This is not a video about climate change, we’re not going to go into the data to figure out whether global warming is happening or not Because it is And if you’re not on board with that reality by now, I’m not going to be the one to convince you I’m not a climatologist and there are entire channels dedicated to that topic So, if you’re a climate change denier or “skeptic,” feel free to drop a dislike on your way out… Because the adults are talking and we’re going to figure out what to do about it This video was brought to you by CuriosityStream and Nebula The modern history of climate and environmental policy in the United States starts in 1955 with the Air Pollution Control Act Despite the name, it didn’t actually control anything It declared air pollution to be a danger to public health and provided the US Public Health Service with funds to research the problem and disseminate that information to the states… so they can decide what to do Because states are amazing at handling public health crises As you may have guessed, that didn’t work out too well back then either and less than a decade later, the federal government realized they were going to have to do something Because at this point, there were no regulations at all A few cities had enacted smoke ordinances, but that doesn’t stop a factory from being set up just on the other side of that magic line And air pollution doesn’t respect city limits We needed a broader solution to this problem and make no mistake, in the 1950s and 60s, it was a problem – way too much of that smog is from leaded gasoline Which is a crazy story for another time In 1963, the Clean Air Act was passed, which gave the Public Health Service the authority to monitor and control air pollution at the federal level This laid the foundation for most of the regulations that are still enforced today Now if you want to build a factory, you have to get the proper permits and inform the government about any pollutants you’ll be creating and how you’re going to reduce and control their spread Within a few years, the air went from looking like this to… well, go look outside You should probably still wear a mask, but at least now it’s not because of the smog A few years later in 1969 – nice – the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire This was about the tenth time it had happened this century because all the factories in the area used it as a dumping ground for their industrial waste Including petrochemicals and cyanide Since this was such a common occurrence, nobody really cared until Time magazine and National Geographic did major stories on it a few months later The outrage that followed forced the federal government to act In 1970, President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA; any pollution control or environmental regulations that had previously been handled by the Public Health Service were transferred to them Their first official task was to clean up the water In 1972 they passed the Clean Water Act, which established water quality standards and provided federal funds to the states for projects like wastewater treatment facilities This is one of the most popular and effective laws we’ve ever passed And in 1976, they started regulating pesticide use; runoff from a farm can contaminate a river just as much as an oil refinery Despite what some people might tell you, pesticides are not safe for human consumption You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you These first few years of the EPA are important, because they primarily focused on problems the average person can see with their own eyes You can see smog, you can see rivers on fire, and while you can’t necessarily see pesticides, you can see their immediate effect Ahh! Once they took care of the obvious problems, they shifted their attention towards more abstract, long-term issues Most notably, the stratospheric ozone layer Now this is a bit of chemistry I think most of us can understand But I’m still going to way oversimplify it Every molecule of oxygen has two bonding sites and they want to be bonded to something, it’s pretty rare to find a single molecule of oxygen floating around Sometimes, it’s another oxygen, which is the air you breathe But other times, a third oxygen fits in there, forming a triad that we call ozone Which is pretty much the only reason there’s life outside of the ocean The stratospheric ozone layer blocks around 98% of the sun’s ultraviolet light, without it, you’d sunburn instantly and get all the cancer It’s basically the strongest sunscreen imaginable During the 70s, a number of scientists discovered that a few man-made chemicals could fit into that third slot, preventing the formation of ozone and eventually depleting the ozone layer And in 1985, they discovered the Antarctic Ozone Hole Remember the ozone hole? It didn’t take very long for the EPA to figure out the main culprit, a group of chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs Typically used in aerosols and refrigerants This discovery led to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the first time the entire world got together
to fix an environmental issue with legally binding enforcement It is one of only four universally-agreed-to treaties The resulting phase-out of CFCs is why we don’t talk about the ozone hole anymore – it still exists and will likely continue to exist until 2070 – but we’ve more or less solved the problem By swapping it with another problem It was the chlorine part of chlorofluorocarbons that disrupted the formation of ozone, so everyone switched over to hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs Which is a greenhouse gas… whoops Greenhouse gases trap more of the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, slowly heating up the planet This is where I’m going to start losing people, which is unfortunate Everything the EPA had done up to this point involved things that people could easily understand or see the effects of within a few years But greenhouse gases are invisible In 1990, a few amendments to the Clean Air Act were passed to address these emissions, as well as ozone depletion and acid rain Wow, memba acid rain? I grew up thinking acid rain was some new weather phenomenon I was going to have to worry about for the rest of my life But apparently, regulation worked All through the 90s, the United States took environmental protection pretty seriously, even establishing the Office of Environmental Justice in 1992 Because pollution tends to affect poor and minority communities the most If some corporation wants to build a rubber dog poop factory in your neighborhood, you’re probably going to use your money and influence to stop that from happening This is known as NIMBY or Not In My Backyard But if they decide to build it on the other side of the tracks, where people don’t have as much political connections… Do you see where I’m going with this? Environmental Justice at least tries to make them build it downwind or install extra safety features, they won’t stop the factory from being built, though People still need their rubber dog poop apparently 1992 was also the year that the world decided to come together to address greenhouse gas emissions, forming the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Another treaty that had universal agreement The stated objective of the treaty is the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Starting in 1995, the convention established an annual meeting of the parties to discuss their progress and assess what further actions needed to be taken The 1997 conference resulted in the Kyoto Protocol They agreed that global warming is happening and it’s extremely likely that humans are the cause of it, so we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions Including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and our new friend – HFCs It was a legally binding resolution that established penalties for not meeting your reduction targets, which sounds like a good idea… But that was also the reason it fell apart The United States initially agreed to the Protocol, but according to the Constitution, all treaties need to be ratified by the senate, which didn’t happen Once George W. Bush became president, it was over Without the participation of the United States, the Protocol didn’t gain enough international support All of the countries in green and purple signed the treaty and at least attempted to follow through, all of the blue countries signed the treaty, but didn’t have any binding targets since they were classified as economies in transition Canada was originally part of the Protocol, but as the end of the first commitment period approached, they realized they weren’t going to hit their target and withdrew to avoid paying the penalty Bush’s election and subsequent withdrawal from Kyoto is what really started the climate change denial movement Both the EPA and the Office of Environmental Justice were gutted And climate change was repositioned as a theory rather than a fact Or, I’m sorry, global warming, I can never keep it straight It’s why- remember how it used to be called global warming and then magically the theory changed to climate change? Sure This is a very common denialist talking point and they blame it on the wrong people It was originally called global warming, but it wasn’t the environmentalists that switched the name to climate change It was republican strategist Frank Luntz in 2001 It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation” instead of preservation “Climate change’’ is less frightening than “global warming.” … Climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge He’s since come out to say he was wrong – but the damage was done At this point, the fossil fuel industry had gone into overdrive to sway public opinion and they did a pretty good job of it There’s a reason we’re the only country that still has this debate Most Gen Xers and Millennials grew up learning about climate change in school Anyone older than that needed some education So in 2006, Al Gore released a documentary called An Inconvenient Truth I am Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America… I don’t find that particularly funny It was primarily an awareness campaign designed to get people politically involved and possibly get the United States back into the Kyoto Protocol But as we all know, it didn’t work Most of the backlash to the film stemmed from the fact that it was Al Gore who was saying
it He was accused of making it up for attention, most notably by South Park Some people say that Manbearpig isn’t real Well I’m here to tell you now, Manbearpig is very real and he most certainly exists I’m serial That episode came out one month before An Inconvenient Truth It kind of makes me wonder how the film would have been received and where we might have ended up politically if South Park hadn’t poisoned the well first Hey we apologized for that No… you didn’t Yeah huh, there was an episode where Manbearpig turned out to be real and we apologized to Al Gore for making fun of him Yeah, what happened at the end of that episode? We signed an agreement with Manbearpig to… Yeah, you went from completely denying climate change to “climate change is happening and there’s nothing we can do about it.” A few years ago, a sequel was released which detailed the political struggle of getting all the countries in the world to agree to the Paris Climate Accords The Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ended in 2012, and while they tried to renew it in 2015, that took a back seat to the much larger Paris Agreement Which doesn’t have any legally binding enforcement or penalties, each country sets its own targets and finds its own way to reduce emissions The US initially agreed to it, and I’d love to tell you what our targets were But just like Kyoto, once a new president took office, they decided to withdraw, so there wouldn’t be any point China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020 Think of it: India can double their coal production We’re supposed to get rid of ours This is a common talking point and it stems from the idea that the clock started for every country at the same time When it didn’t We went through our industrial revolution almost a century ago, while other countries didn’t get the ball rolling until after World War 2 And even more countries are just starting now It’s not because they’re inferior, in many cases, their economies were actively suppressed until they gained independence Or we bombed them back to the starting line The Paris Agreement opened up monetary channels and reduced-rate loans to help those developing countries transition away from coal sooner Which Trump portrayed like this India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries Those were loans, not handouts Technically, the United States can’t withdraw until November 2020, but in practice, Trump has enacted a number of policies that go against the agreement Without the penalties, there’s nothing to stop him So in 2019, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party introduced the Green New Deal, which was a set of goals and aspirations, not legislation It’s probably more helpful to talk about what it isn’t first PragerU – which is not a university, but a right-wing youtube channel – put a lot of energy into portraying the Green New Deal as negatively as possible They put out this list of five things it will do, but since this is a non-binding resolution, not legislation, every point is a bit of a stretch No, it will not take away your cars, or air travel, or even hamburgers So no, not seriously This last point is the one I want to focus on – that it will cost Americans untold trillions PragerU leaves it at untold, but other right-wing thinktanks like the Heritage Foundation have come up with a price tag And by the way, it’s going to cost 93 trillion dollars Who’s- who can pay for this? 93 trillion? Like with a ch? Is- is that even a real number? Okay, so the first omission is that it’s 93 trillion over the course of ten years But how did they come up with that number? The Green New Deal is only fourteen pages long, I’ve read it multiple times now and it doesn’t mention cost anywhere, the American Action Forum is responsible for that 93 trillion figure and they based it on a number of assumptions For example, the bill says that… It is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal to create millions of good, high-wage jobs They took that to mean an increase in minimum wage from 7.25 an hour to 15, multiplied that out for 10 years… then assumed that the taxpayers would be on the hook for it This accounts for the 44 trillion of that 93 trillion dollar price tag, just under half To achieve the Green New Deal goals and mobilization, a Green New Deal will require the following goals and projects… providing all people of the United States with high-quality healthcare How much do they think high-quality healthcare will cost? 36 trillion over ten years Meaning that the actual climate policies proposed in this deal would only cost 13 trillion, or rather, 1.3 trillion a year, which is a lot, but barely more than what we spend on the military Who’s- who can pay for this? And where do they think that money will go? PragerU portrays it as going from the people to this little angry guy, who then flushes
it down the toilet… but remember, half of that figure is from minimum wage increases and new jobs I’ve said this before, but that money doesn’t just disappear, it ends up circulating in the economy And don’t even get me started on healthcare – I’ve already made that video The Green New Deal recognizes that it is too late to incrementally solve this problem, we need bold action And the cost of doing nothing will be much more than 93 trillion dollars The ultimate goal of the Green New Deal is for America to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, which the UN says we need to do globally by 2050 Net-zero carbon emissions does not mean no emissions at all It just means we cancel out whatever pollution we create by growing forests and other carbon sinks With the hope of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Though most scientists say we should keep it below 1.5… But since we didn’t listen, that isn’t looking so good right now So what are our options? First, let’s talk about clean coal, and then immediately stop talking about it, because it’s not a thing What people usually mean when they say that is carbon capture Before you get excited, no, it doesn’t work like it does in Civ 6, you can’t just click a button or place a building that sucks carbon out of the air What carbon capture actually means is that they put a device in or near the factory that captures some, but not all, of the emissions It’s basically like the filter on the end of a cigarette but even less effective “Cap and trade” is another buzz phrase that gets thrown around as a possible solution But it requires a few other mechanisms to work In the United States, it is currently free to pollute the atmosphere with as much carbon dioxide as you want Cap and trade would put a cap on that For the sake of an example, let’s say the government decides that everyone in the country is allowed to put five tons of carbon into the air You have five carbon credits Now let’s say you don’t really need all five, you only need one… meanwhile the person across the street pollutes like crazy and wants to buy your unused credits This is the trade part of cap and trade Sounds like a pretty good deal right? Nothing changes for you and you even get a little extra money out of it Well… no The problem with this system is that nobody really reduced in the end, they’re emitting 9 tons and you emitted one It’s the same as it was before, collectively you’re still at ten And if you want to raise the stakes a little, pretend you’re a small developing country and your neighbor is a western, industrialized one They get to keep doing what they’re doing, while you can’t grow your economy at all There are a number of terms for this on the international scale, but my current favorite is “Carbon Colonialism.” It’s just another way to keep the status quo Developing nations need to meet the energy demands of their population, which is why they’re allowed to build new coal plants While the US is supposed to transition to cleaner sources The most common fuel we transition to is natural gas, which is just a nicer way to say methane; it’s a little cleaner, but it’s still a fossil fuel It’s like switching from butter to margarine Sure, it has less saturated fat, but it’s the same amount of calories and you’ll probably end up eating more of it because you think it’s healthier So what about renewables? Well, much like “clean,” the definition of the word “renewable” has been stretched to the breaking point Depending on who you ask, hydropower may or may not be renewable Solar and wind are definitely renewable, but the technology used to collect and convert it is absolutely not Solar and wind farms only last a few years before they need to be replaced They’re obviously unreliable and even at peak efficiency, they have to be supplemented by another power source Usually coal or natural gas And here’s the real kicker – they will likely never be enough to meet our energy demands, not even with a better battery And not with kinetic storage either Maybe someday, but that technology is so far into the future, you might as well be talking about Mars colonies A few days ago, on Earth Day, Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs released a documentary called Planet of the Humans, which discusses the many problems with solar and wind energy, including the massive amounts of toxic waste it produces But the primary target of the film is biomass energy, which is just a nicer way to say wood You don’t need a degree in chemistry to understand that wood is way less energy dense than coal You’d have to burn way more of it to produce the same amount of electricity, and unlike growing trees for paper, growing trees for biomass energy is not sustainable At least not on a large scale, your wood stove is probably fine I definitely do not recommend watching this documentary though, because around the halfway mark, it takes a rather weird turn There are too many human beings using too much too fast As a global community we really have got to start dealing with the issue of population Population growth continues to be the, not the elephant, the herd of elephants in the room I can’t believe I have to say this to someone who is supposedly on the left, but overpopulation is not a thing And it was never a thing Again, this stems from the misconception that every country started its industrial clock
at the same time We had our baby boom in the 40s and 50s, they’re having theirs now The people who study this for a living say that the human population will level off between 10 and 12 billion, because as countries develop, their birth rates drop Why do you think everyone on in the alt-right is freaking out about birth rates? So it’s really strange to see this doomer mindset in someone on the other end of the political spectrum Without seeing some sort of major die off in population, there’s no turning back That’s the message of this documentary So I suppose our only option is to give up and get back in the pile Just as a sidenote, we already produce enough food to support that many people, we just end up throwing most of it away because the main problem is transportation The real question is how do we meet the energy demands of all these people? Because the people that you referred to earlier, both on the left and the right, that think that we’re going to be able to discover more oil or solar panel ourselves into the future… where live will look pretty much like it does now, you know, only cleaner and better – either with more oil or greener- or both Right, I think that’s frankly delusional Dang, if only there was some third option that we’ve known about for decades, but is conspicuously never even discussed throughout the entire 100 minute runtime of this movie Nuclear, I’m talking about nuclear This might come as a bit of a shock to you, but when it comes to nuclear power, you have been lied to your entire life It is the cleanest and safest form of energy we have When it comes to this topic, I absolutely recommend the documentary Pandora’s Promise Link below Nuclear power does create a small amount of radioactive waste, but it’s safely contained and usually stored on site Fossil fuel waste just blows into the atmosphere In fact, all the spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear plants in the United States could fit in a single football field if you stacked the fuel rods to a height of about three meters – that’s it Fossil fuels render way more land as useless… Oh yeah, memba Chernobyl? You weren’t even alive during Chernobyl Well… I saw the show Did you miss the part where they spent years cleaning it up, put a sarcophagus over it, and then turned Pripyat into a tourist attraction? … People live there now Well- well, it still killed like thousands of peo- Oh my- What? If you added up all of the deaths from the three major nuclear accidents on the planet, and you used the anti-nuclear propaganda numbers, not the actual numbers- It still wouldn’t even hold a candle the amount of people who die from fossil fuel extraction every single year Well yeah but radiation takes a long time to- Do you have any idea what air pollution does to your body? Bro, why are you so mad? Because I’ve been lied to my entire life when it comes to nuclear, from both directions, and I’m tired of it Yes, there are risks and limitations to nuclear But the goal should be harm reduction, not elimination, we’re never going to get to zero deaths Sounds like you need to relax, maybe watch something to take your mind off of it Do you have any suggestions? … Yes, yes I do You should go to curiositystream.com/knowingbetter CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming service that offers thousands of documentaries and non-fiction titles that you can access across multiple platforms Like Deep Ocean, narrated by David Attenborough! Dude, a nature documentary? I thought you said this would take my mind off all this climate stuff Oh, right, well if you sign up using the link below link, you’ll also get access to Nebula, the new streaming service built by fellow youtubers which includes several original series like Working Titles, where different creators talk about their favorite TV show opening credits Why have I been dressing up like these characters? Because I made an episode all about South Park – despite how hard I went on them in this video, I actually still love the show It’s scheduled for release next week, so check it out on Nebula by also signing up for CuriosityStream, when you use the promocode “knowingbetter” at check out, you’ll also get the first month for free If the entire planet was moving down a freeway, climate change is a merge left sign And the United States is the car that just flies by everyone expecting to be let in at the last moment Everyone hates that car The lane is closed, we have to move over eventually and thinking that we can just take our ball and go home isn’t going to work anymore There are plenty of other countries with the balls to take our place If we keep acting like this, we may find that we’re just not invited to stuff anymore This concept is known as soft power and we used to have a lot of it The United States can and should be leading the way on slowing and reversing climate change There are solutions to this problem Transitioning will be difficult and expensive, but it’ll be a whole lot easier than building miles of seawall and sacrificing millions of people Even if you don’t believe in climate change, we should do it anyway The United States used to do stuff just to show off that we could, we went to the moon for crying out loud, we should be the first again, because now, you know better Hey, you know that music you’re listening to right now? Want to listen to it all the time? Well it’s currently available on Amazon and Spotify in the links below
If you’d like to add your name to this list of climate activists, head on over to patreon.com/knowingbetter Don’t forget to capture that subscribe button, follow me on twitter and facebook, and join us on the subreddit!