"Climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury - the phenomenon is an actual fact. All of the industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis." This quote is not from your typical environmentalist or climate scientist. It comes from none other than Osama bin Laden. To quote Bill Maher, "How come a guy in a cave gets it better than every Republican voting for the Senate?"
Maher read this quote on his show last fall, and the typical contrarian argument was given from the conservative panelists – that we can't do anything about climate change because 1.3 billion people in China want cars and who are we to stop it.
Five years ago, China was barely on the climate change map, but today they are the leaders in green energy technological investments. Simply put, they get it. Climate deniers explain this by concluding that China holds our debt. China can afford to think about global warming while we Americans, as conservative panelist S.E. Cupp put it, are just trying to pay our mortgages right now.
But why can't we?
The argument that we can’t afford to do anything about climate change is stale. New industries and new money could come about by creating the types of jobs that green energy would necessitate. This could bring on the boom time. Climate change is not a “pie in the sky”. Skepticism never helped anyone advance in life.
Cupp characterized global warming as “a rich man's problem.” She argued that when the economy thrives, any cause can find supporters, but when times are tight, we as a society retract and focus on immediate threats, like our mortgages.
What in the world is this woman talking about, global warming is "a rich man's problem"?
Her comments are important to note because many misguided people share the same jaded attitude about the environment and green jobs. Every year, we seem to turn our collective cheek to the 800-pound, green gorilla in the room, and that’s one more year the Earth gets a little hotter.
It is harmful to so blatantly associate class to this crisis – last I checked, rich and poor live amongst each other. We all have to bare the brunt of its effects. If anything, the poor will suffer more because of a growing scarcity of resources. Global warming is everyman’s burden because in the end, it’s about ecology. There is no excuse for the rich or poor to make the planet less habitable. Poverty has neither the authority nor the incentive to pollute the Earth.
Most of Cupp’s commentary was dismissive and pessimistic, but perhaps the kicker was her sarcasm when saying green jobs would surely turn the economy around in a snap. No one said creating this new industry is the be all end all, but it never ceases to amaze me how so many angry people who keep citing the unemployment rate are either unknowingly or unabashedly walking contradictions.
The national unemployment rate is a little under nine percent. I am sure if I walked into any unemployment office in America and told people they could have a green job, they would see its practicality. Essentially, when people are given a reason to care about something that will serve their best interest, they will do it. That is human nature.
My basic argument to climate contrarians is thus: Say we end up spending a trillion dollars trying to achieve cleaner energy while creating millions of jobs worldwide and reducing air and water pollution, and yet it still turns out we were wrong about climate change, where is the harm? There is absolutely nothing wrong with innovation and self-sufficiency, and we must stress that point to both the American public and lawmakers.
Shubha Jaishankar is a graduate student at New York University's Center for Global Affairs, concentrating in Transnational Security and currently writing her thesis on megacities and sustainability within the context of energy security. She received her B.A. in International Relations from Boston University.
This article was submitted for the atlantic-community.org's competition: "Empowering Women in International Relations." It coincides with the 10th Anniversary of UN resolution 1325 calling for an increased influence of women in all aspects of peace and security. The contest is sponsored by the U.S. Mission to NATO and the NATO Public Diplomacy Division.
You can read more submissions from the competition here.