Letter: Are we responsible?

Published 7:28 am Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The United States is the second largest burner of fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions, the most significant which is carbon dioxide. We only recently gave up first place to China. The European Union, India, and Russia are right behind us in third fourth and fifth place. There are many countries throughout the world that produce no or little green house gases at all, with approximately 16 percent of the world’s population having little or no access to electricity.

Why? Because they’re poor and have no financial infrastructure to either purchase or dig up the fossil fuel that can be burned and produce carbon dioxide. Common sense and science both tell us that the poor will likely be the most hard hit victims of climate change. The Red Cross estimates that more refugees flee from environmental crisis than from violence. In the Science Daily story “Climate Refugees,” Teresita Perez says, “The average American output of CO2 carbon dioxide is 20 metric tons per year. In the rest of the world 4 metric tons is the average.” How culpable are we as individual citizens of a country that has led the way to the world’s largest disaster? Each of us will have to answer that question! In public, we will likely try to appear blameless. In private moments with our higher power looking down on us, I’m not so sure! I personally believe that our moral responsibility comes at the moment we realize the truth and what we are willing to do about it.

Why does it matter that the citizens of Austin, Minnesota, participate in climate change mitigation? One could successfully argue that our active participation would be fruitless because clearly climate solutions need to be addressed on a global level. Does that mean we should just stand around and do nothing? We could also argue that the world has faced life threatening issues before and citizens came forward regardless of the size of their community. If you visit the Historical Society building at the Fairgrounds, you’ll see the faces of our citizens participating in the most critical events of their time, such as wars, the Great Depression and the Nuclear Age. They were there for all of it, standing up and doing what they could. Maybe we should do the same? I would like to see history place my face on that same wall, not my back. My personal opinion is that climate change is mankind’s worst nightmare and we’re responsible for it!

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I am astonished to read the background material and scientific data that describes climate change and its predicted effect on humanity. In many ways I wish I would have never started researching the issue. We should all be angry. The science has been incredibly clear and has been for decades. Those who really mattered knew exactly what was going on as far back as the late 1970s and missed or ignored the chance to save us because they wanted to continue their lucrative death dance with fossil fuel. The march of public officials, fossil fuel representatives, and even scientists that found ways not to solve climate change when it was solvable is staggering! Every president as far back as Kenndy all knew this was possible and took little or no action.

In some cases, they made decisions making our fate even more precarious. The oil and gas industry recognized very early on what the burning of fossil fuel was going to do to the earth. Exxon oil company commissioned a study not to determine how they could help but how much of the Earth’s warming could be blamed on them. In the late 80s, many oil companies were responsible for spreading disinformation about climate change in hopes of developing public and congressional support for their bottom line. Like the tobacco industry, they’ve been attempting to dodge their legal and moral responsibility for decades. The industry spent billions defeating early legislative efforts to curb environmental regulations to control their poisonous industry. The federal government was fully complicit in the industries effort to keep fossil fuel alive and well. The results are not equivalent to what the tobacco industry did. This time it’s nothing short of destruction of the human race.

Wayne Goodnature

Austin, MN