basu73_Jahi ChikwendiuThe Washington Post via Getty Images_gretathunberg Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Glasgow, Greta, and Good Intentions

With climate action trailing so far behind rhetoric, it is natural to wonder if all the talk is just hypocrisy. But it need not be: If we want to bequeath a livable planet to future generations, it is crucial to understand why there may be a disjuncture between what each person intends to do and what the group actually delivers.

ITHACA – Both anxiety and hope are increasing in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. There is anxiety because, barring a handful of the willfully blind, we can all see the damage we are doing to the planet. Fires, floods, and rising sea levels are creating havoc around the world, while environmental destruction and the resulting conflict are triggering large-scale refugee movements that evoke biblical images.

But there is also hope, because some – not least the climate activist Greta Thunberg, with her longstanding and heartening call for more ambitious action – recognize the scale of the challenge facing humanity. In that spirit, the European Union has launched the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

The United States also aims to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, and recently announced that it would double its financial contribution to help developing countries tackle the climate crisis, to $11.4 billion per year. Some US lawmakers, notably Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, have proposed a Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to redesign the US economy and eventually eliminate all US carbon dioxide emissions.

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