Reading stories like this one about how a growing number of U.S. citizens question man’s role in global climate change has me worried about not only the future of the world, but also the level of intelligence and education amongst not only the doubters, but also the legislators who seem to be guided by short-sighted monetary concerns.

Global climate change is real. The scientific community, which used to be somewhat varied in their conclusions on man’s role in accelerating climate change, is now fairly unified in the conclusion that mankind’s largely unchecked desire for big industry and big money has resulted in massive shifts in the ecosystem. The level of pollutants and other substances being introduced into the ecosystem by man overwhelms the earth’s ability to react to these activities, and as such the global systemic balance has been tipped.

According to most scientists, we are at a crucial, final point where global climate change can be slowed down to more “natural” levels, so long as countries engage in serious systemic and behavioral changes. And many countries have started to change their ways and be more future-thinking.

Sadly, the United States has never been willing to be part of needed change, even though we are one of the greatest consumers of climate-negative goods and practices. Why has the U.S. been on the wrong side of this argument? Greed and misinformation, much of which has been perpetuated by non-stop fear mongering on the part of conservative politicians, big (polluting) industry, right-wing noise media, and disreputable scientists.

Americans, by and large, fear sacrifice and change. They may say that “change is good,” but when asked to truly change behaviors and routines, there’s often a sense of “it’s not my problem – let the other guys battle it out.” And the fear mongers lap this up, trying to debunk sound science via obfuscation and the threat that “all the jobs will go away,” or that “your taxes will go up,” or that “you won’t be able to afford the cheap crap you get at Walmart.”

The saddest part is that the supporters of these politicians and industries lap this all up and parrot these ideas AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE, as if volume levels were synonymous with truth. It’s a very sad state.

I’m most enraged with the politicians who buy this bunk. They could be leaders, they could think beyond their next electoral cycle and ask the question: are you making the world a better place for future generations? And I honestly believe that very few of these politicians ever ask that question of themselves, or that they truly care about their constituents beyond getting their votes the next time they’re up for election. My message to these politicians: grow a set, be willing to be leaders and vote for the future, not the present.

Yes, there will be sacrifice. Behavioral change isn’t easy, especially on a societal level. There are a lot of modern “conveniences” that are destructive, at least as they are practiced now. However, when asked to sacrifice in the past, the people of the United States have been able to adapt and, in the process, discover that the new ways of doing things are often better and, amazingly, more logical and convenient. It’s simply a matter of being creative, taking initiative, thinking about more than just personal preservation in the here-and-now, and realizing how finite everything really is in terms of the hunk of rock we all inhabit.

I try to do my best to ensure that I leave the world in better shape than it was when I was born. Bit by bit, I’m changing the way I interact with the world to try and minimize the negative effect a modern lifestyle has on the environment. If it means that I pay a bit more to buy food that is produced by more eco-friendly processes, I’m willing to do it (and I do). If it means that I need to pay more taxes to help subsidize the construction of more mass transit and railroads, or to fund the development of cleaner energy sources, I’m happy to do so. If it means that I take fewer long-distance flights, that’s fine. If it means adapting to the different quality of LED and CF lights, bring it on. And if it means not driving my own car for every errand, visit, business trip or vacation, that’s just fine by me.

And I know I’m not alone.

And I hope that President Obama takes charge at the Global Climate Conference. We are at the final bail-out point before climate change will accelerate beyond human control, and the United States has a chance to be a true world leader once more – and to show up the Congressional naysayers who should question why they dare call themselves “leaders.”