Public opinion on climate just tipped
One of the hallmarks of tipping points is that you don’t know when you’re in one. There’s growing agreement that peak oil, for example, happened between 2004 and 2008. Still, you’re never sure about such inflection points until well after the fact.
This week, though, sure feels like the tipping point on public opinion on climate, and so I’m going to stick a fork in it right here, folks. Climate opinion just tipped. Why do I say that? In the last week:
- Australia, with huge coal reserves — but rapidly passing the Arctic as ground zero for climate impacts with epic fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and dust storms — passed a carbon credit law, with a tax coming up next.
- Canada rolled out regulations that will likely phase out coal by mid-century.
- Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” research was once and for all vindicated.
- Prominent Republicans like Jon Hunstman and Chris Christie agree that climate science is real, and there’s even pressure within the GOP to not become the anti-science party. In fact, when Rick Perry denied climate science, he wasn’t just censured by some Republicans, he was instantly and vigorously debunked by the Washington Post.
- The press is finally doing its job by calling deniers like Rick Perry out on their climate claims.
- Last and most important, prominent intellectuals, scholars, and youth (the people who always make up revolutions and are regularly jailed in less freedom-friendly countries) were arrested and imprisoned for peaceful protest in our nation’s capital, and kept overnight on the eve of the national dedication of a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is a gift. What more could an activist ask for than for all these things to happen at once — to wind up in jail, just like Dr. King in Birmingham, and to have it all happen on the eve of a national dedication to this great man who would certainly have seen our cause as his own: about poverty, and intergenerational justice, and equality. Dr. King tragically and prophetically said that he might not get there with us, but that he had seen the promised land.
But he did get there with us. Because from public opinion comes policy. And that suggests that, indeed, the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Get Grist in your inbox