Tired of Getting Heated

With every major weather event, I spend some time reflecting on not just the effectiveness of the communication and emergency response, but also the effectiveness of our broader climate discussion. Today alone we had five named tropical systems in the Atlantic, raging, historic wildfires in the west, dangerous amounts of particulate matter making at-risk Americans even more vulnerable to health problems, and a large chunk of Greenland’s ice shelf broken off. What’s more is that we have a President who as recently as today continues to deny the science of climate change in saying, “I don’t think science knows, actually”.  I think when it comes to climate, we are all tired of getting heated—both physically, conversationally, and politically. And as much as science communication standards push scientists to not blame every extreme weather event on climate change without understanding all of the variables, such as the modes of teleconnection patterns while discussing tropical weather, I think we need to stop being so coy about this.  We are experiencing unchecked climate change, and we need to do something about it.

We started with the polar bears…then we tried to explain inconveniences of financial investments in fossil fuels with the scientific truth of their carbon emissions…then we invoked fear with a doomsday clock…but, have any of these communication tactics been effective?  I will leave that question open ended.

Regardless of some of the issues that are getting hashed out in science communication, I think that people are getting the message.  Climate change is becoming a lived experience for people.  Whether experiencing climate change through a ‘once in a one-hundred year’ event, or consistent poor crop yields, everyday Americans are seeing the effects in their backyards—not just from photos of polar bears.  But even with this progress, I am getting to a point now where I am tired of trying to get some special interest groups, or naive individuals, to legitimately care about the issue the way that I, and so many others do, while simultaneously feeling like I need to prove to people that I am on ‘Team Climate’ if I envision a multi-faceted approach on how to solve climate change.  I’m tired of people being unwilling or unable to accept the undeniable science of what is happening to our planet; people who pay lip service to the issue but have no real intentions to do anything about it; and people who argue with others who are also on Team Climate because they let a “perfect” solution (if there ever existed one) get in the way of any progress.  But more than any of that, I’m tired of unchecked climate change and the U.S. taking steps backwards.  I’m not sure how many others out there feel this way, but if you’re this tired too, we can’t go to sleep just yet…

The story is doom and gloom with no plot twist in sight.  If we are the creative writers of the storyline for a movie called Earth’s Future, we should be adapting our plot resolution right about now.  However, we don’t even have a real one written or hashed out yet, and the deadline is quickly approaching with ideas being declined. We can’t let fear get in the way of getting something done.  The superhero in the movies is never about to save the person falling from the building, but stops and says, “I’m not sure if this will work perfectly or not… I might as well not bother even trying”.  Superheroes have an ability to look past the anxiety and the fear and get what needs to happen done.

While I may be tired, I am also hopeful. The responses and activism from young people with a clear message that we need to act on climate change stems from an undeniable anxiety about their futures, and their quality of life.  This is real, raw emotion, and I truly believe it is the saving grace of our planet.  We all have genuine reasons to care, including Boomers and many older generation folks.

Activists, particularly young people, don’t want praise for their efforts—they want change.  They want the leadership that we all deserve.  They want the U.S. and the rest of the world to deal with their own industrial and scientific revolutions that got us in to this mess instead of cowering away from our own creation.  And they want to live full lives on a livable planet.  I’m optimistic that others are getting tired of this too, and that the U.S. could become a world leader again very soon.  The science does know, Mr. Trump, and it too is tired of getting heated over you.  I’m ready for the icy blue cold plunge in November to put out the red fire of destruction.