The 36-year-old ostrich

The prospect of unchecked climate change has been around most of my adult life. Without any convincing prospect of pre-empting it, to date.

Out of two decades and more of written and spoken comment on this great #fail, the single most profound statement was probably that of Christina Ora. A Solomon Islander, and therefore more vulnerable than most of us to a warming world and consequently rising seas, Ora stood up before climate treaty negotiators in 2009 to say: “I was born in 1992. You have been negotiating all my life. You cannot tell us that you need more time.”

Obviously, “we’re working on it but need more time” remains the official status five years later.

Still, an unforgettable remark. The disconnect between the pace of activity in treaty negotiation conferences and in the real world is so appalling it’s the kind of thing that’s laughable in other circumstances. A couple of years ago I learned that a college acquaintance who had enrolled one year before me had, after multiple expulsions and fresh starts, finally earned a degree. Almost an inspiring story of redemption, in its way. Yet I couldn’t help observing that many people had, by then, started first grade the same year as this fellow enrolled as a college freshman (1995) and since completed elementary school, middle school, high school and a college degree. I suppose in some ways that’s part of adulthood, and how things can seem to slow down and the years slip away so much more easily than in youth, but still:

When you reach a point where children have been born, learned to walk, learned to ride a bike, completed an education and joined you in the grown-up world, in the time that you’ve been theoretically working on your project… maybe you should at least consider whether you oughtn’t just step out of the way and let them have a crack at it?

That seems plausible, to me. It’s difficult to think of any more stark illustration of the ridiculous failure of so-called world leaders… or at least it was, until I read this, today:

Congress actually recognized global warming way back in 1978 with passage of the National Climate Program Act. The law aimed to “assist the Nation and the world to understand and respond to natural and man-induced climate processes and their implications.”

This isn’t exactly a shock, and doesn’t really change the big picture I suppose. I knew that the risk of anthropogenic climate change didn’t suddenly pop into conscious being in 1990; the concept of a planetary greenhouse effect has kicked around at least since the 19th century, in fact. And we’re approaching the point where, really, what’s 14 years either way? Twenty-two years’ dithering or 36 years’ dithering; inexcusable, regardless.

Still, as I was born in 1978, this timeline presents a further dismal poignancy, if only for me personally.

Dear congress*, you have been formally committed to studying and responding to man-made climate change all my life. You cannot tell me that we need more study and debate.

* And others.

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