Is climate change real? This will be an absurd question to our children, who will live on a very warm and very weird planet. Their lives will be worse than ours, but they will enjoy several things we lack.
- Vision. People who ignore climate science will be dead or left behind. Everyone will face the same heat when our asphalt roads melt. The old “growth at any cost” will be dead and “manage our resources” will be alive and well.
- Opportunities. Managing climate change will be the greatest opportunity for business in the history of the world. The wind and solar resources of the nearby Great Plains are an inexhaustible source of cheap, green energy. Trillions of dollars will be invested to power America from our backyard, and the work will be done in places like Springfield, Missouri.
- Shared purpose. Much like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 awakened our nation to a common threat, the perils of climate change will bring people together. Intolerance and contrived conspiracies that divide us will shrink to the dark corners of our consciousness where they belong. Young, dynamic leaders will emerge with tough-love policies that we will embrace simply because we have no other options.
- Religion. Denominations around the world will find theological excuses to care for God’s creation or they will perish. God’s true paradise is called Earth. Young people understand what’s at risk as fanciful promises meet painful reality.
- Small steps. Our best strategies are not revolutions, but nudges. All we have to do to avoid excessive suffering in a burning world is minimize carbon pollution and adapt to our new hot reality. Both these goals can be done in small steps without disruption to social order.
- Electric focus. Specifically, we should immediately begin the process to electrify everything. City Utilities of Springfield is powered by almost 50% renewable energies, and preparing for electric vehicles, heat pumps and smarter digital management of all our energy use is good business. We can avoid oil and gas shocks from foreign powers and keep more energy money here in town.
- Regional rural electrical cooperatives are much slower to understand the obvious, but someday their ancient boards will turn over and their replacements will know the value of renewable energy. For example, removing carbon from the atmosphere is practical now, but it’s expensive. Soon, it will be necessary, and we will find ways to convert the waste carbon into new products like jet fuel, polymers and fertilizer. Much of this technology – called direct air capture, aka DAC – can be based in the nearby Great Plains. Google it.
- Midwest migration. Three million years ago, volcanoes spewed carbon into the atmosphere in the same concentration we find today, raising ocean levels by hundreds of feet. When saltwater forces migration of 90 million American coastal residents, many of them will find their way to high ground known as the Ozarks. We should start preparing for this crisis and resulting opportunity.
- Technology. Laboratories around the world are developing astonishing technologies to build a low-carbon world. But they need time to commercialize their work. Most giant international corporations understand this. Because most of their leaders are not going to Mars with Elon Musk, they will help shape public opinion to do the right thing.
- Innovation. Big, old businesses will dawdle and dither as they always do. The real money in climate change will be earned by lean, nimble, smart and hungry companies – and by young people who understand science and the personal risk they face from inaction.
Dan Chiles has owned and operated companies in construction, manufacturing, real estate and farming. A former Springfield City Council member, he currently serves as board president of Renew Missouri and operates the Rockspan tree farm with family west of Springfield. He can be reached at email@example.com.