Dhaka, Bangladesh
World needs political will to fight climate change

Off the track

World needs political will to fight climate change

Jeffrey D. Sachs

In most of the world today, the purposes of politics, economics, and technology have been debased. The climate crisis we now face is a reflection of a broader crisis: a global confusion of means and ends. We continue to use fossil fuels because we can (means), not because they are good for us (ends). This confusion is why Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew are spurring us to think deeply about what is truly good for humanity, and how to attain it. Last month, the pope and patriarch each convened business, scientific, and academic leaders, in Rome and Athens, respectively, to hasten the transition from fossil fuels to safe renewable energy. In most of the world today, the purposes of politics, economics, and technology have been debased. Politics is regarded as a no-holds-barred fight for power, economics as a ruthless scramble for wealth, and technology as the magic elixir for more economic growth. In truth, according to Francis and Bartholomew, we need politics, economics, and technology to serve a far greater purpose than power, wealth, or economic growth. We need them to promote human wellbeing today and for future generations. America may be the most confused of all. The US today is rich beyond imagining, with median household income and gross domestic product per capita each equal to nearly $60,000. The US could have it all. Instead, what it has is widening income inequality, falling life expectancy, a rising suicide rate, and epidemics of obesity, opioid overdoses, school shootings, depressive disorders, and other grave ills. The US incurred $300 billion in losses from climate-related disasters last year, including three massive hurricanes - the frequency and intensity of which has risen, owing to fossil-fuel dependence. The US has vast power, wealth, and growth, and yet diminished wellbeing. The US economy and politics are in the hands of corporate lobbies, including Big Oil. Resources are relentlessly allocated to developing more oil and gas fields not because they are good for America or the world, but because the shareholders and managers of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco Philipps, and others demand it. Trump and his minions work daily to undermine global agreements and domestic regulations that have been put in place to accelerate the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

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