Are You New to the Climate Change Conversation?

San Juan, P.R., was plunged into darkness on Wednesday after Hurricane Maria made landfall.
San Juan, P.R., was plunged into darkness on Wednesday after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

If you’re new to the climate-change conversation, you’re concerned. Rightfully so. Maybe you’re not sleeping so well. Join the club.

With the 2017 Hurricane Season in full explosive bloom, everyone's acutely aware of the real-time impacts of a warming planet. They're affecting most of us personally and seriously worrying just about everyone.

As more and more people grasp the severity and pervasiveness of global-warming impacts—a new normal for the human race?—you might wonder why we all, every one of us—citizens, business, universities, the medical community, the media, the armed forces, and government at every level—are not hell-bent on solving this with everything we’ve got. Sort of the way our allied leaders and our grandparents approached World War II. There’s a lot at stake. And switching our world economy from fossil fuels to clean energy is the greatest opportunity in history.

It’s an excellent question, and I hope you won’t let it go.

As more and more of us clamor to understand what global warming is, and whether it makes bad storms worse (answer: yes, it’s complicated; and yes, definitely), some super high-up  important people are shushing the public as though we were grubby kids acting out at a cub-scout jamboree.

From Scott Pruitt, Chief of the E.P.A. "To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced…. Congress should address that at some point. And Congress hasn't.” (Huh? Who? What a bunch of octopus ink!) “All I'm saying to you is, to use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to the people in Florida." Note: E.P.A. is for Environmental Protection Agency.

Very, very insensitive!

The Republican mayor in Miami promptly countered, "This is the time to talk about climate change. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come."

Even President Trump is impressed by the recent storm activity. As Maria zoomed in on Puerto Rico, he said “We have a big one going right now — I’ve never seen winds like this. You take a look at what’s happening there, and it’s just one after another.”

Who's in charge here?

Allow me to present the Climate Deniers.

My unofficial poll reveals two types of deniers. I call them a) the Dunderheads and b) the Snakes. We need to understand both better, because although their numbers are dwindling, one hopes, they can and do shove formidable roadblocks on the super-highway to climate solutions.

We often hear about the “political will” to move forward on eliminating CO2 from the atmosphere. Here’s how the deniers fit in.

1) The Dunderhead Deniers will not ever work on solving this. Don’t count on them. They don’t care, they don’t want to know, and they’re proud of it. They don’t vote for people who spend time on it. It’s not an issue. They aren’t interested in how we move from single-digit to 100% renewable energy. Someone else will fix this. Dunderheads perch on high stools in dim lonely corners with dunce caps on, fingers in ears, barking misinformation at anyone in earshot.

This first cohort is descended from Titanic passengers who initially ignored the fact that an iceberg had ripped apart their ship and later, drowned.

2) The Snake Deniers will not stop working against climate solutions. They will not utter the words climate and change in the same sentence. Climate change is not happening, it's not real, it’s a hoax, it’s not important, it’s a waste of time and money, 97% of scientists are wrong, the data is misleading, it’s all complicated and unsettled and part of a liberal treehugger conspiracy. Snakes are very clever, as they have been since the Garden of Eden. They’re the least popular and brainiest kid in your high school who cozies up to his pet python at night. He (and why is it usually a he? subject for another post) is energized but by the same pernicious brew that fuels so many world-class villains.

Of course! It all boils down to Money and Power. Or, in the parlance of the Biblical Seven Deadly Sins, Greed and Pride. And don't forget Gluttony: “an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.”

Examples: The entire White House, apparently, and the President’s Cabinet and certain Republican Senators. With stunning and thorough sweep, they’re stripping regulations on all that endangers human health and peace of mind, e.g., emissions from power plants and vehicles, chemical waste, yadda yadda. Follow the Environmental Defense Fund for the daily proof. Of course they demand US withdrawal from the Paris agreement; they are financed by oil, gas, and coal interests. (Here's a list.)

Remember, no denier will change his mind easily. Ergo don't waste time arguing with them. It's draining. Instead, call them out. In the nicest possible way.

Like this:

Dear Denier,

In the past few weeks, Harvey’s “unfathomable” precipitation has forced the National Weather Service to add new colors to its maps. Irma was one of the biggest baddest hurricanes ever, posting 185 mph winds for more than 37 hours as it took on the Caribbean, Florida, and beyond. This week, having clamored through the Caribbean, Maria is ravaging Puerto Rico. The cost? Incalculable. One source estimates U.S. property damage between $42.5 billion and $65 billion.

So, is now a good time to talk about climate change? Or shall we allow you to shove the whole hot mess under the rug again and pretend it isn’t happening?

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