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Commentary: We cannot afford leaders who deny climate change

During my 30 years of teaching management at the American Management Assns. and USC, I often exposed students to a business challenge referred to as "marketing myopia."

I started with the story of the buggy-whip manufacturers, along with the railroads, fighting the advent of the automobile. I asked generations of business leaders to look strategically at the problem.

Had these companies stepped back and seen that they were actually in the business of transportation, not railroading or buggy-whip manufacturing, they would have seen the business opportunity and potential and would have become the new tycoons of automobile manufacturing. The same could have been true had General Motors understood that it too was in the business of transportation when the airlines began to expand. This realization of a new business opportunity could have changed the future of the companies.

We are seeing a similar behavior being played out in the modern energy sector, where current fossil fuel manufacturers are taking on renewable energy manufacturers as if they were opponents. If oil companies, like Koch Industries, realized that they are in the energy rather than oil business, they would become renewable energy companies and potentially invent new solutions. The future could belong to all of us. Instead, we are being turned into bickering enemies.

As was written in the May 9 commentary ("Rohrabacher should shift climate-change position"), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has been denying the realities of climate change. This total denial by a member of the congressional science committee in the face of the conclusions of 97% of international scientists is similar to the behavior of the buggy-whip manufacturer's refusal to recognize the lasting changes to be wrought by the automobile in the last century.

The 48th Congressional District needs a representative who understands that the world faces real dangers. We need a representative who understands that the continuing emission of massive amounts of carbon through the burning of fossil fuels is increasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

his is creating an increasingly warm blanket around the Earth, melting ice, causing the seas to rise with the potential of a 2- to 11-degree increase in average temperatures over the next century. The heat wave we are currently experiencing should give us an idea of what that could mean.

I have spent my life teaching business people, and I have learned that they are, at heart, problem-solvers. Corporations have learned that if you give a business professional no more problems to solve, he or she will leave. American business is brilliant at finding solutions to problems.

Furthermore, humans are able to do the impossible when challenged and inspired. I moved to California to work with Carl Sagan during the "Cosmos" series, and my husband ran flight engineering for Voyager II and Galileo Spacecraft. So I know better than most the capacity we humans have to come up with solutions to the most intractable challenges.

But it takes competent, knowledgeable leadership, not apologists for wrong-headed plutocrats playing political gamesmanship with our air, our homes, our water and the basis of our coastal economy.

We may be the last generation with an opportunity to help mitigate the damage caused by the burning of fossil fuels as we slowly move to renewable energy resources. But we must bring our intelligence to bear instead of hiding our heads in the sand. We must stop railing against the science community and roll up our sleeves and get to work.

It is time for a change of leadership in the 48th District, and that is why I am running for Congress.

Democrat SUZANNE JOYCE SAVARY is a candidate for the 48th Congressional District. She lives in Newport Beach.

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