On Climate Change, It’s Science vs. Dollars

After living in Seattle for nearly 13 years, I left for a brief 13-month stint in Washington, DC from 2010-2011. When I moved to DC, I was excited to take the Metro to work every day. What a convenience, to walk a couple blocks, hop on a subway, and within six stops arrive at my destination. Compared to my Seattle bus commute, my DC trek to work and home was a breeze.

The problem, though, came when I had to drive into town. DC streets are crazy on their own, and when you add in my unfamiliarity with them, it often led to disastrous trips getting lost. I soon realized that my problem was that I spent my usual commute time below ground, thus I was not getting the lay of the land. Once I figured that out, I decided to take the bus for a time, just to help me see the bus routes and better acquaint myself with the streets. After taking the bus a few times, I never had a problem driving into town again, because my familiarity with the city – its streets, intersections, and landmarks – vastly improved. I was no longer stuck in an unfamiliar city.

Similarly, people can get stuck in certain patterns of belief and thought, and when they need to explore a different way they often lose their way because they are only familiar with what they are accustomed to. There is hope, though. We can ‘hop on a bus’ and take a macro view of something and adjust our perspective.

The topic of climate change is one such example.

Various individuals – the media, pundits, neighbors, Uncle Bob – often frame climate change in terms of a debate between science and religion. (To be fair, the religion aspect is not always so explicit, and the debate surfaces as an effort to debunk the science.) The problem with the science-versus-religion debate in regard to climate change is that it is a misleading and often distracting dichotomy. The issue is not about science at all. It’s really about dollars and cents.

How do I know this? Because those who hold so tightly onto their denial of climate change have a stake in industries that would benefit if we stopped paying attention to the decaying planet. They would prefer that we ignore terms like ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ and just continue with our daily lives using the earth’s resources for our gain. Oblivious to the environmental disaster we’re causing, we would go along our merry way until reality smacks us in the face.

I’m sure these fossil fuel dinosaurs care about their families and want to leave a healthy planet for their children and their children’s children. Perhaps, though, their ‘care’ is wrapped up in building wealth, since the thinking may be that if they have enough money then they can sidestep any disaster down the road. After all, if rising sea levels destroy their beachfront property, they can always buy new land and build a new house. But what about the small businesses that would be displaced? It’s not so easy for them to start over—just ask anyone who has lost a business in a fire.

Here is what bothers me most about those who rant about their belief that climate change is a hoax: who cares if it is. Even if science were wrong, we still have an obligation to protect the planet. Even if the environment makes a drastic turn for the better tomorrow, we still have an obligation to continue protecting the planet. In other words, our efforts that benefit the life of the planet – no, the life that’s on the planet – should happen because we care more about life than we do dollars.

Let’s cast aside the façade that this climate change discussion is about whether the science is accurate and make it what it’s really about: those with wealth and in power want to maintain their wealth and power and they don’t care what it does to the environment. Don’t remain stuck in the familiar; hop on the bus to adjust your perspective and see what’s really happening.

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