This piece was originally published on October 19, 2020, by the Los Angeles Loyolan.
Rising global temperatures and the inevitable havoc they cause on our planet will go down in history as the greatest threat faced by humanity in the 21st century. It is far past the time for all of us to come together and do whatever it takes to meet this challenge.
On Oct. 14, the Global Policy Institute at LMU hosted renowned environmental activist and author Bill McKibben for a conversation on “climate change and environmental justice.” As a GPI fellow, I had a chance to work behind the scenes of the event, but more than once I found myself pausing to listen to McKibben, wondering how it is possible that climate change is still a point of debate.
To qualify, I think there is plenty to discuss regarding how to address the climate crisis.
One such debate is between how much funding should go towards reducing emissions, as opposed to bracing for the damage that is coming. As attractive as electric cars and newly emerging technologies to suck carbon out of the air are, some scholars argue that comparable energy and effort should be put into developing “resilience” to natural disasters.
Another, more controversial, debate is how to address these challenges without sabotaging innocent workers. As former CNN news anchor and event moderator Carol Costello brought up, there are people, like her family, who depend on fracking. Hydraulic Fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a 28+ billion dollar industry. The oil and natural gas industry is worth over 180 billion dollars. Those are real people with real jobs who we need to account for as we move towards a cleaner society.
What is not acceptable is a president that consistently undermines the authority of scientists, a president who distorts facts as a basis for his popularity game and as a byproduct threatens the future of every species on the planet.
In fact, there is no reason whatsoever for climate change to be a question of right versus left. As McKibben pointed out, “in this case the fight isn’t really … between Republicans and Democrats, between industrialists and environmentalists. The fight at base is between human beings and chemistry and physics, and that’s a really hard fight to win.”
There are so many grounds upon which environmentalism and conservation actually align with the GOP platform. One key component of American capitalism is the ability of our entrepreneurs to spearhead technological innovation, not to stay stuck on nineteenth century industries. Republicans are constantly advocating for the United States to become less dependent on non-democratic nations — what better way to challenge autocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia than to reduce our oil dependency? And what is more patriotic than protecting our American landscapes from pollution and destruction?
As for those of you who already acknowledge that climate change is real and dangerous, the next step is making conscionable decisions to reduce your carbon footprint, support innovative green technologies and make your voice heard. That advice goes for myself too. It’s all too easy to sit around and blame the Koch brothers—who undoubtedly deserve much blame—but without making substantial changes to all of our behaviors, this crisis will very quickly get even more out of hand.
The author is an undergraduate fellow at the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University.