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On July 4th, NPR decided to tweet the entire Declaration of Independence in 140 character segments. It reminded me of what we have in America that people in the rest of the world don't necessarily have. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The only problem with our rights is our pursuit of happiness, with all our stuff and cars and air conditioned houses is contributing to climate change. Climate change is being blamed for severe droughts and floods causing malnutrition and starvation for millions of children in places like Madagascar. It's already having a disproportionate effect on the worlds poor, especially in places like Africa.
So how can we keep pursuing our right to life, liberty, and happiness in the west without infringing on anyone else's right to food and a livable environment?
One of the solutions with the greatest potential is refrigerant management according to Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Sounds exciting right? Just kidding, refrigerant management sounds dry as hell.
It’s not a problem that most people can even begin to imagine how to tackle. The solution requires innovation, domestic policies, international diplomacy, consumer and corporate responsibility. That sounds like a giant clusterfuck of a mess if you ask me, but it's doable.
“There are weak regulations on controlling leakage of refrigerants, end-of-life recovery, and refrigerant. Further, there are no economic incentives for the recovery of refrigerants. Funding, training, technical, and informational barriers are also some of the limitations for adoption of the solution,” according to Paul Hawken, author of Drawdown.
“In order to increase adoption, policies and regulations on recycling/management of refrigerants need to be formulated and implemented. Strong regulations such as a complete ban on venting of refrigerants and accountability of refrigerants must be introduced in national legislation.”
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol addresses some of the issues, but not enough according to Hawken.
I Love AC
Refrigerators and air conditioners contain refrigerants. All I know about refrigerators and air conditioning is that when they aren’t working, I’m not a happy camper. I’m not suggesting you get rid of your AC or fridge. However, we can all get behind policies and regulations on recycling and managing refrigerants. It's easier to get behind policies that require little personal sacrifice and lots of benefits.
The thing is, I like my lifestyle. I like my StitchFix, and occasionally I like a big juicy steak, both of which contribute to global warming. Both of which are also my right to a pursuit of happiness.
So how can we all live in this world together, without infringing on others’ rights to a livable land or the latest Apple product? Some of the “solutions” to climate change are to buy less stuff or drive less. That may be right for some, but for others, it feels like a real infringement.
The reason for climate denial is not that there’s any doubt about the science. It’s that the solutions are hard and expensive. People are afraid their lifestyles will be threatened.
When we feel like our pursuit of liberty and happiness could be threatened, it's easier to deny there's a problem rather than dealing with it head on, and that stops the conversation.