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Feeling the Senior Climate Change Blues

It was only a matter of time before the climate change guilt police turned its gaze on our senior community. Recently, The New York Times New Old Age delivered the verdict:

America’s elderly population has been identified as "significant contributors" to climate change.

Full disclosure, I am a Baby Boomer and young at heart. But I am feeling a bit sensitive about accusations toward our older demographic.

Paula Span of the New York Times cites a Harvard Medical School study that summarized age-related energy consumption as follows:

Energy usage is lowest among young adults. It rises rapidly among 30- to 54-year olds raising families, steadies for awhile when people move into their 60s then rapidly accelerates after 70 years of age.

The trend is particularly pronounced in warmer climates as research indicates the elderly need more air conditioning (really?); they own older appliances and have less efficient equipment.

This warming, graying trend disturbs the author because older folks are not only causing these problems with blasted air-conditioning but are also more susceptible to heat-related health issues and climate-related catastrophic events. Basically, older folks are a problem all the way around.

There is no question our elderly population faces challenges, particularly if they are getting older alone. So, what are solutions recommended by the author? New technologies to assist the elderly in living well and/or making their home more efficient? No, it seems we need to reform these elderly climate criminals by recruiting them for volunteering and leadership roles in climate change environmental stewardship.

It gets better.

According to Pew Research Center, the impression that older adults don’t care about climate change refers only to Republican elders—the survey even indicates age does not so much apply as it is our Republican leanings that makes us so obtuse. Democrats of all ages seem to better understand the climate change peril.

So if we can only recruit our older and baby boomer population to stop being climate change slackers things will happen. The author also points out volunteering has been shown to increase health and well being.

Yes, let’s get back to earth now.

The thesis above is so outlandish that it is possible the author’s real concern is reflected in Gerard Baker’s excellent piece this weekend: older voters are the future.

In Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, the number of older voters exceeded the number of youthful ones by more than a million.

The majority of our aging demographic has more on their minds than climate change fears. Life is complicated. Retirement security, family and health worries are dominant. No matter our party affiliation. An estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s in 2019. This number is expected to triple in thirty years! Over 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. are women. More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with this incurable disease. The costs now total billions. Within 25 years, the costs will exceed $1 trillion.

Now, let’s look at some of our older population’s milestones. Over the last 50 years, our generation has invented the computer, integrated circuit, optical fibers, CT scanner, Shipping containers, mobile phone, the internet, and DNA sequencing, among many world-altering innovations.

How many tens of millions of lives have been saved with the invention of fossil fuels and related innovations over the last century,through better transportation, light, heating, refrigeration, hospitals and medical devices?

Blaming old people for past and future energy consumption, complaining, threatening and proclaiming doom for our older generation accomplishes very little in the quest for clean energy.

This not an editorial about climate change —it is a simple, honest reminder that game-changing technological advancement requires obsessive effort, brilliant insight, endless work, focus, investment, research, agonizing frustration, failure, luck, and many more unimaginably difficult hurdles. That is why we revere our great inventors.

No conference, International accord, documentary or editorial can get around the reality of the genius necessary to invent, develop and distribute that new Big thing—just like every other innovation.

When will this obvious fact be accepted?

However much one would have tried to reason with a horse 110 years ago, it could never turn into a Model T Ford. There will be a cleaner energy future. I have experienced first hand the wonder and patience of those trying to build and innovate it.

Technology always moves forward. And with our free markets and less pointless strife, it can move faster to address many challenges. Let us respect the accomplishments of older generations and anticipate the productive prospects of those in our nation’s future.