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Earth Day 2014: Government is critical on Climate Change, Part 9

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This is part 9 of a series of essays leading up to a major public discussion of Climate Change in Rochester NY on Earth day. On April 17, 2014 at 7PM, the Rochester Sierra Club will host a community discussion on Climate Change in our region with Mark Lowery, Climate Analyst, and manager of the state’s Climate Smart Communities program. The program is called 2014 Earth Day Forum “Climate Smart Communities: Let’s Get With the Program." This “Earth Day” event (I know, April 22 is actually Earth Day) will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South, Rochester, NY. We hope to reach the entire public—community, faith, and business leaders, students, the unemployed, the employed, young and old, healthy and not so healthy, rich and poor, and folks busy with other stuff —and have an old-fashioned community talk about the world crisis called Climate Change. Join your neighbors in a town hall meeting free from activism, ideology, politics, and denial.

Your state, your government, isn’t just another group of folks trying to get your ear on stuff they want you to hear. The state, your state, is you. It’s ‘we the people’. If your government thinks Climate Change is real and something they must address, you should know how and why. Not because they have clout, which they do, but because they represent you.

Some think their government is not only powerless on addressing Climate Change but ineffective on the messaging. This article kind of gets at the heart of this:

Can Business Break Impasse on Climate Action? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urged immediate action on adapting to human-caused climate change in the second part of its fifth assessment report, released in March. But it may be that governments and the media are poorly equipped to deliver that dire message to the public. That was the consensus among experts speaking about the evolution of the public debate over climate change and clean energy at Bloomberg’s Future of Energy Summit in New York City. Andy Hoffman, director of the Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, said that climate change and renewable energy are caught in a cultural schism in which both, regardless of the science, are seen as products of radical environmentalists and big government. “What we find is that when people start to discuss these issues, they’re questioning your motives and (trying) to find out whether you’re a member of their tribe,” he said. (April 9, 2014) Climate Central

Indeed, when it comes to messaging about Climate Change, there are many striving to be the messenger. As most now know, solving Climate Change is not merely a problem of physics—lowering the concentration of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in our atmosphere -- though it is certainly that. This issue has accumulated not only a lot of hot gas, but a lot of human baggage too. Climate Change is burdened with politics, economics, justice, liberty, and pretty much all that affects human behavior. Business, one of the most effective shapers of human behavior, is especially good at messaging products. However, businesses are not especially good at messaging complicated issues without incorporating those issues into something they are trying to sell. As for the media and whether or not they are ‘properly equipped’ to message Climate Change, they might be if they had a longer attention span.

Unlike other institutions, you cannot give up on government when they tell you something you don’t like. Of course you can move, but with Climate Change there are no governments that won’t be messaging and doing something about it. And here’s something else as stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their latest report: “Governments often play key roles as regulators, providers, or insurers of last resort” (Page 24, IPCC WGII AR5 Summary for Policymakers). Governments are the folks who make sure our vehicles have a surface to drive on. They write up the rules on how all the other institutions must interact with you and other businesses, and hopefully with our environment. They set guidelines on pollution of all types. If all the other insurers go belly up, they will have act as the insurers of last resort. Governments don’t have the luxury of avoiding things that affect your livelihood, your health, and your life.

Your government, however dysfunctional it may appear at any one time, is accountable to you. There’s no substitute for the kind of responsibilities like addressing Climate Change that those folks you put into office are required to do.

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