The Political System Is Behind The Times

Nearly all of President Barack Obama's measures in the United States were done without the approval or permission of a Republican-controlled Congress, where climate change denial (and unwillingness to accept fundamental geophysical truths) has become a political litmus test. 

Obama's measures include a June 2014 directive from the Environmental Protection Agency requiring significant emissions reductions from coal-fired power facilities. Former US Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson (a Republican) linked the climate catastrophe to the 2008 financial crisis: 

  • We are accumulating excesses (debt in 2008, greenhouse gas emissions that are trapping heat now). 
  • The policies of our administration are faulty (incentivizing us to borrow too much to finance homes then, and encouraging the overuse of carbon based fuels now). 
  • Our specialists (first financial experts, now climate scientists) attempt to make sense of what they observe and predict potential futures. And the enormous dangers have the potential to be disastrous (to a globalized economy then, and the global climate now). 
  • We barely averted an economic disaster at the last minute by using government intervention to save a failing banking system. 
  • Climate change, on the other hand, is a more intractable issue. We are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which will stay there for millennia, heating up the planet. 
  • That means the choices we're making today—to stay on a nearly carbon-dependent path—are locking us into long-term repercussions we won't be able to alter, but only adjust to, at great expense. 
  • It is estimated that protecting New York City against rising oceans and storm surges would cost at least $20 billion in the short term, and much more in the long run. And that's only one of the coast's cities. 2014 (Paulson) 

The Prince of Wales, who also believed that the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930s would be overshadowed by ecological concerns, particularly climate change, echoed Paulson's view. 

  • “This [the financial crisis] we can solve pretty easily,” Prince Charles said as he accepted an honorary degree from the London Business School. 
  • But there is another systemic risk that, in my opinion, is far more serious in the long run: the threat of increasing and accumulating environmental collapse, with its devastating consequences not only for us as a species, but also for the countless others who shape this planet alongside us and on whom we rely for our survival. 
  • Our blind resolve to disregard the realities and go on as normal, I believe, is increasing the danger of a collapse that will be much more spectacular and difficult to recover from than anything we have seen in recent years. (2011, Prince of Wales) 
  • In 2014, Paulson collaborated on an economic study of climate change costs called Risky Business with Michael R. Bloomberg (former New York City mayor and investment company owner) and Tom Steyer (retired hedge fund manager). 
  • They support a carbon price and the phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies. “The greatest lag is in the political system,” said Princeton University geoscientist Michael Oppenheimer. 
  • He believes that the severity of the danger has been debated for the last two decades, and that another 20 years may pass before a global diplomatic response is in place. 
  • In the meanwhile, the window of opportunity for feedbacks to take control is shrinking. “We can't afford to take a wait-and-see approach,” Oppenheimer added. “The most pressing issue is when will we commit to [limiting global warming to] 2 [degrees Celsius].” 

There isn't a whole lot of headroom left. We'd best go to work.” According to Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the present pace "isn't going to accomplish it" (Kerr 2007).

You may also want read more about Global Climate Change here.