Climate Change. If we don't act now, we'll go broke.
At the risk of sounding like I am in a Nelly song, I just want to point out, it’s getting hot in here. And while people are not on the brink of extinction yet (with a world population of almost 8 billion of us right now) climate change deniers are an endangered species. The truth is, it was so much easier to deny global warming in the 90s than it is today, now that people who were born in the 90s can vote, drink and have kids. In fact, we mostly ditched the term global warming specifically because every winter, some skeptic would play the old “so much for global warming” card, to smack in the face of the scientists and liberal politicians who were willing to say there was a problem.
As it turns out, people don’t live forever, and just like the second season of Ted Lasso, everything comes to an end. The deniers are dying off. What we’re seeing now is not a literal extinction of people because of some great flood or an outbreak of disease specifically killing off climate change deniers. Actually, it’s just that the new blood is becoming louder, due to the aforementioned voting (and probably the drinking too). Millennials have become a firebrand when it comes to certain social issues, which of course has resulted in sweeping changes in a variety of policies, such as gay marriage, racial equity and other things many of their grandparents never saw coming.
Speaking of fire, loud grown-up children are not the only ones screaming at us. We’re also hearing the screams of people in California and perhaps Australia from time to time because of the millions of acres of land that are burning up followed by the firefighters producing t-shirts memorializing their involvement in the career making event. Wildfires in the last couple years have surpassed previous years for all of recorded history, with this year winning more world records than The Crown winning Emmys.
While wildfires cause more than 33,000 deaths per year on average, this too is not the cause of the impending extinction of climate change deniers. The reason is because frankly, it’s just getting so much harder to ignore what is taking place all around us.
We all agree that ignorance is bliss (If you don’t actually feel that way, I’d rather you didn’t tell me), but we’ve arrived at a point in world history where the decisions we make regarding the climate will actually directly impact our children. Our babies are being born with microplastics in their bodies, and growing up on a planet with less forestation, less topsoil, more hurricane damage, more floods and pretty soon we’re going to have to change our story about good ole’ Saint Nick because the polar ice caps are melting too.
Still, even with our dire circumstances, most people don’t really want to do anything about climate change. The arguments range from, “you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” to “well, to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs” and the occasional “meh”. The translations are as follows:
- It’s too expensive to address climate change right now, and if the solution is more painful than the problem, then the problem is the leftist agenda that is destroying America.
- Global warming reductions will send American jobs to countries that aren’t even reducing their emissions anyway, we’re better off staying the course on growing our economy and our industry.
- I’m not really worried about it. The climate has been changing forever.
While the above arguments all come from a place of acknowledgement of climate change being a problem (sometimes), there are still a remaining minority that do not even believe such a crisis exists. Among Boomers, there are more non-believers than other groups on earth. Climate change denying also happens to be more prevalent amongst those who vote republican, versus democrat. Still, if you look at these same stats over time, the gap continues to narrow. This means that while climate change is still highly controversial, its politically charged power is, perhaps, waning.
Climate change is real and it is here
The non-profit research group, Climate Central completed a study about rising sea levels, reporting that several, mostly coastal cities, will have to implement extreme measures to address the changes in where the beach starts if temperatures reaches 3 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels (that’s about 5.4 degrees in Fahrenheit). We’re more than a third of the way there, currently at 1.2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. Their report depicts scientific projections of water invaded cities if we stay on our current path.
That small jump (add scare quotes here) has given us 10 of the hottest years on record in the last 16 years. In fact, 2020 was tied as the hottest year ever so far. And if you want me to be more precise, we are precisely screwed if we don’t take action.
Why is this?
Emissions of carbon dioxide have been increasing dramatically since the invention of the car. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by greenery though photosynthesis, the only science word most of us remember from middle school, right? Yes Timmy, that is correct, but just as fast as cars and other carbon dioxide producing machines are increasing, the forests and green spaces are decreasing, with most deforestation being the result of agricultural expansion. This leaves us with less oxygen to breathe, and brings on more of those temperature fluctuations that are ruining our weather.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that we are causing climate change.
Climate Change Causes Natural Disasters
If you don’t mind referring back to your grade school years for one more second, you may recall that weather is largely caused by air temperatures trying to even out (source, middle school but I was homeschooled so don’t trust me. Read here to check my facts.). Because of the increase in temperatures, flooding, hurricanes and wildfires have increased in intensity. NASA has been saying this since at least 2005, if not longer but since it’s run by the Government, much like Anthony Fauci, people don’t trust the source when they go against their bias, no matter how credible they are.
The facts have been there all along though. In 2020, we’ve had the most billion dollar disasters in history, and that number, like the oceans, continues to rise. Natural disasters have been increasing year after year as the temperatures increase, and polar ice caps melt. Most of us have taken note of changes in weather patterns in our own lived experience. And they are getting harder and harder to ignore.
Climate Change is Costly
If you’ve made it to this part of the article you are one of a very short list of people (I’ll be home soon honey). This is the part where I’ve pulled together all the verbose things I’ve said throughout the article and somehow wrapped it into a point that you will share as a quote in a pithy tweet. That tweet would say something like “Natural disasters cost us $95 billion per year, but we’re worried about something called a filibuster” or perhaps it would be a more motivational quote like “Most Americans believe the government is not doing enough to address climate change. What will you do?” although I can’t see myself saying that particular line.
Unfortunately, I also can’t see the US Government taking the action it needs to take either. There still remains a vocal opposition from people that watched Mork and Mindy, but if we’re honest, according to Robby Slaughter, an independent candidate for Congress in Indiana, what public opinion says does not carry as much weight as the desires of the very few largest donors who ultimately have a controlling influence on politics. If the majority of Americans believe the Government should do more, why are we not?
Referring to a prior mentioned excuse about not addressing climate change, the cost tends to be one of the biggest barriers to taking meaningful action. Since our reactive costs are going up, it seems our federal budget savings are simply cutting off our nose to spite our face.
As an important side note, it’s easy to overlook if you are a gainfully employed homeowner, but climate change related natural disasters impact the poor substantially more than anyone else, forcing them deeper into poverty, creating an additional public cost for everyone that pays taxes.
These costs will continue to go up, until we deploy drastic measures to change them. That means public sector investment and regulation, because the private sector is not going to lead the way (and we can no longer wait on all you libertarians either). It’s time to take action, even if it hurts, and the scale (and budget) needs to be big.
There is not enough money and human capital to solve our climate crisis, unless it is a global effort, and without overwhelming public support, we just aren’t doing enough.
If we don't do something big, it will cost a lot.
Here are The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, produced by the United Nations. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/
Footnote: Natural disasters have been getting more and more frequent and costs are going up as a result. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/beyond-data/2020-us-billion-dollar-weather-and-climate-disasters-historical
Footnote: Temperatures have been increasing over time. Here’s the data since 1880: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature