An Oklahoman’s Take on Global Warming
Written by Annemarie Cuccia
The realization that the world is slowly dying hits you all at once, fades, and then hits again a week later. Perhaps this is why, despite the universal problems it poses, climate change is too often an afterthought on the world stage. We are all so busy with yesterday’s scandal and today’s nuclear threat that tomorrow, much less a hundred years from now, is as foreign as a country halfway across the globe. Thankfully, discussions are beginning on how to slow this new enemy, but I will leave that to climate scientists who know more than I. It is only half the equation to solve global warming, only the stopping and not the living with.
I come from a state where my senator held up a snowball in the senate and proclaimed that because he was holding this snowball, climate change did not exist. I also come from a state where an unimaginable amount of people depend on oil and natural gas, not just to keep their cars running, but to keep their bank accounts full. These two facts are intimately linked. The nuances of the issues around nonrenewable and polluting resources are in full display here every day; a hundred Oklahomans buy Teslas, and an oil worker is laid off. Any job growth in resource extraction is not occurring here, according a report put out by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014. People here deny global warming not because they are stupid, but because they are scared. It is much the same in Saudi Arabia; neither of these places will stop producing oil because it is the only capital they have, the only bargaining chip in an ever globalizing economy. For these economies to stop producing oil, stop polluting, they will need economic incentives and market diversification. A monetary investment in stopping climate change in the form of aid or retraining to sustain those who are no longer profiting from oil is crucial. This cannot be left up to private corporations who utter falsehoods about global warming everyday, but must be taken up by the government.
Simultaneously, something must be done to better prepare communities for the impacts of our warming home. Many say that to adjust for global warming is defeatist, but I would not characterize attempting to save lives as defeatism. As some attempt to change our world, the rest of us must learn to live in it. This will mean higher flood walls, stronger levees, and possibly even moving inland. It will of course, mean investment in alternative energy sources, but it also must mean making those sources affordable and widespread. Most importantly, it will require us to think of global warming disasters as a constant probability and plan for it in the same way California prepares for earthquakes or New Orleans prepares for hurricanes.
Finally, we must not forget the global inequality climate change threatens to exploit. Not only will countries with low levels of development be the least prepared to fight or adapt, these countries are often close to the equator, meaning the heat they face will be the most extreme, according to a study by the University of East Anglia. This threatens to disadvantage these countries even further in a world that has spent centuries taking advantage of them. Fortunately, the solution here can be simple— if these countries skip over the step of gas power and go straight to solar, and some villages have already done incredibly successfully, they can position themselves much better. Here, international aid may be needed, but companies such as SolarNow, who installs solar panels on roofs of homes in many African countries, are finding incredible success in small areas, they just need to expand.
Global warming is often a story of doom and gloom, but also a story with a single narrative– the planet must be saved. I, too, wish it were this simple. I wish we could tell our neighbors to install solar panels and start an urban garden and find ourselves in a new world. But we have to be honest about what we’re facing, and the people who may get hurt in our quest to save humanity. Otherwise, we are just as ignorant as those who deny a problem exists.