I despise horror films. I’ve ridden every roller coaster I’ll ever board. You’ll never catch me courtside at a Cavaliers game. And if it isn’t Glen Campbell, I want nothing to do with country music.
These are some of my deepest-held prejudices.
But none of them stirs the same feelings of stark revulsion and mutinous rage I see in people’s eyes when I mention two little words: global warming.
Exactly how climate change rose to the just-don’t-go-there level of religion and taxes, I’ll never understand. With apologies to John Sabin of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, who asked me to consider writing about climate, I resisted the idea of even mentioning Earth Day this week. I know, just four paragraphs into this column, the simple mention of climate science has sent many readers screaming for the hills.
When it comes to being embraced, climate change has all odds stacked against it. It’s a complicated topic, and people crave simple answers. Warming happens very, very slowly, which makes us all frogs in the apocryphal boiling water scenario. And accepting that our planet’s climate is changing means we have to do something about it, which is painful because we’re generally pretty lazy creatures.
There is hope, though, that long-entrenched opponents of climate science can step back and take inventory of their beliefs.
Take, for example, the Climate Solutions Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan group was founded in February 2016 by Florida reps Carlos Curbelo (R) and Ted Deutch (D).
In the course of a year, it’s grown to 36 members, evenly split politically. They can only join the caucus a la “Noah’s Ark,” Democrats and Republicans marching two by two.
What does the caucus do? The goal is to just learn — what risks does changing climate pose? What do rising ocean levels mean for the economy? How does climate effect roads and bridges and the Internet? What does it mean for Lorain County farmers?
“Across the country, Americans understand the urgency of climate change,” said Deutch. “Whether they see rising tides in Fort Lauderdale, intensifying tornadoes along the Central Plains, or worsening droughts affecting farm production, Americans are starting to feel the impacts of climate change to their homes, their livelihoods, and their wallets. They want action from their elected officials and I’m proud that this caucus offers a space to develop bipartisan solutions.”
Now, remember there are 435 members of the House and the caucus is barely at eight percent of the total seats — so don’t get too excited.
But it’s interesting to see elected officials who are largely white men over age 50 (the demographic that protests the most against the “conspiracy” of global warming) reevaluate their political prejudices.
Take this revealing statement by Rep. David Reichert (R-Washington): “Climate change is a serious issue that could prove to be devastating not only to our environment but also to our economy. This potential threat requires us, as a nation, to reimagine not only how we use energy, but also how we protect our environment and create jobs. This is not a partisan issue. We all have a responsibility to protect our environment, to maintain clean water and clean air, and to ensure future generations can enjoy the beauty of our natural heritage.”
Reichert is right — we all have that responsibility. In the long-term, there’s a titanic amount of work; in the short-term we can begin by opposing rollbacks to the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Act, $1.5 billion defunding of the National Park Service, and insistence on moving forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline.
After all, failing to move on climate change is expensive: up to $44 trillion to the GDP alone by 2060, according to a 2015 study by Citigroup.