German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once stated, “The earth has a skin and that skin has diseases, one of its diseases is called man.”
Almost two hundred years since Nietzsche’s lifetime, that quote has become more and more relevant because of our continued culture of willful ignorance towards social issues such as climate change.
A famous argument brought up in the debate about climate change is that “97% of scientists say humans are responsible for global warming,” a fact furthered by the Environmental Defense Fund. Let me make one thing very clear: by doing nothing to get ahead of climate change, our institutions are inherently placing their trust in the 3% that don’t believe climate change is man-made. A man made problem almost always means that there is a man made solution. And indifference in this kind of situation means siding with the slim, weak-on-scientific-evidence minority.
And that is exactly why climate change was, in my opinion, the number one most overlooked issue of the decade.
Every few days, a tweet from some teenager living in California with a mirror selfie as their profile picture warning of the effects of climate change goes crazy viral; I see it all the time. When I say that is probably the most publicity the dangers of climate change gets, I mean it. It has been fifty-three years since Syukuro Manabe and Richard T. Wetherald published the paper now known as “the most influential climate change paper of all time”, (Pidcock, 2015), a paper scientists still deem accurate and provided a real model for what climate change could look like in the future, and yet a whopping total of “2 percent” (Merchant, 2016), or 5 minutes and 27 seconds, of the 2016 Presidential Debates were spent talking about climate change, even when the issue at hand is seemingly getting worse as the years go by.
And as if things couldn’t get any worse, many fail to take into account the fact that the effects of climate change are multi-faceted. Republicans in Congress point to border security and illegal immigration as one of their big priorities, especially ever since the rise of Trump’s wall and the ensuing debate over that. Well, it’s common sense to note that as the world’s climate shifts, and underdeveloped countries remain underdeveloped, the people of those countries will have no choice but to flee to countries who would be better equipped to handle the effects of climate change (hint, hint, the United States). (The Climate and Migration Coalition has stated that already, just last year, “24 million people were displaced by weather related disasters.”) The issues of climate change, wealth inequality, and immigration are all rolled into one, almost certainly exacerbating the existing problem of xenophobia and racism if the pool of climate change refugees expands, which it is certainly expected to.
But that is just with the United States in mind; expand this thought towards Western Europe, an area of the world that has been generally accepting of immigrants. Surely there comes a tipping point there, too; with so many people seeking refuge, there will be inexorable tension in who gets to stay and who doesn’t, no matter how accepting Europe is of foreign people. We’ve already seen the domino effect of conservative nationalism, starting in the United States, metastasize across the ocean and plant anti-immigration sentiment, most notably seen in the rise of Marine Le Pen, the President of France’s National Rally Party. Of course, this is pretty far into the future, but if 97% of scientists are correct, and scientific models detailing the far-reaching effects of climate change are accurate, Conservatives must ask themselves: can they survive as a movement in the face of such possible consequences?
Lots of people have seen the headlines of each month getting hotter than the last, each year getting hotter than the last, each decade getting hotter than the last, but it is baffling how there hasn’t been an overhaul of legislation to try and mitigate these effects. The current administration nonchalantly took themselves off the Paris Climate Accord like it was a guest list to a party they didn’t wish to be invited to, among attempts to revitalize a nearly dead coal industry when renewable energy jobs potentially see massive growth in the near future. Yes, new ideas to reduce carbon emissions are very, very expensive, as the progressive wing of the Democratic party who prioritize climate change know; however, investment in clean, renewable energy is good for not the planet, but humans, in the long term, because climate change is a global issue.
The United States is also, as many conservatives like to point out, the richest country in the world. So why is it so hard to come up with the money to at least alleviate some of these pressing issues? As many progressives have argued, the “U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans” (Trotta, 2013), and that number is only expected to grow over the decades. Simply put, if the United States can put that much money into war, why can’t the United States put that much money into sustainability?
If we like the world that we live in, if we truly care about the future our children will inherit, climate change and its effects would be at the forefront of countless political debates. And not just that, our leaders would act. We would be on pace to cut carbon emissions, not exacerbate the problem, each year getting hotter and hotter. We would be on pace to assuage these problems, to provide a relative sense of comfort and welcoming to climate change refugees.
The world will stay here, but we won’t if we can’t solve this global problem