Earth Day Gets Real And Finds a New Champion
April 26, 2021
Every true artist strives for perfection and leaves masterpieces in his wake. So it is with President Joe Biden who has pledged his – and our nation’s – all out efforts to slash the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below the 2005 level by the year 2030.
Mr. Biden launches a lofty, idealistic goal in the face of a very real threat. It is exactly what is needed. Most likely it is the only strategy that holds any chance of success. Every business leader knows that major innovations cannot be achieved incrementally – backsliding from baby steps is too easy and comfortable. Our reach must disruptively exceed our grasp. Best scientific estimates state that if climate change is not addressed, it will avalanche more than $23 trillion in damages within the next thirty years. It is not a price tag which can shunted off onto poor nations alone.
Most media have responded to the Biden challenge, alas, by betting on the horse race and laying out the odds. Can he cross the finish line by the due date? How muddy is the political track? Is this the right jockey? And most frequently, what will be the personal inconvenience incurred by citizens during the race? In short, journalism pours its considerable talents into cynically reminding us that if Joe Biden cannot win this race, there doesn’t seem to be any point in trying at all. (Interestingly, no one is asking whether the President’s climate change challenge is just a mere political stunt. Everyone knows better. Like all revolutionaries, Mr. Biden, and his entire administration are in deadly earnest.)
Now I am not naive. Achieving this 50 percent cut, or even coming close to it, will wrench us drastically from our current economy and life styles. It is probable that coal fired power plants will cease, and be replaced by wind, solar, nuclear, and gas sources – modes of power each with very real scalability and danger problems. Nearly half America’s beloved automobiles on her beloved (hopefully repaired) roadways will have to convert to electric power within eight years, including all the new infrastructure such a change entails. Massive programs for new and retrofitted energy efficient buildings will doubtless be demanded. Job re-training, carbon pricing vs. rewards…the innovation list goes on.
The risk is great, the outcome far from guaranteed. But General George Washington did not muster his troops with, “Let’s take to the field, boys, and see what we can do.” He called for an unthinkable victory over the British, which came within eight years. And in 1962, President John Kennedy did not call for continuing the space program, but rather he challenged us with, “We choose to go to the moon.” Seven years later Neil Armstrong set his foot on the lunar surface. Will President Joseph Biden fill his pledge by the end of the decade? We do not know. But I do know that if a leader’s vision does not frighten the people at least a little, she or he is most assuredly aiming too low. And in his striving for this nearly impossible greenhouse gas emission cutback, win or loose, Joe Biden may just leave behind his masterpiece: a more survivable planet.
Wishing you every success,
– Bart Jackson
Guest: Laura Doherty