It’s one of the greatest ironies of our time: so many of us are indifferent to the catastrophic effects of man-made global climate change because we’re so brainwashed into thinking today’s economy is more important than any future problems. It’s no surprise. It’s the same argument we heard when we asked people about their position on civil rights like gay marriage: “I think we should focus on the economy, that’s today’s problem. When we fix it, we can worry about gay marriage.”
Or here’s one better for you: “I think we should focus on the economy, that’s today’s problem. When we fix it, we can worry about slavery.”
The more times change, the more they stay the same. Humans are easy to manipulate; find something that excites them to passion, like the exaggerated or outright fall stories on Fox News, and you can pretty much convince them that anything is important (like building a financially and environmentally costly border wall).
But what’s the ironic part? Well, man-made global climate change, left unchecked, will completely devastate the global economy. And faster than most of us realize.
People mistake the idea of climate change to think that it will affect every part of the world uniformly, which is part of the reason a couple of degrees of average warming doesn’t sound like a big deal. But that’s not how it works. One area might experience summers ten or twenty degrees warmer than average, causing catastrophic heat waves and droughts, tornadoes and wildfires. Other areas might experience cooler than average temperatures, leading to winter blizzards or springtime floods and landslides.
All of those things cost money! These extreme weather events have cost us in the neighborhood of $1.6 trillion since 1980 — and that’s a time before the effects of climate change were really well known or even in full swing. These effects have only grown, and they are growing exponentially.
Here’s the bottom line: scientists argue that a temperature increase of two degrees Celcius would slash the global gross domestic product by about fifteen percent, or 25 percent if the temperature rose by three degrees Celcius. Right now, if we continue to go about our business as we have been, these realities are inevitable.
That’s nothing when you stop to consider the lives lost due to extreme weather, or the financial cost of the hundreds of millions who will be displaced from larger cities due to rising sea levels. That’s nothing when you stop to consider the impact on global food production. In fact, it’s nothing when you stop to consider what actual people will have to go through because of everyone who said this wasn’t a problem for today.