2013 Election Candidate Forum:
8: In your opinion, what are the two most important challenges facing the planet, and why?
The two most important challenges facing humans and other species on our
planet are achieving critical mass for behavioral change, and then actually
changing human behavior.
Climate change denial and the political intransigence it has fostered,
threatens adaptation not only in the United States, but throughout the world.
The wealthiest individuals fund propaganda campaigns encouraging fear and the
status quo. Continual education and progressive solutions are needed from
Sierra Club and our allies.
Changing consumption patterns for the basics: food, shelter, transportation,
involves redefining what is important to us culturally and economically. To
reach our climate goals, an “all hands on deck” approach is needed. We must
reconsider how we produce our food, the sustainability of our communities, how
we recreate, what non-essentials we consume. To reach our climate change
goals, we must adapt and evolve as if our lives, and those of many other
species, depended on it.
- Climate change. This is the first time in the world’s history that one species has accumulated the power, and apparently the resolve, to destroy the ecological fabric of the orb. No challenge in human history, including the last century’s Nazi threat, comes remotely close to climate change in terms of importance or difficulty.
- Loss of biodiversity. The web of life is fraying in front of our eyes. Amphibians are down 30% globally, the coral reefs are down 28%, and vast numbers of vital families (large cats, large dogs, sea turtles,) are all expected to disappear within decades. Temperate ancient forests and tropical rainforests get less attention these days, but they remain in steep decline. These are the chief environmental injustices of our day. Climate change is only part of the problem; mindless “development” and resource-profiteering must also be addressed.
- Convincing business leaders that climate change will wreck havoc on the world’s economics and their businesses. Once they are convinced, they will use their clout (money and influence) to change the laws and regulations to favor the changes necessary (i.e. provide incentives) to affect the effective re-channeling of investments that will be necessary to see the appropriate changes.
- Developing and bringing to scale the technology needed to get us off of a fossil fuel based energy system. Once it becomes more economical to produce energy from the sun, wind and other green technologies, change will come fast. As an example, see how quickly we are converting from coal fired power plants to ones fueled by natural gas because it is more profitable.
Every day the evidence of climate change becomes more compelling with
changes including the loss of sea ice on the poles accelerating even faster
than models predicted. Now that public opinion has shifted to acknowledge
climate change, the next biggest challenge is going to be convincing people it
isn’t too late to do something about it.
Sierra Club did have some really important victories with the increase in
CAFÉ standards improving the average fuel economy of cars. We need to continue
the amazing work being done with the Club’s Beyond Coal and Beyond Oil
campaigns, and continue to promote solar and wind.
Human population control is likely the second biggest challenge, but in the
U.S., campaign finance and corporate accountability are huge, huge underlying
reasons for the lack of progress we have had on environmental issues. We have
to stop allowing the sale of politicians to corporate interests. We need a
government for the 99 percent, not the one percent.
The two most important challenges facing the planet in my view are climate
change and population growth. Climate change is already disrupting human
communities and ecosystems in dramatic and in many cases unpredictable ways,
and threatening massive displacement, destruction and loss of species. It is
accentuating the pressure on many resources that are already degraded or
depleted, potentially beyond their regenerative capacity. Global population
growth is especially challenging because (1) it is expected to be highly
concentrated in some of the poorest regions of the globe, where resources are
already seriously depleted; and (2) the anticipated rapid growth of the middle
class threatens a massive increase in consumption.
a) We are reaching tipping points on climate disruption. We must vigilantly
monitor the manner in which the federal BLM reviews outdated rules on fracking
that pose environmental degradation and health risks. Pollution from toxic
coal-ash waste and other coal-combustion wastes should be stopped by all means.
Impacts of gas on air, water, land, and ecosystems are getting worse. More
investments in a clean energy future are needed.
b) The threats to our wild places and wildlife habitat have increased due to
well-financed and powerful special interests tied to extractive industries and
sprawl and development. Our conservation campaigns through our Chapters and
groups are critical and we need to engage more communities to become better and
effective stewards of these places. Our protected public lands continue to be
our natural and economic assets and the more wilderness we save and designate
the better off our planet.
The two biggest challenges are climate change, and confronting the dominance
of the fossil fuel industry – and it’s nearly impossible to separate the
Climate change because if we cannot turn the tide (no pun intended), the
impact to the planet and the human race will be absolutely devastating. We will
literally not recognize this planet in 100-200 years if we do not change
The dominance of the fossil fuel industry needs to be addressed because that
is the largest cause of climate change. If we do not lead the way to a clean
energy economy and break the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, all our
efforts to address climate change will be worthless.