Paris, part 1

Dear Donald –

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written, but you’ve been busy in the meantime making quite a mess of things. As time goes by, we’ll discuss much of it, I’m sure, but today I wanted to talk about your biggest fuck-up to date – the Paris Climate Accords. 

First, we should address the greenhouse gas emitting elephant in the room. Climate change is happening, and it’s being driven largely by Human activity. Nowhere in the world is this a partisan political issue outside of the U.S. It is an accepted fact. The members of your party who disagree with that fact fall largely into two camps – those who just aren’t smart enough to understand the science and those who do understand the science but are too cowardly or venal to admit it. This second group believes that admitting that they believe in climate change (and believe is an odd word – like saying I believe the earth is a planet – it’s a fact, not really a belief) means that here may be political and/or fundraising consequences as those who profit from the status who and would lose out in a shift to more sustainable practices rally against them. For these members of the party, there’s not much that can be done. They will continue to publicly deny that which they know to be true until the political tides are so strongly allied against them that they can’t continue to ignore reality. 

As for the first group, those who simply do t understand the massive evidentiary basis for man-made climate change, it’s a thornier and issue. It’s completely possible that they haven’t sufficiently engaged in the subject to understand it or that, even if they did, it’s just beyond their grasp. And that’s okay, except that the fate of the world depends on understanding and accepting this fact. Let’s be clear, though.  There are plenty of things people don’t understand in this world. If you went up to most politicians and asked how radios or microwaves work, or why the sky is blue, they won’t be able to explain it. We don’t need to understand every single piece of the world and all the science behind it for us to act on it. They may not know why or how their microwave works, but they know when they put something in it, it comes out hotter. You should be able to look at weather patterns over the last several decades, or the shearing of million year old ice shelves, or massive hurricanes, and realize that something different is happening, that something is changing. But even if you can’t do that, I’d argue that you should still accept climate change as real and act on that belief. 

There’s something known as Pascal’s wager. When contemplating whether or not to believe in God, Pascal argued that he could believe in God or not, and that, ultimately, God actually does or does not exist. If he believed in God, and he did exist, then Pascal was good. If he believed in God and he didn’t exist, then there was no real harm. Similarly, if he didn’t believe in God, and he didn’t exist, there’s no harm. However, Pascal postulated that if he did not believe in Gid and he did exist, he would suffer eternal damnation. Ultimately, if God didn’t exist, there was no real harm either way, but if he did exist, why risk eternal damnation by not believing?

Climate change represents a similar wager for us all (or at least those who are ignorant of the clear facts before us). If it doesn’t exist, then whether we do nothing or we act to mitigate it, we’ve really lost nothing. But if it does exist, and we do nothing, we risk destroying the planet. So why not believe in it and act to mitigate its effects?