For the good of all, don’t use the “c” word

Reuters reported that President Obama didn’t refer to climate change in his State of the Union Address. No mention of it. At all. As this recent Pew study shows, people rank climate change at the bottom of their list of priorities.

But candidate Obama and, until recently, President Obama had made climate change adaptation and mitigation part of his priorities—for which I was glad. It’s nice to know I agree with at least one policy of my president.

And so let’s be clear: reducing greenhouse gases is, gladly, still part of the mission of this White House. Wisely, President Obama is playing up the economic benefits of clean energy and other innovations while playing down anything to do with the “c” word. Good for him. Our economy needs a boost. We need jobs. And people must be reminded that here in America we strive for excellence. If stoking the fires of innovation means not mentioning the science of man-made changes in climate dynamics, then don’t mention it.

And, as it turns out, government officials are being primed not to.

I was a participant in a recent EPA webinar on climate change in which a communications specialist presented the how-to’s and how-not-to’s of climate change chit chat. One of the messages we were told was this: appeal to people’s self interest. Tell them they’ll save money. Tell them they’ll look good to their boss. Tell them anything but don’t use the words “climate” or “change” in succession.

Shocking? Not at all. What this consultant proposed was nothing new, especially for Catholic ecologists. The concept of Original Sin is one we know well. Our fallen race has a strong tendency for self-centeredness—for grasping at objects or endeavors that might feel good at the moment, or may bring us safety, or belonging, or love. As the saying goes, welcome to the human race.

And so going forward, you’ll probably be hearing a lot less about climate change. Instead, you’ll be hearing about competing for excellence in the global market place. You’ll be hearing about new ways of living and new products that will bring savings to your monthly energy bills. But what you won’t be told—because people think you may not care—is that what they're asking of you is really just what's right for the common good.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.