Country needs to pay more attention, prepare for climate change

President Obama’s recent signature of the Paris climate change agreement is a huge step. But contributing to the global effort to minimize the effects of climate change, simply might not be enough.

According to an article published last month in Science magazine, “even if the United States implements all current and proposed policies, it would miss its 2025 target by as much as 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year — roughly 20 percent of the nation’s total emissions.”

Though the outlook presented by this source is bleak, scientists say that it’s not impossible to catch up. But how will we get there?

The Obama administration has vowed to implement a few good solutions, but in order to create a more sustainable model for continually improving the state of the environment, a significant cultural shift needs to occur.

In the short-term, putting a stop on corporations with high levels of carbon is going to make a difference. Fewer emissions means an improvement in air quality, but the question of how we reached such high levels in the first place remains.

The simple, observable fact that human actions contribute to global warming is clear, but what is preventing us from stopping? What drives us to disregard the wellbeing of our environment?

Questions about climate change and why it is occurring are as existential and complicated as they are practical and scientific. To really make a positive impact on our world, it isn’t enough to simply overcompensate for the damage we’ve inflicted. We have to make caring for the earth habitual.

In light of this particularly contentious presidential race, we at Hilltop Views think it will be especially productive to explore the roots of the cultural issues that have cultivated the kind of environment where climate change is dismissed and even disbelieved.

According to the results of a survey conducted in 2015 by the Pew Research Center measuring the level of concern about climate change across 40 countries, “the U.S. has the highest carbon emissions per capita, but it is among the least concerned about climate change and its potential impact.”

No quick fixes for climate change exist. It has taken us generations to get to the point where the damage we have wrought on our earth may be irreversible, and it will take generations to improve.

Policy changes have to include more long term, sustainable solutions begin with more education and research. Climate change needs to be discussed and recognized as a legitimate and imminent issue before effective solutions can be formulated.

Although the general global consensus is that climate change is important, it’s still not reflected in our attitudes. Our predisposition to consume more than we need and our penchant for abundance and wastefulness has not abated.

Our collective culture is still indifferent. It’s true that there are many individuals, companies and communities that care about the environment and make tangible efforts to preserve it, but they still aren’t representative of the norm.

If we are still wide-eyed and marveling when a corporation decides to care about the environment, then it’s clear we aren’t doing enough.

Keeping climate change at bay will take work, practice and consistency. It will take fundamentally changing how we see energy and our role in preserving the environment.

As a country we have to discipline ourselves for the sake of the Earth’s future and ours.