risk of underestimating or ignoring the predicted impacts of climate change, in this case sea level rise.
What I found particularly interesting was his explanation of why politicians, including our own, do bugger all to address these looming crises.
“Memories are short and the episodes are infrequent, so if you’re a politician, the returns on investing in adapting and building resilience are very low because the next Sandy, even with global warming, might not come for 20 years, in which case you’re going to raise people’s taxes to build something that’s going to be useful after you’re out of office,” he said. “There’s a headwind against doing the right thing. The investment doesn’t produce in the timeframe that the people making the investment want to see it. Instead it’s 30 or 40 years down the line.”
The planning times are long and require a deliberate strategy that must be sustained over a number of years, he said.
“Some of dealing with sea-level rise requires mega-projects, and if you’re going to do that, you have to start planning way, way in advance,” he said. “And you have to plan not for today’s risk, but for future decades, and that requires a level of sophistication and a level of forethought.”
“How we will respond, what decisions will be made, and how well those will be implemented by the people, by the government ... that’s really the most critical part of the problem,” he said. “Because we are not so great at dealing with the current level of risk, we can’t be optimistic about how we’re going to deal with the increasing level of risk unless we are really able to focus on this at this point and not put it off for another 10 years or until there’s another Sandy.”
Oppenheimer sums it up about as neatly as I've ever heard it. Today it's a matter of "what's in it for me?", not responsibility, not duty. These leaders, they're going to do whatever is in their interests - not your country's, not yours, not your kids. It makes no difference that we have entrusted to them, and to them exclusively, the resources and powers to deal with these looming crises. They have set themselves up against you, against your grandkids and, ultimately, against your country. That's hard to digest, isn't it.
Do you see Justin and his ministers planning "way, way in advance"? Do you see any sign of that? Do you see them doing "the right thing"? Are they bucking the headwind? Are they even talking about what Canadians will have to face 30 or 40 years down the road? If you're honest the answers would be No, No, No, No, and No. If you applied those same questions to the Harper era, you would get the same answers, five No's, straight down the line.