Dec
13

You pays yer money and you takes yer choice

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“The problem’s not solved because of this accord.” – President Barack Obama

Environmental issues are not my forte, but I followed live the release of the Paris agreement yesterday morning nonetheless. The president later gave this statement:

“I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” Obama concluded. “We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.”

D.R. Tucker at Political Animal wrote passionately about the Paris agreement:

I am fighting back tears as I write this. Do you know what this moment means? It means the most rapacious and destructive industry on the face of this warming Earth is on the downfall. It means that we will finally race towards the day where fossil fuels are kept in the ground where they belong, and children born today can have clean air, clean water and a stable future.

Do you know what this moment means? It means men and women of goodwill can succeed in the face of impossible odds.

Do you know what this moment means? It means that the deniers, the disinformers and the demagogues have been humiliated and humbled once and for all.

This is history’s golden moment. This is a moment where hope won in a blowout against cynicism. This is a day to be proud, damn proud, of being alive, of being compassionate, of being human.

Caring won. Hope won. Science won. The better angels of our nature won.

After the Paris attacks and the xenophobic contagion spreading across this country in their wake, we all needed that. To be sure, there will be plenty of details debated. But getting this many minds to meet and agree on something this critical suggests other immovable objects may yet yield when unstoppable forces come to bear. (I’m going somewhere with this.)

As environmental activists gathered in Paris to hammer out the climate change agreement, a dozen, lonely, tired attendees gathered at a bistro near the Bastille. They were in Paris to promote carbon-free nuclear power and a pro-nuke documentary, Pandora’s Promise. The film features “people who were passionate anti-nuke environmentalists until they realized that climate change was a bigger problem and the only practical solution might be the very thing they’d dedicated their lives to stopping.” It is still not a particularly easy sell for Myrto Tripathi who went from environmental NGOs to the nuclear industry:

Tripathi says it’s gotten so bad, that when she went to parties and said what she did for a living, people her age would say how nice she seemed for someone who was “working for the devil.” After a while, she started saying she was a florist.

The same thing happens in the States, Stone says. The big environmental lobbies are so anti-nuke that activists on the left are afraid to say anything positive about it. “It’s such a bitter irony,” he says. “Environmentalists are stopping progress on the greatest environmental crisis in history.”

It is the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Tripathi observes. Bhopal alone killed an estimated 15,000 people. Yet the chemical industry does not draw the side eye and ire of nuclear power. France gets over 60 percent of its energy from nuclear.

The gist of the discussion is, with renewables unable to fill the gap, if you want to tackle global climate change and fight proven, carbon-free nuclear power at the same time, how serious about climate change are you really? You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.

I don’t raise the point to promote nuclear power, or to start a debate over the front-end and back-end economics. What caught my attention was people dogmatically committed to one view changing their thinking in the face of a larger, more imminent threat. In Paris, representatives of nearly 200 countries reached a similar turning point yesterday. Our children’s children will thank them for it.

What caught my attention was the promise that “in the face of impossible odds” public opinion could change on other intractable issues overdue for their turning points. For example, gun violence. Ask any U.S. politician, if you are serious about reducing gun violence yet refuse to address the easy availability of guns, how serious are you about reducing gun violence really?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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