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The Week in Climate Part 5: Hope

By Phil Plait

One of the hardest parts of writing about global warming—and there are lots and lots of hard parts—is simply keeping up with the news. Much of it comes in short newsy bits, worth knowing but difficult to write about as an individual full post. Since the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference is being held in Paris this week, I’m posting a weeklong series of shorter articles about global warming and its fallout. Here are Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. And read all of Slate’s coverage of the Paris climate talks here.    

After all the bad climate news this week, it’s easy to despair. Still, there is hope. It’s not too late to change minds. Some Republicans have changed theirs, and if they can—when it’s practically a GOP plank to deny the science—then it’s possible for everyone.

Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist and an evangelical Christian, and she is changing minds in that group as well (seriously, listen to that interview). She’s doing good work, strong work, and is laying inroads in a group that otherwise might not listen to someone like me—and she understands the separation of faith and politics. I’m a big fan of hers.

It’s not too late to be digging into this, to be fixing the problem. That’s what the Paris conference on climate change being held this week is all about. One hundred forty nations have committed to changing their climate policy—an excellent start—and President Obama attended too, on the heels of his Clean Power Act that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Incidentally, the GOP-controlled Senate and House voted to block the act in a move to make Obama look weak in the days leading up to the Paris conference; however Obama will veto the block (the GOP lacks the votes to override the veto).

Despite the misinformation from so many GOP leaders, it makes financial and economic sense to look at climate change solutions. Just financially, it will cost less to meet this problem than to avoid it. We can still move to non–fossil fuel energy production. Again, despite the GOP misinformation, China is aggressively pursuing alternative energy sources. We can too.

Avoiding this issue will cost more than meeting it. Bill Gates thinks so as well; he’s putting a staggering $2 billion toward a clean energy partnership between the U.S. and India.

So yeah, there’s hope. Look: Climate scientists are on the front lines of all this, and if they can find reason for hope, then it must be there.

The America that science-denying GOP sees is one that’s reactive, one that’s scared, one that can’t face challenges. That’s not the America I know, the one we really live in. Climate change is a huge issue, and a frightening one, but it’s not insurmountable. Instead of denying it, we need to accept its reality and to think of it as a challenge.

When Americans are challenged, we rise up and do our best. I honestly and truly think that we can, that this is an opportunity to show the world that we won’t stick out heads in the sand. We’ll face this issue, and we’ll figure out how to minimize it, how to circumvent it, how to manage it. I don’t believe in phony platitudes, or empty motivational slogans, so my words here don’t ring hollow to me. They’re simply the truth. We went to the Moon, we put rovers on Mars, we look outward to the Universe and forward into the future. That’s America.

Climate change is one of the largest existential threats we face today. It’s time to face it down.

Postscript: My friend Joe Hanson from It’s OK to Be Smart, along with many other YouTubers, is part of a YT campaign to raise awareness about climate change called “Ours to Lose.” They made this video, and are asking people to sign a petition that will be delivered to leaders at the Paris conference.

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