Climate Change – Do We Care?

May 3rd, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Climate Change – Do We Care?

changingClimateCount me in as one of those who simply don’t get the debate we’re having about climate change. I don’t understand, quite frankly, how it is that we’re even having a conversation about whether or not climate change is really an issue in these times. Scientists aren’t ambivalent. They’re not asking for more time or more information to make an informed decision. They are very clear – climate change is happening and human activity and involvement is accelerating the problem. Full stop.

So, why do some of our political leaders and some out there who have a pretty hefty microphone continue to spread information that is not backed up by science? Do they know something that scientists don’t? And if so, where do they get their information from… because it’s not from scientists (who by the way, have no political agenda, but are simply trying to understand facts and data and report them as such). It would be helpful to know their sources and if they’re actually correct, then hooray, that would be superb news. But to date, as far as actual data and facts go, their voices are just creating confusion and getting in the way of what at this point, we can comfortably proclaim as truth.

I believe the reason that we encounter a certain level of hesitancy or rejection when it comes to climate science is twofold. And forgive me up front if my conclusions sound judgmental, but when reality is completely rejected (as it is when it comes to climate science) then any conclusions we can come to as far as understanding the motivations or the thinking involved in this rejection are pure conjecture, and so I do the best I can here playing armchair psychologist. But the two reasons I see for rejecting the idea that the earth is warming and the consequences from this will most likely become very severe and very inconvenient, are laziness and lack of imagination. That’s right – I’m calling us out (and that’s all of us – myself included).

I realize this is a harsh assessment, but let me explain. By laziness, I refer to the effort it takes to truly understand climate change and how it impacts our planet. There is no doubt that we have to become a little geeky and perhaps put our science caps on in order to have a clear understanding of what’s involved with this issue, but we have shown that we are smart people and very capable of learning about whatever it is that interests us. Sure, understanding what 2 degrees Celsius or 350 parts per million has to do with our lives today, doesn’t seem that interesting – I get that. Climate science is not necessarily fun or even engaging for many, and even for those of us who think about it regularly, and even write about, we would be thrilled if it were not even a necessary topic to discuss. But it’s here and it is an issue – arguably the most important issue we face – and so we need to take the extra steps to understand climate science, to understand what’s at stake, and how our future depends on our ability to be informed, knowledgeable, and engaged with this issue. Knowledge is power. And power when used appropriately can solve any problem.

So, lack of imagination? Simply put I believe that we lack the ability to project ourselves into the future and imagine that our lives could so disrupted by a few degrees of warming, when everything seems fine today. This one I understand – that’s just basic human nature. It’s a type of self-protection actually. I liken it to how we feel about our children. I know for myself, it’s not even possible for me to imagine something horrific happening to my kids – my imagination just won’t go there – and I’m glad for that. It’s a form of self-protection. I don’t want anything bad to happen to my kids and I don’t even want to know what that would feel like even through imagining it. We protect ourselves in this way and it’s very helpful. We lack the imagination to put ourselves in horrible situations we haven’t experienced. It’s a gift… but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work to avoid those horrific situations. Even though we can’t imagine catastrophe, it doesn’t mean we ignore the fact that it could happen. It’s not what we do in other areas of life and we shouldn’t respond this way to climate change. We know that bad things can happen and even if our imaginations can’t go there, we still go there. We educate, we take precautions – we do everything we can to avoid those catastrophes from ever happening. And the reason we do is because we know that the consequences are so dire that we never want to experience their outcomes.

Climate change is real. And climate change is going to have consequences that are pretty challenging and that we can’t even begin to imagine if we don’t begin to take it more seriously. But not facing it, not dealing with it just because it’s not too inconvenient today, is not the answer.

Ask yourself this question – why do people who raise the issue of climate change do it? What is it that they gain? What’s their agenda? People focused on climate change are not just screaming at the rain. It really comes down to one word – caring. It’s the only reason to be concerned about climate change. Someone like me, at the age of 59, will probably not be too terribly affected (and maybe not even too inconvenienced) by climate change in my lifetime. I’ll probably squeak by. But, it can’t be about what’s in it for me – that can’t be the attitude or we’ll never move forward with solving this issue. This planet is a pretty cool place to live (no pun intended) and our greatest responsibility is to keep it that way for future generations. In the end, our response to climate change will show us what kind of people we are; it’s about the soul of our generation. Do we care? Can we expand our definition of community to include generations to come? These are serious questions and how we choose to answer them with our actions will determine what future generations will experience on this place we call home.

I’m actually betting on us. I think we do care. I’d recommend taking a page from the Native Americans. They believed that every act should be weighed against how it will impact the next 7 generations. Now that’s caring… and that would go a long way towards responding to the issue of climate change.