Jack Betz

To those educated and aware, the seemingly cataclysmic problem of global anthropogenic climate change is straightforward. The science has been settled for years.

Still, the infectious veins of doubt that corrupt the American populace bring us to a point in human history where every dissenting opinion raises the severity of the threat to future generations. The issue has become a matter of communication. In a country where ideology rules over reason, the fight isn’t about dredging up more data to affirm the consensus; the fight is one of persuasion.

It is all too easy to become politically polarized over climate change. Environmentalism is strung up with liberalism and the conservative half of our government wants nothing to do with it. President Donald Trump, (now @POTUS), tweeted in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

In 2015, he posted, “It’s really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!” This diatribe, whether it is a sincere belief or just politics imprinted and internalized, has never wavered in Trump’s bully parade to the Capitol Hill. Since being sworn in, Trump eliminated any mention of climate change from whitehouse.gov and has begun enacting an anti-environmental agenda.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a previous climate change denier, has been chosen by Trump to head the EPA. As A.G. of Oklahoma, a state entrenched with the gas and oil industries, he actively obstructed Obama’s environmental measures. Pruitt has since said that his own opinions on climate change are “immaterial,” but nonetheless has softened his take since his appointment. He declares that the climate is warming but that the degree to which it is human-induced is in question and more studies must be done.

Pruitt’s shift can be viewed by some as a step forward, a step towards complete acknowledgement and understanding of the accepted scientific truth but under higher scrutiny this tactic is as subversive as direct denial.  

This tactic of spreading uncertainty is not anything new for anti-environmentalists. Scientific, accredited contrarians such as S. Fred Singer, Frederick Seitz, and Robert Jastrow has implemented tactics to deny issues ranging from acid rain to ozone depletion — the magnum opus of their careers being the denial of global climate change.

The uncertainty pushed by members of the new Trump Administration in regards to climate change comes at a crucial moment. Carrying on with a business as usual approach will land us in deep water in more ways than one. The public will not rally behind a cause they are unsure of. Therefore it becomes the moral imperative of the environmentalist to communicate the reality of our changing planet — education is essential to gain traction.  

It has always been the fight of the current generation. Those that came before did not find a solution and those that come after will be too late. As the window closes between now and that gray moment a few decades on when earth’s natural processes lock into unstoppable positive feedback loops, the outlook is becoming increasingly bleak.

It should be noted that this call to action is entirely about saving ourselves (with other species as a side thought).  The earth will endure longer than the bipedal hominids that call it home. This is not to say humanity is hopeless, but Pruitt and those like him are an additional roadblock in what is already a breakneck race.

The stall of four or eight years before Trump leaves office will have a considerable effect, but it has always been an uphill battle and the environmentalists, green policy advocates, student activists, and multitudes of others involved recognize this and will not shirk from their efforts. With a shred of a luck, Trump’s administration could even incite a new wave of resistance.

Pruitt, a man who opposes the all but unanimous scientific consensus that humans are influencing the global climate to a momentous degree, leads the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States. Pruitt is sure to be the tip of the iceberg of Trump’s denialist agenda.

This is a staggering blow at a vastly inopportune time. It needs to serve as a catalyst and not a suppressant. To those inundated in demonizing the new leader of the free world, keep breathing and recall this line by Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Jack Betz is a fourth year environmental studies and CCS literature double major. He is a writer, photographer, coffee addict/aficionado, and hiker. One of his favorite book is Heller's "Catch 22."

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