Top 25 reasons to give a damn about climate change
For some people, climate change is a tough cause to rally ’round — even those who understand that it’s happening and that it’s human-caused get distracted by things like eating, working, having sex, watching TV, or watching people on TV have sex.
While social scientists ponder the best ways to get the message out and motivate the masses — and since we’re gearing up to cover December’s climate talks in Copenhagen — we’ve devised a Grist list of good reasons to care about this global crisis. Got reasons of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.
25. Because supermodels are stripping for the cause. If these lovely ladies are getting hot and bothered, shouldn’t you? At least watch the video. Call it your good deed for the day.
24. Because you don’t want your insurance premiums to go up. The sea level rise, severe weather, flash floods, and windstorms attributable to climate change have all got the insurance industry on edge. Some firms in the U.S. have already raised premiums in coastal areas, and rates in the U.K. are on the rise as well.
Photo: Shay Haas23. Because you like to ski. Listen up, snow bunny: you’ll soon be consigned to schussing in an indoor dome if climate chaos has its way. Shorter winters and decreased snowfall are forcing big ski areas to ramp up their snowmaking efforts (a questionable scheme in the face of global water shortages) and leading smaller ski areas to close.
22. Because you’re a raging hypochondriac. Warmer temperatures mean happy, thriving insects, which might mean increased risk of West Nile, encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever. Do you really need more to worry about? Isn’t that weird spot on your inner thigh enough?
Photo: andedam via flickr21. Because it’s a good excuse to learn weird things about animal sex. OK, you don’t care about the plight of the polar bears. But admit it, you’re curious about polar bear penises, aren’t you? And why they’re larger in snowier areas? That’s nothing compared to the lengths sea turtles go to for reproduction, and the flip-flopping gender of the hot bearded dragon lizard. Go on, check it out — you know you want to.
20. Because you hate oil. If your soul still wilts at the thought of all those people in slickers cleaning slick-covered birds in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill, if you’d rather ride a bike than participate in the auto economy, then climate change is your issue, man. Fossil fuels got us here, and ending our reliance on them can get us out. But you don’t need us to tell you that.
19. Because you love oil. So maybe you didn’t mind the oily birds and you love driving your car? You should be worried too: according to a report from the U.S. government, the severe storms that are becoming more frequent due to climate change threaten our infrastructure and transportation networks, including the ports and freight lines used to transport oil. The oil-rich Gulf Coast is, as was made painfully clear in 2005, a particularly vulnerable area. Stop climate change in its tracks! Save the oil distribution network!
18. Because you eat rice. It’s a pleasant side dish to you, and for 750 million people, it’s a life-giving staple: rice. But this crucial crop stands to wither in the face of climate change, thanks to rising temperatures, increased flooding, and rats. Yeah, rats — they scurry in after major storms, eat all the rice, and nibble on people too. Care yet?
Photo: Martin Crook17. Because Stephen Colbert does. Need we say more?
16. Because the Christian Coalition does. Need we pray more?
15. Because it will create jobs. Talk about your silver lining: In the midst of the deepest recession this country has seen in decades, attempts to forestall this global climate scourge could create new jobs in clean-energy industries, weatherization, and other areas. The feds are already steering money toward job training for green professions, and clean-energy legislation now before Congress could create jobs and boost the GDP of every U.S. state.
14. Because you live near water. Sea levels could rise as much as a meter or more by 2100. That’s enough to put places like Miami, downtown Philadelphia, and parts of Manhattan underwater. How many people live in such vulnerable coastal areas? Oh, just 53 percent of the U.S. population.
13. Because Kardashians interest you more than Katrinas. Who can forget the powerful images beamed around the world when Hurricane Katrina hit: the faces of the forgotten, houses crumpled like paper cups, water washing over everything. And who can forget how they beamed in during your favorite show! So inconsiderate. If this sort of prime-time interruption irritates you, you may want to get involved in the climate fight. Because we’re going to see a lot more storms, and that means a lot more unhappy people beamed in your living room.
12. Because you like breathing. Got lungs? Got a healthy apprecation for fresh air? Well, take a deep breath: warming-induced increases in ground-level ozone and particulate matter are expected to increase respiratory disorders including asthma, and a recent study says more children will be hospitalized over the next decade due to such respiratory problems.
11. Because colorful coral jewelry completes most of your outfits. Prepare to adopt a new accessory, or wear a lot of white necklaces: climate change has led to massive coral bleaching and die-offs. The real problem is the disturbance of the delicate relationship between coral reefs and the teensy organisms that build them and give them color. It’s the foundation of a healthy ocean, which is the foundation of a healthy planet.
10. Because you won’t be able to hold up your end of a conversation with Obama, Lucy Lawless, Glenn Beck, Evander Holyfield, or the Pope if you don’t. You can probably fake it with Miley Cyrus, though.
Photo: burnblue9. Because colorful fall leaves are so pretty. But warmer autumns — and pests that enjoy warmer autumns — are messing with the trees. Duller leaves means less for you to look at, and translates into an economic hit for places like New England that rely on tourism generated by the annual phenomenon.
8. Because you don’t want to serve embarrassing champagne. Rising temperatures are altering the world’s finest champagnes, making the alcohol content “embarrassingly high,” says one British wine critic. How fun! Uh, we meant to say how terrible.
7. Because you like lights to come on when you flip a switch. Remember that blackout in 2003? The one that left 50 million people in the dark? That happened on a hot, hot day when lots of people wanted electricity. Guess what we’re in for more of? Hot, hot days. Guess how much our power grid has improved since then? Not much. For a little bit of Jazzercise for the brain, check out this academic paper on climate’s potential impacts on our power grids and national security — including, oh, crippling our society.
6. Because: “insect feeding frenzy.” Shudder.
5. Because you support the recycled-soda-bottle fleece industry. What will become of those cozy fleece jackets made from recycled soda bottles? Such an incredible innovation, such a wonderful way forward — but if our northern climes turn temperate and our southern climes turn tropical, no one will wear fleece. And those soda bottles are going right back in the trash.
4. Because you think it’s depressing when old people die alone in hot apartments. Heat waves are the deadliest natural disaster in the U.S. — and the probability of severe heat waves is increasing along with temperatures. If emissions are not reduced, heat waves are projected to double in Los Angeles and quadruple in Chicago. With an aging boomer population, that’s a recipe for one hot mess.
3. Because you think it’s depressing when little kids die. It’s happening. Now. According to Save the Children, 9 million kids die before their fifth birthday each year from diseases that are occurring more frequently because of climate change, which is also affecting access to food and water. What are you, completely heartless?
2. Because everyone at Grist cares. We’re a bunch of (fairly) normal people, with pets and kids and money woes and Twitter obsessions — but we all think this is big. Like, bigger than Elvis. A survey shows that our reasons range from the practical (I live near the coast) to the dire (it’s going to kill my unborn grandbabies). But on one thing we agree: we need to do whatever we can to reverse this course.
1. Because if we stop climate change, we can stop earnest lists like this. Seriously. We’d rather be doing other stuff too. Like maybe watching that supermodel video again?