The nations of the world have unanimously agreed, 195 to zero, that climate change is a major problem, that human activities are a major cause and that it's high time to do something about it. Those debates are now over globally, although some American politicians have yet to notice.
This signals the arrival of a new era, an era in which the catastrophic consequences of our global fossil fuel addiction have become so obvious that they can no longer be ignored. Recognizing that the world has a problem — and that human activities caused it — is the first step on the long and uncertain path to finding solutions. The Paris summit should put to rest the last of the climate deniers in our own nation.
A new Yale University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science demonstrates that for past two decades, corporate funding has served as the underpinning of a unified network of "contrarian" lobbying firms, politicians and think tanks dedicated to polarizing the issue of climate change and creating the appearance of scientific doubt that human activities are the source of global climate problems. In short, we've been taken for a ride. Now that the tie between corporate funding and specific language and thematic content of climate deniers has been demonstrated scientifically with robust data, political leaders should dispense with the charades and start seeking solutions instead.
Solving the world's climate crisis probably won't involve digging up Canadian boreal forests to extract tar sands, and then spending more fossil fuels refining them into a usable product to burn. They probably don't involve strip mining the American West in a quest for low-grade kerogen trapped in "oil shale," a primitive oil precursor, or digging up the even more primitive deposits of coal. Drilling and fracking the Sagebrush Sea for natural gas and oil will only set progress back. Deforestation, either in remaining old-growth pockets in the Pacific Northwest that still support spotted owls, or in the tropical rainforests so amazing in their biodiversity, will need to be reversed, not accelerated.Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has developed a famously successful 12-step pathway to help people beat their addictions to alcohol. Modern society's addiction to fossil fuels is disastrous on a global scale, disrupting the family of nations and visiting calamity on individuals and communities, in a macrocosm of the problems caused by alcoholism. So presented below is a 12-step pathway to climate sobriety, adapted from the blueprint invented by AA (while honoring our Constitution, which requires separation of church and state) to put us all on a path to a more fruitful and sustainable human future:
1. Recognize that burning fossil fuels has altered our global climate by radically increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in the air, that deforestation is crippling the planet's natural ability to absorb this extra carbon and that animal agriculture (especially ruminants like cattle that belch climactically potent methane) plays a significant role in accelerating the aboveground carbon cycle.
2. Recognize that there is a higher authority that can help solve these problems and help restore us to sanity, and it's called "science."
3. Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the planet, without which there is no survival for our interdependent web of life, humans included.
4. Make a searching inventory of our own energy uses to increase our own efficiency and reduce our energy footprint as individuals, corporations, governments and nations.
5. Admit to the world that throughout our development as a nation, these United States have, more than any other nation, contributed to the changing global climate through our conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels and have profited from this problematic behavior through the enrichment of a privileged few exploiting mineral resources, both here in the United States and around the world.
6. Make it a priority at all levels of government to remove our own defects of energy use, through ending fossil fuel subsidies of all kinds, keeping publicly owned fossil fuels in the ground, incentivizing renewable energy sources, developing a smarter electrical grid to handle complexities in powering our nation from renewable sources, and empowering individual citizens to become renewable energy producers at the household scale.
7. Humbly ask scientific researchers and engineers, with the support of ample research and development funding, to invent more energy-efficient instruments for our daily lives, and to provide new solutions to global transportation, electrical generation and agricultural practices that eliminate fossil fuel consumption.
8. Make a list of all human communities and natural ecosystems harmed by fossil fuel extraction, combustion and resulting climate disruptions, to gain a complete understanding of the harm we have caused.
9. Make direct amends to such communities and ecosystems through reparations by the fossil fuel industry that fund active restoration of damaged ecosystems, build resilience into communities battered by climate disruption and especially provide subsidies for developing nations to develop their energy technologies along clean, renewable lines.
10. Continue to take an inventory of energy consumption and production here in the United States in an energy audit every five years, and take corrective actions as needed to ensure that we are meeting or exceeding targets to keep the rise in global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
11. Seek through continued scientific research to improve our conscious contact with the planet that supports us, developing methods to move from a culture of exploitation to a culture of stewardship that respects the health of the planet and all living beings, and thereby safeguards the future well-being of humanity for all time.
12. Having achieved our climate awakening and developed sustainable, renewable ways to power our society while protecting our environment as a result of these steps, carry this message and these technologies and innovations to other nations throughout the world so that they might also thrive, and practice these principles in all our affairs.
The fossil fuel industry's public relations teams would like us all to believe that we are powerless to control our energy habits. Now is our big opportunity to prove that we are not slaves. Step one is to banish the doubts (and doubters) of human-caused climate change to the dustbin of history. The Paris accord has done just that.
Molvar is the Sagebrush Sea Campaign Director for WildEarth Guardians, a nonprofit environmental group working to protect wildlife, wild places, wild rivers and the health of the American West.