About a year ago, GSB published an Open Letter To LeBron James, asking The King to state publicly that “climate change it’s real, it’s human-caused and we’ve got to do something about it.” To date, we haven’t gotten a response from James (efforts are ongoing). But why stop at LeBron? We need more eco-über athletes–ONE would be good–as they are the mega-influencers. How about it, Peyton Manning?
Dear Mr. Manning: My name is Lew Blaustein, aka, the GreenSportsBlogger (GSB), lifelong Jets fan but also HUGE Peyton Manning fan* (you’re the best QB I’ve ever seen) (and I’m not saying that to suck up to you). We write about the increasingly busy intersection of Green & Sports.
Most of the posts focus on the newly found emphasis sports teams and stadium managers are placing on operating more efficiently and “greenly” (energy efficient stadiums, recycling/composting, etc.) “Eco-athletes” (i.e. athletes who speak up about climate change and/or protecting the environment) also are in our sights, since the power of, well, someone like you, to drive interest and action among a broad swath of the public is astounding.
So, my interest was piqued when I saw this little blurb in last week’s Peter King’s must-read (if you’re an NFL fan), The MMQB column on si.com: “One of my favorite press releases of the year came in the email box the other day—the one announcing the awarding of grants by Peyton Manning’s PeyBack Foundation. …This year he gave $10,000 to GreenLeaf Denver, which promotes urban agriculture so city kids can eat fresh fruits and vegetables and get used to working the soil.”
Congratulations on PeyBack and also on the GreenLeaf award! (And, while I’m at it, congratulations to you and Ashley on the birth of your twins 2-3 months ago!)
Anyway, I thought “if Peyton Manning, through PeyBack, gives money to a green non-profit in Denver, then it shouldn’t be much of a stretch for him to say “climate change is real, it’s human caused and we’ve got to do something about it” Should be as easy as yelling “OMAHA” at the line of scrimmage, right? Especially since you work in Denver, one of the greenest cities in the US. And especially since climate change is already threatening a sport close to your new home–the skiing industry.
But a Google search revealed no comments from you regarding climate change. This is not surprising since no über athletes (i.e. LeBron, Tiger, yourself, etc.) are talking about climate change–the few eco-athletes we know about, like Andrew Ference in the NHL and snowboarding’s Gretchen Bleiler, are not household names (we’re happy they’re on board, of course). And, while the scientific community is 95% certain that climate change is real, it’s human caused, and that ignoring it risks life as we know it, there are some reasons why you and your brethren have not spoken out about climate change. In no particular order, they are:
- It’s not really happening, or, if it is, it’s just part of a natural cycle and not human-caused. Or maybe the scientists are just wrong
- It was Super-cold this winter so it can’t be real
- If it is real and human caused, it’s something that’s going to hit us in 50-100 years so I can’t worry about that.
- It’s too political/controversial.
Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, while at the University of Tennessee, with his coach, Phil Fullmer. Manning chose Tennessee over Ole Miss, where his father, Archie, starred. THAT was controversy. Saying “Climate change is real, it’s human caused, and we gotta do something about it” would be far less so. (Photo Credit: Achievement.org)
Let’s examine those reasons to keep quiet one at a time and test their validity:
Not Really Happening/If It Is, Humans Aren’t The Reason/Scientists Are Wrong
Let’s get the simple facts out of the way first: The Earth’s surface temperatures have risen significantly over the past 130+ years. This rise in temperature has coincided with a dramatic increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Of this there is no legitimate, significant dispute.
But, you might say, how do we know humans are sparking the CO2 emissions surge? Well, humans are emitting CO2 at a rate twice as fast as the atmospheric increase (natural “carbon sinks”–i.e. leaves on trees–are absorbing the other half). That increase of the last 130+ years coincides with the industrial revolution (cars, electricity, etc.) and a tripling (at least) of the world’s population. There is no question whatsoever that the CO2 increase is human-caused. This is settled science.
OK, what if the scientists are wrong? Let’s think about that for a moment, Peyton (OK if I call you Peyton? You can call me Lew). Do you normally doubt scientists? Scientists allowed us to travel to the moon (in fact NASA scientists are leaders in climate change research), to cure seemingly incurable disease, develop incredible technologies, etc. Most everyone on the planet benefits from the work of scientists and, in effect, believes in their work. So, to paraphrase the question Jewish boys ask at the Passover table every spring (“why is this night different from all other nights?”): “Why is this science different from all other science?” And the answer is…IT ISN’T!! In this case, 97% of climate scientists working and publishing in the field confirm the “it’s real, it’s us, we gotta change, big time” consensus.
The Cold Winter In The US Northeast Proves Climate Change Is Not Happening
While it was really warm in NJ for the-big-game-we-won’t-mention-on-Groundhog Day, one weekend, one month, one season is very short term and thus not meaningful–that’s weather. Climate deals with decades/centuries/millennia. Climate change is happening due to an externality (mega amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities) changing the status quo. Denver meteorologist Mike Nelson put it best when he said: ““Weather is one play in a football game. Climate is the history of the NFL. Climate change is adding Peyton Manning to your offense (the externality that changes the status quo)…”
It’s Not Happening NOW
While the most catastrophic effects of climate change may well occur in the latter half of the 21st century, it’s also having a real world effect right now. From sea level rise (which threatens cities like Miami, New York and Boston) to a surge in wild fires (you’ve seen this in Colorado); from more intense hurricanes to more severe droughts, the world is experiencing serious health and economic effects from climate change right here, right now. If you have any further doubts, check out the amazing 9-part documentary on Showtime about the present effects and dangers of climate change called “Years of Living Dangerously”.
It’s Too Political Yes, climate change is political, but SO WHAT? When you think of it, how can something as big as weaning ourselves off of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) and switching, on a macro-scale, to renewable, clean energy (wind, solar, etc.), be anything but political?
And let’s consider the politics in the US: Right now, the Democrats (for the most part), led by President Obama, say climate change is real, it’s human caused, etc. The Republicans, also for the most part, are in the denier/skeptic camp. I’m not sure but I think you lean Republican. Let’s assume that’s true.
Is it good politics, long term, for the Republicans to be seen as being against science, against the consensus on climate change, against defending our country and humanity against a perhaps existential threat, against moving us towards a clean energy economy and the jobs that go with it? We so need Republicans and their supporters to join this fight.
It may be controversial to a certain cadre of the Republican base but most Democrats, Independents and a solid number (but not enough) of rank-in-file Republicans are coming around to the “it’s real/it’s us” camp.
It would be forward leaning–you’d be out front of other elite athletes and also Republicans (again, assuming that you’re in the GOP). But, you are a forward leaner (on no-huddle, for example), not a follower. Controversy? My guess is it would be a small kefuffle, much smaller than when you chose to attend Tennessee over your dad’s Ole Miss? Now THAT’S controversial. Finally it’s the right thing to do–both for you, and for your newborn twins.
So what do you say? Hopefully, you’ll say “Climate change is real, it’s human caused, and we gotta do something about it.” Also it would be cool if you could say CLIMATE CHANGE! at the line of scrimmage instead of OMAHA!–would do wonders for the cause. And it’s the same number of syllables!
Let me know what you think. I’m happy to come out to Denver or to your training camp to discuss.
* Yes, I’m a lifelong Jets fan which means I should be anti-you since you could’ve decided to come out for the draft after your junior year (1997) and the Jets, with the 1st pick, would’ve scooped you up. But you decided to stay for your senior year and Indy picked you the next year and the rest is (wretched Jets) history. My life would’ve been different, that’s for sure. So I could be bitter. But I’m not. A student of the game and QB play, I marvel at what you’ve done over your career. Amazing.