The Business of Climate Change

Climate change Al Gore

Nothing in this world is accomplished without there first being a strong business need or benefit. Someone’s profiting off of everything, because if no one is, then it’s not a thing.

That simple.

Just because “it’d be cool if we had __________,” it doesn’t mean it’ll become a reality. Yes, someone could theoretically make it happen, and some people might be into it, but unless it makes business sense to pursue the idea, it’s not going to happen.

Because ideas cost money. Start-up capital, education, labor, materials, marketing and advertising, etc. etc. The list goes on. Revenue must outweigh the costs.

Economics 101. Or really, just common sense.

I blame this principal for all of the terrible movie sequels and remakes we’ve been bombarded with lately. That’s a personal grievance, but I get why Hollywood keeps doing it. Regardless of how much people complain about these remakes, they’re still paying to watch them – you can’t hate-tweet a movie you haven’t seen. Either way, the studio gets the dollar.

“Follow the money and see where it goes.”

There’s always a money trail. Behind every business initiative, behind every conservation effort; each sponsorship or endorsement, each noble cause, each bill proposed and sometimes passed in Congress.

There’s always a trail. But occasionally, it just gets a little swept over.

Many of us already know this. Corruption in Washington isn’t exactly a new concept, and lobbyists are an ostensible evil infiltrating our government.

The politicians control the money. They have the power to enact or change policy to benefit one group over another. Conversely, should they choose to limit certain things, some groups may suffer financially as a result.

So, the other night, Former Vice President Al Gore came to visit Houston. I attended his talk at Rice University with a friend of mine (and her very enthusiastic parents). As many of you know, since Gore left the White House, he’s focused on raising awareness around the world about climate change and global warming, specifically the human influence on it and the impact it can have on our lives going forward.

This goes beyond “Save the planet, hug a tree, shower every other day,” even though I totally hugged a tree while I was hiking in California last week.

Al Gore often gets criticized for talking about this stuff despite the fact that he’s not a scientist, let alone a climatologist. But for his mission, he doesn’t need to be. He built the platform. He has the voice. He’s got the scoop on Washington. He’s made the connections. And now, he has the ears of millions of people, including the majority of millennials who grew up in the 90s with him as their VP.

He’s like an old friend who’s come back to remind us of better days, when our biggest problem was that the TV stations decided to air the OJ Simpson trial over our regularly scheduled Saturday morning cartoons.

Ugh, the worst.

Anyway, Gore’s general approach is this: Hit you with the stats, facts, and figures. Show you some horrifying videos of destructive storms, record-breaking floods, and people dying from extreme heat. Then come the projections for where we could be, depending on what actions we take today.

I’m always skeptical of bar graphs and projections, as we all should be. We learn in our math and science classes how easy it is to tweak a graph or chart to mislead your audience or to skew your data. Additionally, in presentations such as Gore’s, news reports, memes, or whatever, we’re generally not given information about sample size, time frame, what exactly is being measured, methods of recording, etc. There are tons of variables to consider.

Still, they are helpful in illustrating a point in a way that is easily digested by a large number of people. We just have to hope that whoever’s presenting the data did their due-diligence. Integrity – a tall order, indeed.

Gore’s plan, then, is to just get people to care about the state of our environment and planet. He wants there to be an uprising, or less dramatically, a collective effort towards conservation and preservation. The dialogue needs to change first before real, tangible change can be affected.

In countries all over the world, specifically in India and China, change is happening – and it’s happening quickly. Instead of clutching to dying industries that devastate the earth, and instead of coddling workers who are resistant to change and adaptation within those dying industries, these nations and others are leading the charge in adopting and standardizing more renewable energy sources, and they’re doing it with success.

We’re definitely in a transition period, now, which doesn’t have to be a terrible or uncomfortable process. If you roll with the changes, they tend to come much easier. If you don’t, the changes come anyway.

So…let’s roll.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much we can do on an individual, or even collective level. As I mentioned earlier, nothing gets done without there being a strong business case for it. It has to be economically worth it, not necessarily for the American population, but for the few people who control the money – the few people who profit off of the fossil fuel industries. CEOs and politicians, alike.

Of course, there’s less foresight here, or that’s how it appears. Maybe there’s something I’m missing – which is entirely possible – but we’ve known since forever ago that these fossil fuels are in limited supply. I remember learning that in the second grade, and at the time, the understanding was that these energy options were fine until we found something better. Back in the 90s, solar and wind energy were pipe dreams. They weren’t available or reliable on large scales…but now, they are.

So, why the resistance? We’ve reached the point where we can shift gears to embrace the dreams that are now a reality, but instead of all jumping on board, we’re held back by the people who are profiting off of fossil fuels today.

Today.

And only today. Until they all burn out. Or until we destroy ourselves and our resources.

I realize this is an extremely broad explanation of a problem, but I’m talking about the difference between a short-term solution for very few people and a long-term solution for the planet.

To make a very simple case for why it would be in Washington’s best interest to acknowledge and address climate change, this year alone, hurricanes – which have gotten stronger, more destructive, and more frequent as the result of global warming – have cost the United States approximately $350 billion in damage.

Additionally, government subsidies for fossil fuels have extended beyond $699 billion dollars, compared to around $27 billion for renewable energy sources (all of this according to Gore’s presentation). Here’s an interesting article about government-subsidized energy, if you’re interested in reading more. The numbers are different I assume because of the way the figures were calculated, but either way, the differences in expenditure are staggering.

Jesus, the wheel is spinning outta control. And it’s on fire.

My friend was making fun of my articles. As he went to read my latest, he said, “Alright…let’s see what you try to make me do today.

Yes! We’ve all got work to do! Even if it’s just listening and talking. Spreading information. Learning from one another. Growing as individuals and as a society.

Additionally, I don’t believe in complaining about something without at least having an idea of what you’d like to see take its place.

So, I’m asking you all to read up on climate change – the impacts it has on our planet, how we got here, what we can do to fix some of the damage we caused, and what the way forward looks like. Also consider what benefit there is in denying climate change, and what detriment we could possibly face should we choose to ignore it.

If, then, you’re so convinced that sustainable, renewable energy sources are the way to go – contact your government representatives. These things need to happen on a large scale if you want to see your efforts rewarded. Politicians care about their re-elections…just saying.

Let me reiterate that I’m not a scientist or climatologist. I’m just a girl with a website who loves being outside. This article isn’t exhaustive. I’m not going to convince you of anything here. I’m not trying to. I’m just asking you to read up on your own, because the future is coming, whether we’re ready for it or not.

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