Why I'm a Climate Change Optimist

I'm optimistic about humanity's abillity to deal with climate change. I know that sounds ridiculous in the current political environment of the US, where one party can't agree on what to do and the other party denies that the problem even exists. But still I'm optimistic. Why? Because of the bomb.

In 1945 we developed the atomic bomb; the most powerful weapon ever created. Many scientists who worked on the bomb felt they had unleashed a destructive force that would only end in the death of all life on earth. Within a decade nuclear proliferation meant we could destroy the planet several times over, ensuring nothing larger than a rat would survive. J. Robert Oppenheimer later said, quoting the Bhagavad Gita: Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

It is hard to imagine today what it felt like back then. By the early 1980s, when I was a kid, it we spoke often of a pending World World III, so numb to the idea that we joked about it. And yet, it has been nearly seventy five years and the bomb has never been used again. Sure, we have had plenty of close calls, but somehow humanity managed to step back from the edge. In retrospect this is incredible.

So I believe that yes, we do have it within our power to reverse climate change, and yes we will come together and actually do it. It will be hard. It will costly. But we will do it.

Two days before the Trinity test, Oppenheimer expressed his hopes and fears in another quotation from the Bhagavad Gita:

In battle, in the forest, at the precipice in the mountains,
On the dark great sea, in the midst of javelins and arrows,
In sleep, in confusion, in the depths of shame,
The good deeds a man has done before defend him. [206]

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Posted July 15th, 2019

Tagged: rant