No, Im just kidding! I just needed an eye-catching action title. So Cliff Mass is an interesting, charismatic, funny, smart meteorologist here in our area. Not used to hearing those adjectives strung in front of “meteorologist” before? Its true. I just think his stuff is great. He blogs, shows up regularly on our local NPR station, and makes weather fun and interesting for the average person.
But this week he did make me a bit mad. Our local TV station interviewed Dr. Mass right before the State of the Union address to ask him what he thought about climate change issues. He said something to the effect of “all the stuff that folks did like using LEDs and driving Priuses was “meaningless” as long as China and India continued to develop coal plants”.
While I get what Dr. Mass is trying to get at here- that those countries’ energy decisions have a huge impact on global GHGs- I think he did listeners a disservice with framing the issue this way. For one, EPA estimates (granted, these are from 2005, but they arent too old) the US contributes about a fifth of the world’s GHG emissions; that’s not a tiny percentage, by any means. So dismissing actions we take here at home might give the impression that what the US does in terms of emissions doesn’t matter; but it does.
For another, while I completely agree that personal consumer choices are not sufficient for addressing climate change- i.e., we need a sea change in political pressure and leadership to make a dent in this issue, at every level- I do think that the personal psychology of whether everyone actually thinks they are responsible for and contributes to the problem is essential. The only way we are going to get off the fossil fuel track in this country is from an extremely broad, extremely engaged, public demand for that change- it certainly is not going to come from within government! So I am very thankful that we do have prius-driving, LED-using people, who are taking this issue as their personal responsibility. Of course, I also hope they vote and communicate with their representatives. But I think its really important in messaging the climate issue that we don’t absolve folks of their personal responsibility in getting us where we are, and in moving us to where we need to go. Since Dr. Mass is one of those people that a lot of people do listen to, I think he has an important role to play in this messaging. So, I emailed him and told him so. But not in a hateful way, I promise; hopefully it came across in a positive way.