Thursday, January 14, 2010

Global Warming

I used to be a global warming denier. A very vocal one, at that. Every time it would come up at
the tiny liberal arts university I attended (which, it goes without saying, was a lot), I would pipe up with the insightful comment “oh, that’s not real.”

Did I believe it? Who knows. I had read Michael Crichton’s book that outlined, through murder mysteries, steamy romance, and gunplay, exactly why those who believed in global warming are not just misguided but criminal. More to the point, though, I just enjoyed people’s reactions to my statement. Global warming (or climate change, whatever) is the religion of the 18-24 demographic. Its existence is not just an opinion – it’s fact, that must be prosletised. The misguided must not be tolerated, but converted.

So, needless to say, it was pretty fun to contradict people when it came to global warming. Their reactions were perfect; the only other place I’ve encountered such vehemence is when I use my flatmate’s Xbox Live connection to stand in front of my teammates in first-person shooters, thus blocking their shot and reducing their all-important win/loss ratio. Sometimes I think people would be less upset of I were a Holocaust denier, but I have never had the stones to find out. Hopefully I never will.

At any rate, it’s been a couple years since then and I’ve mellowed a little. However, as I read the newspapers and browse the internet, I’m starting to notice a resurgence of my old opinion. This especially true now, as places like Europe and Florida experience record low temperatures, which is bringing all the deniers out of the woodwork. “SEE?!” a cacophony of columns, blogs, and Facebook statuses (statii?) shout, “we told you!”

Being a low energy person, I have arrived at the same conclusion regarding climate change as I have almost everything else – who cares? And I don’t mean “who cares if the climate is changing,” because I have to say that I do care, especially considering how I plan on returning to New Zealand in the near future. A not-very-large island in the Pacific Ocean is hardly the place to be when the waters start to rise.

What I mean is this, and I address it to all the smug deniers: why do you care if the climate is changing or not? More important than climate change, real or imagined, is a lifestyle change – one that every single one of us would benefit from. Running our air conditioners and heaters less often, hanging out our clothes, and taking the bus now and again is not going to kill anyone. Indeed, it would be a massive improvement in a day and age where obesity is on the rise, cities are designed to make walking not just inefficient but downright dangerous, and huge parts of the world are still in the recession brought on by people living beyond their means.

It’s Pascalle’s wager, but with real life as opposed to mythical conjecture. Let’s say we all make a change, get rid of our cars and bike to work, eliminating the pesky costs of fuel and maintenance and developing strong hearts and thighs that could crush someone’s head. Less radically, let’s say just half of us get rid of our SUVs and trucks and take the revolutionary move of buying a 4-door sedan. Let’s say that happens and global warming turns out to be nothing but collective delusion. Will we look back and say “god, what a waste, I’m healthy, financially solvent, and it was all for nothing?”

Somehow I doubt it.

But look at the alternative. What if global warming is a very real threat and we do nothing? Not only will the waters rise, we’ll be too fat to outrun them. So we’ll pile into our SUVs and try to outdrive them, but we’ll run out of gas before we reach higher ground. So we’ll get out and push to the nearest gas station – but when we get there our credit cards will decline because we maxed them out on our beast of a vehicle’s warranty last month.

So to the deniers: shut up. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and if you’re so fixated on global warming (or lack thereof) that you can’t see the bigger picture, you don’t have the analytical skills to have a valid opinion anyway.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find my MasterCard and book a transpacific flight.