The Norman Transcript

Columns

April 14, 2013

Germany leads U.S. on climate change odyssey

NORMAN — Our country inspired the world with its civil rights transformation, sent a man to the moon, and led the personal computer revolution; we can and must do better on climate change. The scientific consensus is clear: global warming is happening and is human-caused. A recent review of nearly 14,000 peer-reviewed articles on the subject found that only 24 (0.17 percent) rejected climate change.  Yet in part because of disinformation campaigns funded by special interests, many people simply reject the science. Thus a crisis that threatens humanity as a whole has become here a partisan issue. A January CNN poll indicated that only 28 percent of Republicans acknowledge human-caused climate change. Compare that with the rest of the world: a 2012 Ipsos poll of 13,000 people in 13 countries (Eastern and Western, wealthy and poor) found that 77 percent overall recognize climate change as a proven scientific fact.

For the sake of perspective, it’s worth a look at Germany, which has been governed by conservative-led coalitions since 2005. 

A country once stereotyped as inflexible and pessimistic is now leading the globe in the transition to renewable energies while maintaining a healthy economy and strong support across the political spectrum. Here’s what that commitment looks like: in 1990 renewable sources accounted for 3 percent of Germany’s total electricity consumption; by 2012 renewable sources supplied 22 percent. The pledge for 2020 is 35 percent, for 2050 80 percent, which, in combination with other efforts, will result in a 95 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. The Germans, undeterred by their overcast skies, lead the world in solar capacity, largely through private investments. Meanwhile, conservation and the demand for new energy are driving extraordinary innovation. Germany stands to reap tremendous economic benefits, while our country is getting left behind.

Of course Germany has its own distinct circumstances shaping its response.

Like other European countries, it has had to face its finite land mass and natural resources and tends to plan carefully for the future.  Germany also has a traditional respect for science. Its politicians debate policy, not the legitimacy of scientific findings. But perhaps most importantly, the catastrophe of the Nazi period left Germans with a strong sense of social and moral urgency and a conviction that it is not acceptable to close one’s eyes to unfolding disaster. Germans who lived through that time were later asked by their children and grandchildren, “What did you do about it?”; Germans today expect to hear the same question from future generations about climate change. 

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014

  • Tax those trees out of here

    I read your editorial “Pesky red cedars” in the Norman Transcript of Tuesday, July 15, 2014. I have attended two meetings where the problem of the eastern red cedar trees was discussed. Because of the drought conditions in Oklahoma, we ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Make gun safety a health issue

    Quick, are you more likely to die by a bullet or in a car crash? Common sense would seem to suggest the latter. Cars are everywhere. We are an auto-obsessed nation. To be American is to drive — everywhere. Teenagers itch to get behind the ...

    July 20, 2014

  • They just want to be free ... maybe

    Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, rattled many cages this month when he announced in parliament that the KRG would be moving ahead soon on a referendum on independence from Iraq. If Kurdistan goes ahead ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Congress must accelerate solutions

    Congress has roused itself, at the last minute, and now is scrambling to save the Highway Trust Fund. Better late than never. Better still will be if lawmakers agree to come up with the money to prevent the fund from becoming insolvent. ...

    July 20, 2014

  • The heavy burden of college aid

    Return on investment is a clear measure of what you get for your money. Incredibly, the federal government doesn’t apply that simple concept to the $137 billion a year it spends on college financial aid....

    July 19, 2014

  • James bears weight of Cav’s dreams

    LeBron James has done it all on a basketball court. He’s a great scorer, rugged defender, proven big-play leader and champion. But that might not be enough in Cleveland, where he’ll also need the powers of Merlin the Magician....

    July 17, 2014

  • Steve Boaz.jpg Breathing Rhythm Studio a center for creativity

    Recording engineer Steve Boaz has brought his musical ambitions to fulfillment in a downtown Norman studio.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Matt Lauer is so last century

    How about we rename “The Today Show” the “Yesterday Show” since host Matt Lauer asks questions from 1953? Isn’t what Lauer asked GM CEO Mary Barra about whether she’ll do “well” at being simultaneously an executive and a mom about, oh, 30 ...

    July 14, 2014

  • Religion’s role shrinking

    Surveying the response to last month’s Hobby Lobby decision, I was struck by a comment from progressive Massachusetts senator and possible Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren....

    July 12, 2014