The “Green FDR” Makes His Case

As part of the lead up to the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, President Obama told the United Nations on Tuesday that the if world does not move quickly to reverse the effects of global climate change, “we risk consigning future generations to irreversible catastrophe.” Nor is it all talk. As Joseph Romm has written, Obama moved quickly when he came into office to change the course of our environmental policy. Now behind the scenes his aides are pushing to revive climate change legislation that has stalled in the Senate.

For all the efforts to dismiss global warming as a hoax—Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) once famously called the idea “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”—there is very little doubt left in the scientific community that human activity is causing the planet to warm dangerously. While there are serious questions about how to deal with the problem, the risks of failing to act include widespread shortages of water and food, huge numbers of people displaced from low-lying coastal areas, and mass extinctions as species are unable to adapt to rapidly changing climates. Energy Secretary—and Nobel prize winning physicist—Steven Chu points out, for example, that if the Sierra snowpack melts, it might mean the end of agriculture in California. We’re looking, he says, at “a real economic disaster for our children.”

Without a strong U.S. commitment to limiting carbon emissions, there’s not likely any meaningful progress in Copenhagen. The U.S. has historically been the largest source of atmospheric carbon, and still emits around 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases. And since it is wealthier and more technologically advanced than developing countries like China and India, it can more easily afford to switch to cleaner energy. As Todd Stern, the State Department’s special envoy for climate change told Congress, “Nothing the U.S. can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive, clean energy legislation as soon as possible.”

But the truth is that taking action will be expensive. And although the fact that China’s President Hu Jintao pledged in his speech to take concrete action removes one of our main excuses for not acting, Congress is still unlikely to pass meaningful legislation unless it is under public pressure to do so. And so far it isn’t under much pressure. On Monday a number of environmental groups tried to turn up the heat by organizing rallies around the world calling for action. But the rallies were so small they got almost no media attention. Until members of Congress really begin to fear for their jobs—and people begin to worry more about the environment than about the economy—there will only be so much Obama will be able to do.

The 4 types of thinking talents: Analytic, procedural, relational and innovative

Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
  • Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Do you have a self-actualized personality? Maslow revisited

Rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation might be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.

Personal Growth

Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest.

Keep reading Show less

Brazilian scientists produce mini-brains with eyes

Using a new process, a mini-brain develops retinal cells.

Surprising Science
  • Mini-brains, or "neural organoids," are at the cutting edge of medical research.
  • This is the first one that's started developing eyes.
  • Stem cells are key to the growing of organoids of various body parts.
Keep reading Show less

Believe in soulmates? You're more likely to 'ghost' romantic partners.

Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?

Thought Catalog via Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Ghosting, or cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is not nice.
  • Growth-oriented people (who think relationships are made, not born) do not appreciate it.
  • Destiny-oriented people (who believe in soulmates) are more likely to be okay with ghosting.
Keep reading Show less