I’ve noted before that too many people believe there will be a zipless fuck solution for global warming: some sort of technology or relatively painless intervention will be sufficient. It won’t be (boldface mine):
…I think Zaki misses the real issue: halting climate change, as he himself says, requires us to “dramatically alter our way of life.” This is not something most people are willing to do, regardless of empathy. We may feel tremendous empathy for the child in the well or the victim of a tornado, but we still aren’t willing to dramatically alter our way of life to help them. At most we’ll send some money to the Red Cross.
This is something that too many people don’t get. What makes climate change different from other environmental calamities isn’t that it’s bigger or farther away or difficult to see. Those things all contribute to our inaction, but the key difference is that halting climate change requires us to dramatically alter our way of life. All of us. For a very long time….
When I mention this to people, a common reaction is disbelief. You really think people will let the planet burn before they’ll give up their cars? That’s exactly what I think, because it’s happened many times before. Over and over, human civilizations have destroyed their environments because no one was willing to give up their piece of it. They knew exactly what they were doing but still couldn’t stop. They have overfished, overgrazed, overhunted, overmined, and overpolluted. They have literally destroyed their own lifeblood rather than make even modest changes to their lifestyles.
This doesn’t mean we should give up–not at all. But when we can’t even build apartment buildings near existing mass transit in cities, that doesn’t bode well for massively reducing energy use. This is a very hard problem, which is already exacerbated by the fiscal instability of the suburbs. Can we do it? Absolutely. Will we? I’m much less optimistic about that.