Climate change was roundly ignored during most of the general election, and that may have a lot to do with the fact that it’s deemed a losing issue. But as Sen. Bernie Sanders rightly claimed in one of the presidential primary debates, climate change is the number one threat to our national security. Not ISIS, not NAFTA, not Russia, not Planned Parenthood. Climate change is one of the most dangerous threats we face on the planet — and this is according to America’s Department of Defense.
In a letter to Congress sent in July of 2015, the DoD said:
Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.
We know droughts will lead to food shortages; massive forest fires will leave areas devastated and kill essential wildlife; coastal regions will be slammed with hurricanes; heat waves will kill the poor who can’t afford climate-controlled housing; water sources will dry up; floods will wipe out entire areas. These weather-related issues will lead to starvation, billions in property damage and homelessness due to increased social tensions as people move, mix and attempt to share fewer resources.
So, why then has such a dire issue been completely sidelined for so many years?
Well, obviously the energy industry has spent stacks of cash lobbying politicians to vote down green policies, and are hellbent on killing scientific messaging and research findings on the issue. The fossil fuel industry paid their own scientists to debunk everything 98 percent of scientists agree on. Religion is fueling the belief this is all in God’s hands. And scientifically illiterate people aren’t fully grasping the issue of what happens if the Earth warms up three degrees.
Climate change needs a messaging makeover.
We can shout facts and statistics at deniers until our faces turn blue — it’s not working. Quirky and entertaining scientists from our childhoods like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy putting out entertaining videos and making appearances on popular TV shows explaining why it’s so important to change our energy resources is not working.
Donald Trump being elected into office should prove we’re living in a “post-truth” era. It’s no longer about facts, it’s about what you feel is true. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality people have chosen for themselves and we can’t wait for them to come around.
So we have to look at what is working. What is working is Sen. Jim Inhofe throwing a snowball in the Senate to prove global warming isn’t real. It seems like the stupidest thing ever, and it is very sadly idiotic, but that snowball is more effective than all the leading scientists in the world because it was a simple demonstration of his point. All Fox News has to do is simply point to the sky and say, “Look! It’s snowing! Global warming can’t be real.”
So we have a messaging disconnection that we need to solve, and we need to solve it fast, even if it feels like we’re pandering to idiots.
The thing about Republicans and climate change deniers, is they live on this Earth too. And they aren’t out there burning tires for the fun of it. Contrary to popular belief, they care deeply about their environment. They breathe the same air, they have children they want a future for, they hunt the forests, farm the land, and fish the lakes and oceans. They love the Earth as much as you or I, they’re simply being used as pawns by the fossil fuel industry who is making this a Democrat vs. Republican issue. But it’s the most bipartisan issue if there ever was one.
So in my opinion, the messaging needs to reach them where they live, not citing numbers on how much carbon is in the air.
I was able to change one woman’s mind in a short conversation. She was arguing that climate change is part of the evil liberal agenda, blah, blah, blah but just by asking her a few questions, I found out she lived in Florida along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of talking to her about all the species of fish dying from the BP oil spill in the gulf, and how oil is evil, we talked about decreasing the likelihood of disasters like that affecting where she lived. She hated polluters and says she walks on the beach for hours picking up trash. I made climate change a pollution issue and it worked. She wasn’t a bad person, just confused, and didn’t see the bigger picture.
We need to show people the future, not preach it to them. We need millionaires and billionaires to fund projects in places like Pennsylvania to show them that coal is in the past and to show them where they fit in in the future.
We need to show people exactly the kind of jobs they can get in the green industry and ask them, “Would you rather slave away in a coal mine and risk life and limb for a paycheck — or would you rather work outdoors, retrofitting buildings to be more energy-efficient for a similarly sized paycheck?”
I have a feeling people don’t actually want to work in a dark, dank coal mine, but do so because there is a pretty good paycheck with benefits involved. It’s a money issue for many, and we need to show them they can still make money while doing right by the planet.
We don’t need to keep preaching to Californians, they get it. We need to bring our messaging to the rust belt and coal country. The green industry is starting to boom, and thousands of good ideas are swirling around out there waiting to be put to practice. We need to bring everyone to the table of innovation and make these deniers feel included so that they’re invested in this issue.
In short, we need to make the issue a polluter vs. non-polluter issue, we need to bring more people into the innovation industry, we need to show people their lives aren’t over if we start curtailing coal and oil jobs, we need to show people how green energy works and makes sense financially. And we need to take the climate change denial rug out from under politicians, it shouldn’t be about what someone may or may not believe is happening to the Earth, it’s about doing things that are good for our planet.
So if you find yourself in an argument with some idiot who is denying driving millions of cars on the face of the Earth day in and out is not bad for the planet, just take a second to understand where they live, where they are coming from and try explaining the issue in a way they can personally understand it. Take the numbers out of the equation and make it a human issue. Because ultimately it is a human issue and our lives and children’s futures are at risk.