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An incomplete view of the future

John Sandberg | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I like Paul Ryan. I like that he is a leader with ideas and not just a loud voice and argumentative demeanor. I like that he views reducing the federal debt and enacting sound economic policy not only as responsibilities that come with being an elected official, but as moral responsibilities his generation owes to the generations which will come after him.
But as much as I respect Ryan for his willingness to put forth a concrete economic plan, I can’t help but find his talk of working to leave behind a better country ironic considering he is one of several members of Congress who continues to deny the facts surrounding climate change. Global warming, if left unchecked, will have disastrous effects on the future generations of Americans, who Ryan champions. Economic strength is an important issue and will continue to be one, but the future entails much more.
Two weeks ago, Brad Plumer of The Washington Post summarized Ryan’s track record on environmental issues and highlighted how Ryan has (among other things) voted to block efforts by the EPA to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, as well as disregarded the work of non-partisan climatologists. If the climbing annual temperatures, unforgiving droughts and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns of the past couple years are not enough to convince some of the reality of global warming, another story by Plumer in The Washington Post last year described how the consensus within the scientific community on man-made climate change is growing even stronger.
It’s ironic Ryan claims to care about the country he will be leaving behind for the next generation, yet is so willing to block others’ efforts to combat a different problem of monumental significance.
While Democrats typically champion themselves as defenders of environmental causes and alternative energy projects, there has still been little to no talk in this election about serious alternative energy plans for the country’s future. I understand this election is about the economy, and for good reason. Try finding someone who is unemployed and searching for a job, and convince him or her the federal government’s top concern should be reducing carbon emissions. You probably wouldn’t get too far.
While it’s unrealistic, even foolish, to propose the fight against global warming should be objective No. 1 in Washington, the fact remains – more must be done about this very seriously problem. If nothing else, our most prominent national figures could begin by giving global warming the attention it warrants.
The supposition that policy makers must choose between the interests of environmentalists and business owners, effectively pleasing one side and hanging the other out to dry, is as naïve as it is untrue. Who’s to say we can’t build a stronger economy and cleaner environment?
There was a time when America prided itself on being the world’s solution center. Is that a standard we can’t expect to meet again? Surely we have not reached our intellectual capacity as a nation. A favorite line among politicians in recent years has been, “It’s time for America to lead again.” Why not let green business and effective, clean energy production be our starting points?
My frustration over this issue glosses over one stark reality – there are no easy solutions when it comes to global warming. But before battling the problem, let alone fixing it, government leaders and citizens alike must consciously choose to head towards a future that includes cleaner energy production and less dependence on dirty fuel.
This election is about many issues, climate change being one of unrecognized importance. To be honest, I still don’t know who I’ll vote for. When November does arrive though, I’ll be punching my ballot with the feeling my selection is not doing enough to promote a cleaner future, as well as the hope it will change.
John Sandberg is a junior political science major from Littleton, Colo. He can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.