Finding a Common Language on Climate

BE GREEN

BE GREEN--If you don’t already agree with me on something, odds are I can’t convince you I’m right.

There’s plenty of science showing that the global climate crisis is already affecting us, that vaccines don’t cause autism, and that humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes. Yet many Americans don’t believe in man-made climate change, the safety of vaccines, or hum›an evolution. (Photo above: Cuba after Hurricane Irma.)

For the two-thirds of Americans who believe in human-caused climate change, the future is terrifying. If you fall in the other third, try to imagine for a moment how you’d feel if you did believe the planet was warming, ice caps were melting, seas were rising, and weather was getting more extreme.

A new study found a 5 percent that the climate crisis could reach catastrophic levels by 2050, and a smaller chance — but still a chance — it could wipe out all of humanity.

I’ll be honest: I’m scared. Scared enough to seriously consider whether it would be wise or ethical to have children. And I’m frustrated and angry that our country isn’t doing enough to prevent the coming crisis.

I don’t want to take away anyone’s car or air conditioning. I don’t want to force anyone to go vegetarian, or limit the number of children Americans can have. There must be a way to decrease pollution and roll back the clock on climate change without compromising our lifestyles in an intolerable way.

But it won’t happen while we’re all bickering about whether or not the climate crisis is happening in the first place.

I can imagine how this looks to someone who doesn’t believe the climate is changing. Some treehugger wants you to turn your life upside down for a made-up climate crisis that isn’t even happening. No way.

While the disagreement is most often on scientific terms, actual scientists don’t have any doubt at this point. The question isn’t whether the climate is changing, but how fast it’s changing and what will happen as a result.

But it’s only a small percentage of Americans who are truly scientifically literate. It takes a lot of education — not to mention time and access to academic journals — to actually comb through the literature and find the facts as researchers see them.

Most of us just base our conclusions on media reports of scientific studies or one of Al Gore’s movies.

Part of the problem is, perhaps, economic. It’s nice to talk about switching to clean energy, but that means jobs in fossil fuel industries would go away. So far, this country hasn’t done much in the way of helping people transition to new careers.

No environmentalist wants coal miners or oil workers to be unemployed. We want them to have well-paying, satisfying jobs that allow them to live the lifestyle they enjoy — without hurting the planet.

The good news it that solar generation alone now employs more people than oil, gas, and coal combined. But in some places, the only alternatives to good coal jobs, for example, may be poorly paid service jobs with lower wages. Perhaps some people would have to move (or else demand their states invest more in renewables).

Ultimately, we need to find a common language to have a discussion, and we need to get serious about providing for anyone whose job will be lost by switching to clean energy.

Because the alternative is doing nothing — and then figuring out later how to help people whose homes are under water from sea level rise or increasingly violent hurricanes.

(Jill Richardson is a columnist for OtherWords and the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. She writes for CityWatch courtesy of OtherWords.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw