Arnold Schwarzenegger's shockingly reasonable climate-change plea

The former governor & movie star makes an emphatic call for climate action. Of course the GOP won't listen

Published December 11, 2015 10:57AM (EST)

        (AP/Chris Pizzello)
(AP/Chris Pizzello)

Arnold Schwarzenegger posted an article on his Facebook page this week that could be one of the most salient arguments in support of fighting human-made global warming we've yet seen — especially from a Republican.

Never in a million years did I think Arnold Schwarzenegger would be the guy who'd so clearly define the realities of the climate crisis. But there you go.In typical Arnold style, he took the fight directly to the people who need it the most. It's too bad that the people who he tried most to convince will be the bubble-people who will plug their ears and shout, "Not listening!"

Arnold asked three questions. The first: "Do you believe it is acceptable that 7 million people die every year from pollution?"

He writes:

That's more than murders, suicides, and car accidents - combined. Every day, 19,000 people die from pollution from fossil fuels. Do you accept those deaths? Do you accept that children all over the world have to grow up breathing with inhalers?

Of course this makes perfect sense to anyone who enjoys even the slightest grasp of logic and reality. Unfortunately, too many deniers either don't believe there's a problem in the first place, or the ones who accept the existence of pollution don't think it's connected to global warming. So, this first point is a relatively easy sell. Poison air is poisonous. Who can seriously argue with that?

His second question is more specific to the climate crisis itself, but still exists on the periphery: "[D]o you believe coal and oil will be the fuels of the future?" Arnold's answer here ought to be embraced from a purely capitalistic point of view:

I, personally, want a plan. I don't want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don't want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That's exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.

Outstanding point. Blockbuster was a particularly appropriate metaphor, but while it's more recognizable as a defunct brand, I'd go further and suggest coal and oil is not unlike the big video rental retailer of the 1980s, Erol's Video, which was eventually absorbed by Blockbuster. That's old. And Erol’s betamax section makes it appropriately useless.

Arnold continued by adding:

Renewable energy is great for the economy, and you don't have to take my word for it. California has some of the most revolutionary environmental laws in the United States, we get 40% of our power from renewables, and we are 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We were an early-adopter of a clean energy future.

Our economy has not suffered. In fact, our economy in California is growing faster than the U.S. economy. We lead the nation in manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, entertainment, high tech, biotech, and, of course, green tech.

The economic argument in support of mitigating the impact of global warming is a very strong one, but again, you have to accept that there's a problem in the first place. Too many conservatives don't. Why? Because smart people do.

And finally, Arnold's final question is possibly one of the best extended metaphor relating to the climate crisis.

There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.

I'm guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice - who would ever want to breathe those fumes?

This is the choice the world is making right now.

Here's how conservative deniers would approach this gambit. They'd obviously go into the electric car room. While there, they'd relentlessly tease the owner of the car for being an effete tree-hugger, while totally denying the existence of the car in the other room. It's the ignorance and contradictions such as these which guys like Arnold and those of us who fully accept the word of 97 percent of climatologists are most frustrated by. Simple reason, as Arnold presented on Facebook, is unacceptable in the face of anyone who believes the three-percent of dissenting climatologists is enough wiggle room to ignore the other 97 percent. In other words, to believe in the existence of the dirty, gas-guzzling car in its hypothetical room is to believe there's a possibility of human-made global warming.

In a sane America, Arnold's remarks might represent an historic turning point in which a prominent Republican created an easily understandable and undeniably effective series of arguments in support of thwarting the crisis. But this isn't a sane America. Frankly, the fringe deniers on the far right are ruining it for everyone, including a majority of Republicans who acknowledge the crisis and how human activity has exclusively precipitated it. At this point, it's more about the loudness of the deniers combined with the intransigence of the GOP leadership, which remains loyal to denying the crisis in the name of politically supporting donors from the fossil fuel industry.

Put another way: Arnold doesn't really need to convince his people, or a majority of GOP voters. Even though he might win over some open-minded moderates, Arnold's efforts would be better served by lobbying the congressional Republicans, and not necessarily his Facebook followers. Progress on climate has to be embraced not just by a majority of GOP voters, but by a majority of the House and Senate Republicans who continue to endorse the knuckleheaded Fox News view that, for example, if it's snowing in Boston, then the crisis must not be real, and average temperatures for the entire globe must also be just as cold. This intellectual violence fails to recognize that Boston's weather, or wherever it's snowing today, is totally unrelated to average temperatures and climate shifts year-over-year taking place around the entire, you know, globe.

So, credit where credit is due. Arnold hit it out of the park. Too bad it won't help very much. Meanwhile, we're in it. The impact of global warming has already started and the window for change is closing by the second. Even if Arnold was able to convince enough Republican lawmakers to accept science over nincompoopery, it might be too late anyway.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


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Arnold Schwarzenegger Climate Action Climate Change Gop The Republican Party