“10 Reasons Why 76% of Americans Ignore Climate Disasters”
By Paul B. Farrell
“C’mon, admit it, we humans really are causing our own climate suicide. But so what? We’ve got freedom of choice. And we love our cars. They need gas. And we’re a bundle of mental contradictions. Is climate a “big issue?” Gallup polls say no. Only 24% of Americans think “climate change” is a big problem, near the bottom of 15 “national problems” polled. We’ll worry about that later. But aren’t environmentalists warning it may already be “too late.” So what? Blame Big Oil? No way, we love our wheels, big trucks, little Minis, Nascar, car pools, they’re our soul. A billion cars on the planet. Need them. Maybe hate Big Oil. But need gas pumps.
Get it? Humans are unpredictably irrational. Besides, Big Oil’s nine million jobs generates over $1 trillion in annual revenue. Even trusted Vanguard owns over $15 billion of ExxonMobil XOM -0.58% across 170 funds and 20 million shareholders. Stop those pipelines? No way, Congress gives Big Oil $4 billion a year in free tax loopholes. What’s their big secret? It’s human nature, programmed in our DNA, DNA, brains. You, me, all of us have a secret little “climate science denier” in our brains. Listen every time you fill up at the pump. Trips to work, kids’ ball games, energy stock dividends. We just tune out the climate risks. At least until later. And, nobody stops us from exercising our rights, secretly, openly.
End of the human race? Why? ‘You can’t handle the truth!’
We’re in denial, can’t hear the 2,000 concerned scientists in Yokohama this week focusing on their U.N. International Panel on Climate Change’s warnings there’s a “95% certainty” humans cause global warming... can’t even powerful leaders like ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ex-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s new “Risky Business” early-warning system on the costly impact in businesses... can’t even hear Bill McKibben and his massive 350.org army of environmentalists warning it “may already be too late.”
Too late for what? In “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change,” Clive Hamilton, an Australian Professor of Public Ethics, predicts the Earth will soon “enter a chaotic era lasting thousands of years. Whether human beings would still be a force on the planet, or even survive ... one thing seems certain: there will be far fewer of us.” Still, today, 76% of Americans, about 235 million, say climate change global warming, the environment are not our nation’s top priority. Denial is in our DNA.
What does worry Americans most? Topping Gallup’s list are today’s big pocketbook issues: The economy, deficits, unemployment, social security, jobs, federal power, health-care affordability. Climate later, much later.
End of world is a disaster, but till then we’ll have fun, get rich: Don’t care? Tune out? Welcome to the human race. Basic psychology. Behavioral economics. Common sense. We’re like that lovably CEO of a Wall Street bank in one of my favorite Robert Mankoff New Yorker cartoons. He’s at the podium warning shareholders: “While the end-of-the-world scenario will be rife with unimaginable horrors, we believe that the pre-end period will be filled with unprecedented opportunities for profit.”
Money in-or-out of our pockets today tops “saving the world.” That can wait. Gallup knows. Here are my 10 “big issues” distracting the American mind from the long-term problems, like climate change, global warming, the environment:
1. Our public is apathetic — It’s me-first, global warming tomorrow: Experts at Earth Policy Institute and Worldwatch Institute agree with Gallup, asking: “Peak Production From a Planet in Distress: Can We Keep It Up?” No. Our economy is “programmed to squeeze ever more resources from a planet in distress. A mixture of population growth, consumerism, greed, and short-term thinking by policymakers and business people seems to be inexorably driving human civilization toward a showdown with the planet’s limits.” But later will be too late. No time to prepare.
2. Our workers’ big fear — the ‘American Dream’ is now a nightmare: Our brains are split: We want tomorrow’s GDP to be like yesterday’s, full of promise, hope, prosperity, the good ol’ “American Dream.” Since 1776, we’re believed in Adam Smith vision of a “Land of Prosperity.” Powered by the Industrial Revolution. And our brains tell us, “Yes we can get back to those glory days!” With 3%-plus GDP rates. But now we’re struggling. Economist Robert J. Gordon’s warns “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?” As inequality accelerates, the rich get richer, many question capitalism. Gordon sees America’s GDP dropping below 1% by 2100.
3. Our out-of-control population — too many babies and old folks: Scientific American says global population growth is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment.” Yet, by 2050 world population will explode from 7 billion to 10 billion. China’s economy will be three times America’s. Five years ago Bill Gates’s “Billionaires Club” met: Buffett, Soros, Rockefeller, Oprah, Bloomberg and others. What’s the world’s biggest time bomb? Overpopulation, said billionaires. Jeremy Grantham says we can’t feed 10 billion. Gates now says 8.3 billion people is the limit. Jeffery Sachs, head of Columbia’s Earth Institute and adviser to UN Secretary General warns that five billion is too many.
4. Our religious taboos blind us to considering population limits: In “The Last Taboo,” Mother Jones editor Julia Whitty hit the nail on the head: “What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population.” Unfortunately, these hot-button issues ignite powerful reactions from fundamentalists. So politicians go deaf, won’t touch them. Nor will U.N.’s world leaders. By the time we wake up, it’ll be too late to act.
5. We’re addicted to numbers — GDP is a divine ‘Invisible Hand’: Anthropologist Jared Diamond says public health advances have “increased life spans in the Third World. But life span is not a sufficient indicator ... about 80% of the world’s population” still survive on a few dollars a day. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, author of “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future”: “There’s less equality of opportunity in the U.S today than in almost any advanced industrial country.” Since 2008, the top 1% has captured 93% of all income growth. We need to recapture the real spirit of Adam Smith’s “Theory on Moral Sentiments”, add it back into America’s economic equation and database.
6. We believe economists — their bizarre ‘myth of perpetual growth’: Our civilization is at a crossroads, facing an ultimate no-win scenario. And yet, the “myth of perpetual growth” is blindly accepted to support GDP assumptions, economic expansion, the population explosion. It’s also wasting the planet’s non-renewable natural resources, will eventually destroy Earth. We’re damned if we grow. Damned if we don’t. Traditional economists work for organizations with short-term views. All our brains are convinced: If we can’t grow this quarter, long-term is irrelevant. The opposite’s true. Our mind’s mythology has trapped us in a suicidal run.
7. We think Big Oil has a public conscience — we’re in massive denial: The world has “1.4 trillion barrels of oil, enough to last at least 200 years,” says Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue, quoting Big Oil stats ... “2.7 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to last 120 years ... 486 billion tons of coal, enough to last more than 450 years.” Yes, 200 years of oil. Too bad it’ll kill us in 50 years says environmentalist Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone. How? We may have “five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn.” Suicide in 50 years.
8. We forget too much — how climate-science deniers get rich: Even ExxonMobil’s $40 million-a-year CEO Rex Tillerson admits climate change is real. But just an “engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.” We’ll “adapt to a sea-level rise,” humans “spent our entire existence adapting.” Even with the U.N.’s 2,000 climate scientists 95% certainty that climate change could wipe civilization off the planet, like the dinosaurs, we forget why Big Oil is the world’s biggest climate science denier, and gets $4 billion annually in tax subsidies, fights all regulations, invests over $35 billion annually in exploration, spends millions buying votes of politicians.
9. We ignore facts — like the planet can’t feed 10 billion people: Jeremy Grantham, whose GMO firm manages $100 billion, looks ahead to 2050, warns of an “inevitable mismatch between finite resources and exponential population growth” with a “bubble-like explosion of prices for raw materials,” and commodity shortages that are becoming a huge “threat to the long-term viability of our species when we reach a population level of 10 billion.” Bottom line, it’s “impossible to feed the 10 billion people.”
10. We have too much faith in technology — can’t solve future problems: Our “faith in the future is based on an unsubstantiated track record that technology has lead us out of past problems and will solve today’s problems without creating new ones,” says Jared Diamond. But “actual experience is the opposite.” In Gordon’s provocative paper predicting decline of growth we learn that not only will America’s GDP dropping under 1% by 2100, Gordon also says that new innovations, technologies will never match the rate of GDP since the Industrial Revolution, Silicon Valley’s optimism won’t reverse the decline.
Too much realism today? Please comment: do you agree with Gallup pollsters? Why?”