Generation Gap

There’s a tendency to assume that the age polarization in elections basically just reflects stylistic considerations. And clearly there’s something to that idea. But look at the end of this op-ed on climate change by Carlos Pascual and Strobe Talbott:

Many Americans will accept that logic, and make real changes, only if they believe greenhouse gas emissions will affect them personally. Today’s adults, even if they will not be around at mid-century, must think about the fate of their children and grandchildren. Obama can look to his two daughters, and McCain to his four grandchildren. They are among nearly 75 million Americans — and 2.2 billion people worldwide — younger than 18. That generation will be in its 40s or 50s when one of two things happens: Either the temperature of the planet warms more than 4.5 degrees and vast regions slide toward being uninhabitable, or the wisdom of the next president and his fellow leaders around the world pays off in the ultimate reward — survival.

This “think of the grandkids” idea is neat, but obviously it’s easier to think of yourself. A lot of people who are alive today will be dead in 30-40 years when climate change starts to have really persistently terrible consequences . . . but then there’s another whole bunch of us who are planning to still be alive. That kind of thing can give you a very different perspective on how much we should care about taking action now to forestall problems in 2045.