It has been quoted to death that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. While its practically cliché and is the epitome of common sense, still, human beings are just gluttons for punishment. We are currently facing a paradox with the climate change summit and our current state of affairs.
Beginning Nov. 30 and for the following two weeks, over 30,000 world leaders will be convening in Paris over climate change and to create a global pact that would commit nearly every country on the planet to enact new policies to reduce greenhouse emissions, known to be a primary cause of global warming. With global warming come severe weather and dangerous environmental impacts that significantly hurt all life. This summit is not only historical in the fact that it’s the first global effort to slow and even to aim to reverse the direction of climate change, but it’s the largest collaboration to date. It’s truly an awe-inspiring feat. At the same time, however, current headlines are a bit frustrating. For instance, our dependence on oil.
When gas prices started to skyrocket in 2008 and then again in 2012, coincidentally, it seems, there was a consensus that we should be eco-friendly and do our part to reduce gas emissions by purchasing hybrid and electric-powered vehicles. This was a great time in our effort to slow the course of climate change and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, the average consumer apparently wasn’t really gung-ho about our global climate, as pocketbooks, with the current rapid decline in gasoline prices, are painting a different picture.
Just days before the summit in Paris, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that for the first time since 2010, gas consumption was higher than the year before, a 5 percent increase in the period from June to August this year over 2014 for the same time period, and the largest 12-month increase over the year before since 1983, when the administration began tracking data. Also, SUV and pickup truck sales are growing in the double digits while fuel-efficient car sales declined by 2 percent. Did we lose our love for the planet or did we just not like the financial burden of high gas prices?
While not devastating news, California State Water Boards reported on Tuesday, Dec. 1, that “in October, when outdoor water use —and the opportunity for significant savings — typically drops off from the hot summer months, the statewide conservation rate was 22.2 percent, down from 26.4 percent in September.” It’s clear that we are still conserving, but we went the opposite direction and did worse when we should have done better, apparently just because of the changing season. Are Californians tiring of the doomsday drought scenario and just neglecting to observe the governor’s 25 percent conservation mandate?
It’s all a bit perplexing why people keep going backward, especially when they are in a prime position to move forward and get ahead of the next cyclical gas price spike and alarming drought crisis. We just keep taking one step forward and two steps backward but the reasons for this phenomenon are not clear other than the fact, we just won’t learn from our mistakes.
While not all have reversed course on their environmentally friendly endeavors, we are troubled that so many have lost track of where we have been over the last few years. We hope those who are on the eco-friendly path will stay the course and not get sidetracked. For those who have fallen off the wagon, we look forward to the return of high gas prices only to refresh their minds and refocus the effort toward reducing our impact on our global climate in the long run.