The U.S. government will not save us from climate change. The signs have been apparent long before Donald Trump took the oath of office and handed over the U.S. government to fossil fuel interests in a manner so brazen even Dick Cheney would blush. The final nail in the coffin of the possibility of leadership from the U.S. government came with the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Make no mistake, the Paris climate accord was not going to be the tool with which to save the world from man-made climate change. It was a first step in codifying a structure with which to address the issue in a constructive manner. The current President of the United States does not understand constructive problem solving since it cannot be manhandled into a monosyllabic tweet at five o’clock in the morning.
The Paris climate accord was limited, but it was a start. Just getting everyone to the table—save for Syria and Nicaragua at the time—was a major accomplishment. Just getting everyone to agree that man-made climate change was a problem and that we should act was herculean. We all can agree, however, that the Paris climate accord did not go far enough to address the problem and it does not include forcing functions for countries that fail to live up to the commitments made to the world.
Regardless, the framework of the Paris climate accord is irrelevant for those of us in the United States. This does not mean that we have to sit idly by and watch as the world tries to address the problem. I surmise that at this moment in history most of the tools that we need as a civilization exist for us to combat climate change and secure the future of Earth as a viable habitat for humanity.
Consider the following chart of the sources of carbon emissions in the United States:
As an individual we have a hand in every slice of the pie with a more direct impact on some more than others. It is our job as residents of the planet to figure out how we can meet or exceed the goals of the Paris climate accord without the agreement of politicians in Washington D.C.
Everyone has to figure out how they will act on a “personal Paris.” Unlike almost any other time in recent history we have the tools to make meaningful change at a personal level. Solar photovoltaic systems are cheaper now than ever and make economic sense in almost any market in the country. Electric vehicles are now more common than ever before and accessible to a larger share of the population that at any other time in the short history of the technology. Commuting can be reduced or eliminated via bicycling or telecommuting or just becoming an early retiree like all those couples living in vans on Instagram.
My point is that we have a plethora of options in order to address every slice of the emissions pie pictured above. If you have the discretionary income there are options. If you have extra time there are options. If you need to save money there are options. As I stated earlier, unlike any other time in recent history we have the tools available to use to make meaningful change.
We need to take responsibility for our actions and act in a correspondingly restorative way. We need to become the change we want to see in the world.