Dear LeBron James:
Let me be the billionth person to congratulate you and the Miami Heat on winning your 2nd straight NBA Championship. Your incredible play throughout the 7-game struggle with the terrific San Antonio Spurs will be long-remembered by NBA fans worldwide. As Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News put it, you are the MVP of all professional sports in the US right now and your talent, in terms of all-around play, has never been seen before. And that includes Jordan, Magic, Russell, et al. Congratulations. You’ve earned a well-deserved rest before your wedding and going after a ThreePeat this fall.
Thumbs up from LeBron James. (Photo credit: Miami Heat)
Except I’m going to request a small bit of your time before you go into full wedding-planning mode (mazel tov, btw!). What I’m asking won’t tax you much physically, if at all. All I’m looking for is a very public statement from you that, at its heart, says “climate change is real, it’s human-caused, and we have to take meaningful action to start to reverse it. It’s the defining issue of this and the next generations.”
I know you have questions. No worries–here’s a handy-dandy FAQ section:
Q1. Is Climate Change really real? I’ve heard it’s a hoax.
A1. No hoax! It’s the opposite. Climate Change is real just like your 4th MVP award is real. In fact, it’s not only happening, it’s probably far worse than climate scientists, 97% of whom confirm that human-caused climate change is real, have thought.
Q2. What IS the human cause of Climate Change?
A2. The burning of fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas, which emits carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat trapping gases. The burning of these fossil fuels is like steroids in baseball–an injection of an external force that changes the climate. Steroids in baseball led to dramatic increases in home runs; after steroids testing, home runs declined just as dramatically. We now have a Climate On Steroids, with CO2 being the “juice”. Higher temperatures, more severe and more frequent heat waves, floods and droughts are the results. Climate Change is causing catastrophic calamities in real time. And, we’re not doing anything meaningful to reduce the amount of Climate Steroids we spew into the atmosphere. Coastal areas, including your adopted hometown of Miami, are at particular risk. Over the next 100 years, it’s possible that Humanity As We Know It is at risk. If nothing is done to stop or at least control the main cause of climate change, then your kids and grandkids lives will likely be far worse than you can imagine. If you can help lead a movement to take the Climate Steroids (i.e. the burning of fossil fuels) out of the atmosphere, that will be a far greater legacy than the championships you win.
Q3. Why should I take on Climate Change? I mean I’ve got the LeBron James Family Foundation (LJFF), which is devoted to making sure kids in inner cities perform as close to their potential as possible by doing their homework, exercising, showing up on time, and respecting their parents. That’s my cause.
A3. In addition to doing your part to Save Humanity As We Know It, taking on Climate Change is a logical step for LJFF. Many say that climate change is and will continue to disproportionately effect poor neighborhoods and the people the LJFF serves. Think about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Climate change likely didn’t cause the actual storm itself; it most likely made it much more severe. Who was most impacted? The people living in flood zones without the means to leave in a timely manner. Many, but not all, were poor and black. They lost homes that went back generations and communities were destroyed. Even if climate change does not cause every weather incident and hurricanes are natural, the whipped up versions we now experience are related to human impact on the environment.
This column, published by Harvard, provides some details. And, while the problem is so massive, so too will be the solutions. And those solutions will provide job opportunities now and down the road for the kids being served by LJFF.
Q4. What can I do?
A4. In addition to the Climate change is real statement above, you can and should:
- Sell your gas guzzling cars in favor of energy efficient rides. Make do with fewer cars. Here’s a statement you can issue: I’ve taken a leadership role on the Heat by walking the walk–working overtime to improve my game. Now I’m walking the walk on climate change. I’ll start by getting rid of my gas guzzling Jeep and Rolls Royce and the rest. Instead, I’m going to drive an all electric car or a hybrid. I’m also going to do with fewer cars. I mean, I don’t need 5 cars. No one needs 5 cars! It sets a bad example if we’re going to do something serious about climate change. We need to be more energy efficient; it’s as simple as a pick and roll!
- Downsize your houses. McMansions are energy hogs. Put solar panels on the roofs of the houses.
- Engage your NBA brethren. You know better than anyone that you can’t win a championship by yourself. Nor can you reverse climate change. You lead, the NBA follows.
- Go beyond the NBA and engage athletes in other sports.
- Push President Obama for a carbon tax. Tthe President just made the most important presidential speech ever on climate change on June 25. The centerpiece of his policy places limits on the amount of global warming pollution that can be emitted by America’s mainly coal-fired power plants. That is a big move, but it’s just a start. The carbon tax is the game changer.
Q4. Whoa, dawg, why should I push for a carbon tax? I don’t do politics. Like Michael Jordan said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too” when asked why he didn’t endorse a democrat. In this case, shouldn’t I want to Be Like Mike and stay out of politics? Plus why do I want to pay more in taxes?
A4. The NBA fan base has gotten younger/hipper since MJ’s time. The young (i.e. under 30), and especially blacks get climate change and are open to a price on carbon far more than their elders. Your audience is and will be the fight-climate-change audience. You should lead them; they will follow you, big time. As for not wanting to pay more in taxes, well we’re already paying price of carbon in terms of extreme weather (Hurricane Sandy, midwest plains drought, water shortages and asthma in urban areas). The carbon tax will mean the carbon polluters and, to be sure, the public will have to pay for those” externalities”. Higher prices for fossil fuels because of the carbon tax will allow non-polluting energy sources like solar and wind to better compete and grow, lowering our carbon footprint. Revenue from the carbon tax can be used to fund research that will speed up the development of those new technologies. It can help fund healthcare, education and other national priorities. Put it this way–we can pay a carbon tax now or your kids and their kids will play dearly for us not having a carbon tax.
As a basketball player, your legacy is now secure–one of the top 5-7 players of all time and you’re still only 28! But, in the scheme of things, basketball is relatively minor, as much as we love it. Playing a key role in turning around the Climate Crisis? NOW that’s a legacy! And all it will really take is the “Climate change is real and human caused” statement. Are you ready?