Before I started this class, I didn’t know anything about global warming. Well, maybe an odd fact here or there, but I didn’t know why it was happening, or if it was happening, what we could do about it… so I didn’t know anything important about climate change.
That changed pretty quickly. We watched An Inconvenient Truth, The Great Global Warming Swindle, and other similar documentaries. The class was left to form their opinions. Most of us decided global warming did indeed exist, and humans were causing it. But so far, I don’t think we’ve been even close to answering the question this class is founded on: Why is there such a gap between the ninety-seven percent of climate scientists who believe global warming is human caused and the fifty-two percent of the public who don’t?
We’re just skating on the thinnest layer of this question, barely even skimming it. We’ve danced around it, talking about presidents and policies and cars and clouds and little things because that’s pretty much the best you can do when tackling the elephant—or dinosaur, maybe—that is climate change.
Answering why there is such a big gap is impossible. With humans, and our emotions, you can’t just pinpoint a reason why we act and react like we do. It could be growing up under someone who pounded in your head global warming is not caused by humans. It could be because we’re scared to face global warming and instead turn our backs. It could be that we aren’t doing anything because, when you boil it down, our most primal instinct is to react to what is happening now and what’s right in our faces.
But why are we wasting time arguing about why some believe global warming is anthropogenic and some don’t? Why are we trying to get people on “our side”? Why can’t the forty-eight percent of the public and the ninety-seven percent of climate scientists do something, something big, something in your face, something right now?
“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” –Mitt Romney
“And, yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet—because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election you can do something about it.” –Barack Obama
Honestly, I didn’t really know what the candidates’ opinions on global warming were before I Googled it. I’m not a political expert. Just an average student. So I’m guessing that other average students might not know either, which is an issue.
Publicity is easy to come by these days. Have eight or more kids? Immediately in the public eye. So why is information on global warming so much harder to come by than Kim Kardashian’s daily life? We’re interested in all the wrong things—yes, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is entertaining, but is it meaningful? No. So why watch it? Maybe we focus on the fluff so we don’t have to think about the hard things, the things you have to make a decision about that will impact the future drastically.
As a previous post stated, climatologist James Hansen has said that the Bush administration made him withhold some information from the public. Why? Does the government think that, by keeping us in the dark, they are keeping us safe? If this is the case, there will be a painful whiplash when the public discovers the government’s idea of “safety.”
To be fair, I do understand the government wouldn’t want to work the public up into a frenzy about global warming and then discover it’s not real. But I also think that not knowing is the worst. That feeling of being in the dark—humans have always been scared of it, metaphorically and literally. And fear causes people to do terrible things. Maybe the government’s scared, too. Maybe I’m letting my mind wander a bit too much… focus, Anna.
I think an issue, too, is that global warming isn’t a priority to the candidates, at least not right now. Romney and Obama need to appeal to a wide range of voters, and most of the voters aren’t climate scientists. They care more about getting and keeping a job, or the gas prices, or problems in other countries affecting the United States. Those problems are much more imminent, and right now scarier, than climate change. They’re front and center in most voter’s minds.
But of course, there are always going to be more imminent problems… until global warming is just as imminent. And only then may some people realize we need to do something… Have we dug ourselves in a hole too deep to climb out of?
Thanks to J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves for the title.
When our class learned that a staggering ninety-seven percent of climate scientists believe global warming is anthropogenic, I think many of us had our minds made up then and there that global warming had to be caused by humans. If only three percent believed global warming is caused naturally, of course it was anthropogenic.
But then you compare that ninety-seven percent of climate scientists to the fifty-two percent of the public who believe humans cause climate change. That’s a difference of forty-five percent. Why?
Well, I know I temporarily forgot that the three percent of climate scientists were just, well, three percent. Our class watched The Great Global Warming Swindle recently, to see both sides of the argument. As a counterattack, if you will, to An Inconvenient Truth, the movie presents a convincing case, but when examined further, it falls apart. Maybe the public doesn’t know how fragile the explanation The Great Global Warming Swindle presents. Maybe someone grew up in a household that didn’t believe in global warming, and therefore doesn’t either. Maybe they just don’t want to accept the idea we might be damaging our home. Maybe we won’t ever know why half the public disagrees with the majority of the climate scientists.
I’ve grown up in a household open to new ideas and concepts. I’ve gone to two great schools and have met great people. I don’t have to worry about going without. I’m very, very lucky. Because of this luck, I’ve been exposed to both sides of the argument and have seen both sides of the argument torn to shreds. Perhaps, when people haven’t been exposed to all the facts, they revert to a natural defense: to pretend something isn’t happening and run away. Running may be an exaggeration, but I think we, the human race, oftentimes pretend things don’t exist to save us the pain of acknowledging the facts. I know I have several times. I think, at some point in our lives, we all have. It’s easier to close our eyes and fall asleep than open them and wake up to face the world.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m over-thinking this.
I was sitting in the back seat of a car occupied by my best friend’s father and one of her brother’s friends. We were driving back from St. George Island while my friend, her brother and mother all staying down at the beach for a couple more days. While we were driving, my best friend’s dad (who I am now going to call Mr. Smith, though that isn’t his real name) began talking about the environment. We started up a conversation, Mr. Smith doing much of the talking. He mentioned not having to worry about his generation, and ours too, but that my grandchildren might be in trouble.
Later, our class watched “An Inconvenient Truth”, and I learned the carbon dioxide levels will (or may, depending on what everyone does) be off the charts by 2050. I will be 58 then. That’s not quite my generation, but I don’t think it’s my grandchildren’s.
My point isn’t that I’ll still be around when carbon dioxide levels are off the charts. My point is that I’ve talked to many people who keep saying the same thing: it’s the next generation that will have to worry, not ours. It seems as if everyone—or rather, the public—is putting off cleaning up the environment because it’s not our problem, it’s the next generation’s problem. We’re procrastinating; apparently we have better things to do than ensure that we will have things to do.
Of course, I have yet to hear both sides of the argument about global warming. But either way, we need to stop procrastinating and hoping someone else will clean up after us. We can’t just hope that the next generations will tidy the earth, because maybe they won’t. It’s our home, and we’ve got to start taking responsibility.