How Houston Sends a Humbling Message About Climate Change

People in Houston have been drowning the past few days. Do they care about climate change right now?

No.

They are currently returning to houses that have been massively damaged. Are they caring about climate change now?

No.

These people have real problems at the moment. They don’t have the time, nerve or energy to waste on climate change. In the past few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that climate change isn’t a “problem”. Talking about it is a waste of time. People need jobs, they need money to pay rent, food, education, Netflix. Climate change is a nice but somewhat irrelevant topic to fill the gaps of boredom between.

So how to prevent climate change when talking about it is a waste of time? We need a new story. People love stories. Compare these two:

  1. If you smoke, your live will be 10 years shorter on average.
  2. My grandmother smoked all her life and she died with 95 in good health.

Both are “true” in the sense that they are facts which have been verified as well as could be. Which one do you like to hear?

So here is my story about climate change:

Climate changes. It changes all the time. Sometimes it’s hotter, sometimes it’s colder. Who cares. People have real problems. People need jobs. How do you create jobs? By doing new stuff.

When everyone has a car, you can’t sell more cars. You simply can’t get most people to buy two cars. You can replace the few that die every year but that’s not growth. That’s simply keeping the level. Today’s cars produce a lot of poisons. That’s bad for everyone. They need gasoline of which the US has only so much. We need to send soldiers to die in far away countries to make sure we get all the oil we need.

That’s a tragedy for the families involved and that’s a lot of our money wasted. This money doesn’t come from some magic place, it’s the money which every American pays in form of taxes.

If we replace all the bad cars with new cars, we will create a lot of jobs. New technologies need to be invented. Better batteries. More efficient and reliable power grids. When was your last power outage?

No more soldiers dying for oil. Cars which refuel themselves over night. No need to stop at dark fuel stations. Yeah, the fuel stations will go away. But a lot of people lost their jobs when we did away with horse carriages. Those were unhappy but overall, it was a change for the better.

Cleaner air. More jobs. Better health. Less power outages. Less traffic noise. Having a job will mean you can afford the new car and get rid of the old junk. With all those new cars, people will ask for better roads. With the new jobs, we can afford that as well. We can then invent technology to recycle millions of cars efficiently and sell that.

Here is how the story works: People have problems that are important for them. We can ignore that (and be ignored) or acknowledge it. Telling them “hey, here are even more problems and who knows how to solve them” isn’t going to work. So we need to paint a picture. One where they can find themselves in. One where they can see some actual problems of themselves solved.

That’s how you prevent climate change.

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