There are two kinds of “let’s pretend” games.
The first is intended to illustrate a principle. For example, let’s pretend that you have a teenage son. You don’t have much money–you live in low-wage, “Right to Work” Indiana–so you’ve been saving for several years in order to send him to college. He’s also been depositing money from his part-time job into the joint savings account the two of you have established.
One day, you discover he’s dropped out of high school, and taken all the money to buy a car. He explains that he needs a car now, to get to his job at Burger Heaven, where he makes three dollars an hour more than his friends who work elsewhere. Besides, he argues, the future benefits of a high school diploma (forget college) are speculative.
Would you dismiss the unequivocal data about education and lifetime earning disparities and general well-being? Would you endorse his decision to make more money now and damn the future?
According to a story buried a couple of days ago in the Indianapolis Star, a coalition of national and state business groups is fighting new rules on greenhouse gas emissions. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says Congress should quash the pending regulations because they would hike energy bills and cost jobs.
The new rules will cost businesses and consumers some money now. Those rules, however, are a necessary part of a still-inadequate effort to slow global climate change. It bears repeating that there is no scientific dispute about the reality of that climate change. We are already seeing its effects.
Too bad, say the members of the business coalition.
The business coalition, of course, is playing the other “let’s pretend” game–the one being played by people who prefer keeping an extra buck or so in their pockets now to addressing climate changes that will make life miserable for our children and grandchildren. The game played by pretending that the science is flawed, that the warnings are speculative, or that a heavy winter snow is proof that there is no “global warming.”
As scientists have been telling us for quite some time, a warming planet changes climate patterns. Hurricanes increase in intensity; Alabama and Texas get massive snowstorms while the Arctic ice melts; California has droughts, sea levels rise, species lose their habitats.
All of these things are already occurring. Dealing with them is already costing us a lot more than compliance with federal regulations will cost, and failing to deal with climate change now–pretending that it’s a “hoax” or that the science isn’t settled–is ignorant at best and dishonorable at worst.
When the son who left high school is fifty and still making minimum wage, how will you justify letting him drop out?
When our grandchildren ask why we allowed the seas to swallow New York and Florida, why we failed to prevent the loss of twenty-five percent of the Earth’s species, and why we didn’t protect large areas of the planet from becoming uninhabitable, how will we justify our shortsightedness? Are we going to admit that greed and immaturity–our unwillingness to be even minimally inconvenienced in the here and now–led us to pretend it wasn’t happening?
Playing “let’s pretend” is for children. The businesses fighting for their right to keep polluting need to grow up.