“In the months after 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly invoked the principle that if there’s even a 1 percent chance of a terrorist attack, we must prepare as if it were a certainty.
Can a rational human being who doesn’t believe in climate change at least agree there is a remote possibility that 95 percent of climate scientists are right? Maybe a 1 percent chance? If so, shouldn’t we prudently prepare ‘as if it were a certainty?’” (full text)
This is one of the better framings for climate change that I have encountered. Since 9/11 the United States has essentially followed the doctrine that VP Cheney outlined and thankfully we have not had a repeat of that fateful day. Unfortunately for the most part we have ignored the impact of climate change which potentially may have vastly greater consequences. Why?! I believe there are a couple of primary reasons.
1) Deep entrenched interests
If we were to take climate change as seriously as we do a terrorist threat we would need to make some serious changes in the way we do things. Change is tough. Our government, corporations and all of us as individuals don’t want to make sacrifices when the sun is shining outside and our lives seem unimpacted. Not only this but there is money to be made and potentially lost and thus the misinformation and climate change doubters are well financed and organized. And we as individuals and communities don’t take much persuading to go on living as normal. This is all despite that fact that even the pentagon, by all accounts a very conservative department, has been saying for eight years now that climate change is real and an absolute threat. You think if any voice would have an impact in implementing the 1% Cheney doctrine for mobilization toward climate change it would be the pentagon!
2) No enemy
When facing Hitler and the Japanese during world war 2 americans made amazing sacrifices as a united front. The Rosie the riveters and GI Joes in every American were brought to the forefront. We knew there was evil doing harm out in the world and something had to be done about it and we, with our allies, rose to the occasion. Unfortunately with climate change there is no Hitler or Stalin or Osama Bin Laden for us to unite against despite climate change having global devastating implications.
In fact we all are partly to blame and if we are to seriously “prepare as if it is a certainty” we must demand more from our government, our corporations and yes especially from ourselves. It is always much more difficult to confront the beams in our own eyes than to find the mote in some distant “enemy” but yet we must.
If the government knew there was a 75% chance that North Korea was going to nuke the south we would be there in heartbeat with most Americans’ support. Yet here we have a 95% chance that something far more destructive is in fact happening let us take charge and bring out the Rosie and Joes in all of us to sacrifice and demand change.