Supporting Climate Change Research Is More Urgent Than Fighting Racism, Income Inequality, Bigotry and Misogyny, Combined
I know. You’ve read the title and your blood is boiling. How could you say such a thing? How far up the hole of privilege does your head have to be to be so insensitive and blind? How can you say that when millions of Americans are experiencing prejudice and acts of hate on a daily basis in the 21st century? How could you turn your back on all this to throw your support on a white-person problem! — yells a friend of mine.
Let me be clear from the beginning: none of these issues are less important to me nor will they ever be (and excuse my poor choice of words in this article’s original form). That’s a full stop. I’m a minority myself. I get it. It hurts. It’s scary out there. Really scary.
But it’s easy to get lost in the issues that affect us directly and on a daily basis. It’s easy to get infuriated and outraged at racial slurs and dirty looks and glass ceilings. It’s easy to find passion and fire inside our hearts on issues like racism and bigotry and inequality, and it always has, because it hits home. It hurts you. It hurts me. Right now. Today.
The thing is, we know how to fight it. We’ve spent 240 years fighting it and we have four years ahead of us in which to make back the steps we lost on Tuesday. We know the best methods, we know what works, and we know how to hold our head higher. I’m optimistic we will prevail, and make no mistake, I will be next to you every step of the fight because it affects me too.
But these causes are the lucky ones. They are the fortunate ones. They enjoy the benefits and protections afforded by a long and comprehensive history, full of precedent, attention, urgency and know-how; but most precious of all, they enjoy the benefit of time in the fallout of this election.
Climate change doesn’t. And that’s what terrifies me.
It enjoys no precedent because we’ve never faced it before. There’s no real history or model or example to learn from. It’s been cursed with low urgency relative to every other imaginable cause by both liberals and skeptics alike for most of history because let’s face it, how is a one-degree rise in ocean temperature really going to affect me, right? And then there’s know-how: almost none exists there either — after all, we’ve only just begun to arm ourselves with the data that we’ve needed and a rallying cry that resonates outside of the West Coast has been elusive. People just don’t feel it. People just don’t fear it.
But the biggest problem of all is time. Unlike every other cause we fight for in a Trump-led world, this may be the only one that doesn’t have four years to fight back. It may not even have two. And yet, despite these terrifying realities and probabilities, without any special attention from us, climate change will inevitably be sent to the backseat again, as it has year after year, decade after decade. You know it. I know it. Because we’ve seen it time and time again with incredible predictability.
And that’s terrifying.
Make no mistake people: we are human first, American second, race never. Climate change is not a white-person problem; it is a speciesproblem that transcends race, nation and values. How dare you reduce it to race.
It does not constitute turning our backs on other important issues; because it’s about making sure we still have a place to continue fighting the good fight and move us forward.
It sure as hell is not a privilege either; it’s the single most important cause to the survival of our entire species. If that’s a privilege, then hell, what isn’t?
Don’t you see? We’re about to lose the proverbial forest running around saving our favorite trees. And so please, hear me out. Read my plea in its original form:
On November 8, Donald J. Trump won the presidency of the United States of America. By doing so, there is no question he empowered, emboldened and legitimized many of the worst swaths of our society. The racists, the bigots, the misogynists and all the little hate groups that have found small but strong pockets across our country, even in 2016. But there is also no question that the crime of generalizing and stereotyping and labeling millions of otherwise moral, intelligent and great citizens of this country was committed by both parties, with a special shoutout to the incredibly arrogant, partisan and self-serving media outlets we used to respect as sources of high-quality information to help us, the people, make informed decisions. They failed us. And we failed ourselves, both red and blue.
And the fear, let’s also be clear, is not Donald Trump. The man has a clinical track record of flip-flopping on every other issue to appease the crowd before him. He’s a people-pleaser with no consistency and no real set of strong values, switching direction in whatever way will help him win.
Instead, the fear is around everything and everyone he has enabled. His horrific cabinet of advisors and secretaries and deputies. The Palins and Christies and Giulianis. Warhawks like Gingrich and delusional men about to lead our education system like the Carsons of this world. It’s the fact that the KKK has found a soft spot in the most powerful seat in the world, an actual chance at having a say and being able to whisper into the ear of the leader of the Free World.
But this is America. We’ve spent 240 years fighting through these issues. Slavery, bigotry, racism — we got this. We’ve always persevered, we’ve always found hope and optimism and fight, and we’ve always made it through, despite the darkest of times and the worst of humanity. Despite what the media, both mainstream and social, has managed to blind you with for 7 months now, I have no doubt in my mind that we have far more than half a country of 300 million people who understand what’s at stake, and as backup, a world of 8 billion people who sympathize. We’ll make it through this, friends, we will. It may take a few years, heck maybe even all four. But we’ll fight and fight and give no ground, and in this, I have no semblance of a doubt. Because this is America. And this is 2016.
But what I’m convinced won’t make it through this time around, is our home insurance policy. You don’t realize it at first, but the EPA and who ultimately ends up sitting in those seats could determine the fate of not just the United States, but the entire world.
It is an enormous amount of power concentrated in one tiny underrated section of this new administration, arguably more powerful than anything Donald J. Trump — the Big D and self-proclaimed Mr. Big League — can do from his mahogany seat in the Oval Office.
Think about it: what’s the worst the President can do on his own? Declare war? Ruin this country’s economy? Rewind our civil rights 50 years? We’ll fight it like we always have. I have enough faith in our people by factors of spades.
Then stop to think about what Trump has explicitly directed Myron Ebell to do as his top pick for transitioning the EPA:
- Cancel the Paris Climate Accord, the single biggest agreement in the history of the United Nations and signed by an unprecedented 195 nations;
- Retract funding for the U.N. Framework for Climate Change, the only enduring global intergovernmental effort and body dedicated to researching and investigating climate change;
- Slash funding for the EPA and eliminate all those deemed “unnecessary”, our only paltry agency of 15 thousand soldiers responsible for making sure we’re doing our part in protecting our nation’s environmental and resource health;
- Re-fire our dirtiest coal plants and take us back to the same cancerous, primitive, filthy, 100-year old ways we’ve generated energy despite decades of technological progress and cost competitiveness in renewables…all to reclaim a few hundred thousand jobs we’ve lost since coal peaked, a number we have gained back in employment in just one or two months time for almost 80 months straight;
- Open the nation’s protected refuges and land to more drilling and fracking for oil and gas despite our current glut and all the direct personal harm we’ve experienced on our nation’s shorelines in the Gulf and in Alaska;
- And finally, effectively end all government efforts to research and combat climate change for the next four years.
And yet, our scientists, who our bi-partisan system has painstakingly made sure they study this without an incentive in the world apart from the thrill of investigating a very abnormal and interesting scientific phenomenon, tell us it’s not clear we have that much time. They tell us they are worried. Not sure,mind you, but enough to leave them worried.
You’re absolutely right, skeptics, you really are, and I hear you. The key words here are ‘not clear’. i.e. we may, but we also may not. You’re also right that climate change could just all be a big aberration in data. A giant letdown. A total made-up phenomenon where we read way too far in between the lines and somehow fooled thousands of our brightest Ph.D’s and rocket scientists and NASA engineers. But hear me out and let me take you on a small journey, beginning with a few base assumptions that I think we can all agree on, whether you’re a right-wing skeptic bleeding Reagan’s blood or a pot-smoking hippie who has never worked a living day in his/her life:
- The climate and weather data of the past few decades has been extremely abnormal, consistent in its trend, and unrepeated in all of known scientific history, collected to the best of our ability. Just look it up. It’s not hard to see.
- We all see the value of insurance, no matter how improbable the risk. Clearly, because insurance is a hundred billion dollar industry that protects not only things we know, like life and health, but less common things as well, such as earthquake, theft and flooding. We all get it. We’re all buyers.
- The survival of our species depends on the survival of this planet. It took us 20 years to be able to send 7 people to just above escape velocity on a regular basis and we still lost two crews in the 20 after that. We are not moving 8 billion people to Mars any time soon.
Now let’s close our eyes and zoom out into outer space, 250 miles above Earth, just above the ISS orbit. Have a look around. It’s gorgeous. Our beautiful, pale blue dot swirling with greens and whites and yellows and browns in magnificent shapes. That’s it. That’s the only home we’ve ever known, and for most of us and our children, the only home we will ever know.
Let her spin for a few minutes. Africa peeking over the horizon. Then Western Europe, Asia, the Far East. Every single microscopic island nation speckling the great Pacific. And then just think about it again, as we float 250 miles in the air together: that’s it. Every single war, every single act of love, every single argument and demonstration and protest over white rights, black rights, gay rights; every single act of hate and every single ground-shaking march in history for what we have decided is so crucial and vital for our species to hear and be heard, the entirety of civilization, the arbitrary carving of entire nations out of the soil on imaginary lines and divisions and cultures — that all happened just here, nowhere else. That’s it. That’s everything.
And so for all the acts of hate and pain and suffering that we’ve had to witness over the past thousands of years of mankind, and despite the special sting of those recent acts committed in the past few years, this view of us is why climate change research is a super-priority. A priority of priorities. It transcends all other causes in multiples and magnitudes and factors of spades.
Because I know of no bigger, more selfless and virtuous human cause than making sure that, juuuust in case something is wrong with our only home, juuuust in case there’s a chance that our worst fears are true, we don’t lose the only home turf we have left to fight for all the issues we care so deeply about.
You say you want to make a stand against the bigots and misogynists we found lurking across our country this year? I’m with you. You say you want to fight the hatred and inequality and injustice we still have to suffer and witness in twenty-sixteen? I’m already next to you. But whether we scream and yell and write and sing/cry/laugh to do get these jobs done and fight the good fight— that’s all got to happen down there.
And to the best of our knowledge, there’s currently a greater than 0% chance it may not be there for us in the future as we enjoy it today. We don’t know for sure, you’re right, but that’s exactly it — we’re not sure.
And what do we do when we’re not sure?
We buy insurance.
That’s all that supporting climate change research comes down to. It’s not about believing in anything. It’s not about picking sides or agendas. It’s about one thing and one thing only: buying f*****g insurance.
Now insurance is often times expensive. Really expensive. So I want to do the math with you to make sure we’re getting our money’s worth relative to everything else we pay insurance on. After all, we need to be smart with our wallet — we’re in major debt!
The average US citizen makes $50,756 per year and pays $1,318 annually on health insurance. Look it up if you don’t believe me, although most of you pay it so I’m sure I don’t need to remind you twice. That works out to roughly 2.5% of your income right off the bat. Most of us also pay personal home insurance. Vision insurance. Dental insurance ($360/0.7%). Car insurance ($815/1.6%). Life insurance. Combined, every single goddamn selfish thing we buy insurance for, no matter how improbable we know it is that we’ll drop dead the next day or lose all our teeth in a freak accident or end up in a car crash, we end up paying over 5% of our income on the most selfish f****ng insurance in the world when the combined probability-weighted cost of all of these terrible things happening in our lives exceeding our premiums is most certainly not even close to what we’re paying.
There are magnitudes of more research to suggest the probability of human impact on climate change is far greater than 50/50 but let’s just be conservative here and assume it is 50/50, a flip of the coin. Not good enough you say? No problem, I’m willing to go down much further.
Let’s go as far as to assume 0.03% odds of adverse climate change. Now in the face of those incomprehensibly scary odds (because let’s face it, can you tell me with a straight face, you can really sleep at night with 50/50 or even 1/300 odds that you lose the only home, mankind has ever known?), let’s look at how much we spend on home insurance in this country:
In 2016, the EPA’s share of the budget was $8.1 billion out of over $4 trillion.Now not all of that $8.1 billion goes to climate change efforts. Lucky for us, the EPA does a good job of breaking out their budget, and for 2016, only 12.5% or roughly $1.1 billion was spent on climate change and air quality protection.
For those of you who can’t do that math, that means collectively as a nation, in our incredible arrogance, confidence and unbelievable surety in the face of what nobody can deny as major abnormalities in data, we spend a whopping 0.03% of our country’s budget on insurance for our entire species. And that’s rounding up.
To put that in perspective, you spend 53x as much on your car insurance and 23x as much on dental insurance as a percentage of your income, than you do on mankind insurance. How is it that we sit here, look at these stats and cheer at our selflessness? Our virtues? Our values?
You don’t need to be educated or well-versed in the science. You also don’t need to “take more time to dig through the research” or “investigate the sources a bit more” (especially when thousands of scientists regardless of political leaning have done that for you). And just as an aside, fellow millenials, can I just point out how arrogant you have to be to think that you, with your undergrad stats or environmental science degree (at best), are going to find something our nation’s smartest individuals and Ph.D’s around the world didn’t find after spending an entire career on the matter?
In fact, you don’t even have to know a goddamn thing about climate change. That’s right, you don’t. Because it’s far simpler than that.
It’s just f*****g insurance. It’s home insurance. It’s insurance for our entireway of life. If any part of your college or high school or grade school-educated brain thinks there is a greater than 0.025% chance that something just might be wrong with our atmosphere, just like everything else in your life, you buy insurance. Because you’ll get your money’s worth. It’s just that simple.
And the great part is it’s still a phenomenal deal. You heard me, and we all love a good bargain right? It’s dirt cheap. Unbelievably cheap, in fact! It always has been! In fact, it’ll be the cheapest insurance you’ve ever paid for and will likely ever pay for — I guarantee it.
So think like a consumer. Do what you do best and scour those deal sites.Bucket yourself a hippie or a skeptic if you need a label or camp to hide behind and look for whatever you are looking for. Because no matter how hard you look, no matter what you believe or trust, you won’t find a better deal on species insurance, I also guarantee it. Right or left, Dem or Pub, small gov’t or big gov’t, skeptic or hippie, let’s all buy some insurance today because it’s a no-brainer. And if not because you’re worried, then because it’s a great f*****g deal.
Climate change isn’t more important than all the other issues we face today (and I apologize for the poor wording in this article’s original form). But it is by far the most urgent because it is the most fragile and irreparable of all the causes we are fighting for in the face of this new administration.
So please. I’m begging you. I know just how annoying and guilt-tripping this all is and how easy it is to just ignore and move on with your life without any personal downside. But please support climate change research alongside everything else you fight for. As insurance, not as a cause.
And finally, and most immediately (my shameless plug of the day, for all those that were waiting for it), please petition against Trump leaving the reorganization of the Environmental Protection Agency to Myron Ebell, a single man with unbridled power who threatens to unravel every single one of our 300 million individual and collective planetary insurance policies, by irreparably neutering the only insurance provider we have in this country today.