Eco-Athletes

Talking Climate Change with Miami Dolphins QB Josh Rosen

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You wouldn’t blame second year NFL quarterback Josh Rosen if he kept quiet about climate change. 

After all, the former UCLA signal caller, who was traded following his rookie season from the Arizona Cardinals to the Miami Dolphins, has a new city and offense to learn and a rebuilding team to lead. 

But Rosen, who took over as the Dolphins starting QB in Week 3, believes you can walk the NFL Quarterback walk while talking the climate change talk. 

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Rosen about his interest in the environment and climate change, how he talks about it with teammates, fans and media, and what he thinks it will take for there to be more climate change-fighting athletes.

 

A LIFE-LONG ENVIRONMENTALIST

Josh Rosen is surprised that so many people are, well, surprised that he’s an environmentalist.

“The environment is something I cared about since as far back as I can remember,” said the UCLA product. “I grew up in Manhattan Beach in Southern California. Concern for the environment was the rule in our community rather than the exception. We learned about conservation in kindergarten. Water conservation, soil conservation, species preservation…all of it. My parents also emphasized it.”

 

 

Josh Rosen after quarterbacking the UCLA Bruins to a victory (Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

 

St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower is where Rosen’s climate change interest crystallized.

After encountering skepticism and denial from some classmates, the curious quarterback realized he didn’t know enough about the subject. Rosen started to do some digging, asking questions of climate experts and becoming an avid listener of the podcasts of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and an astrophysicist. 

All of this confirmed to the young Rosen that the science was clear, and the verdict was in: Climate change is real, it is human caused, and humanity has to act aggressively, immediately and strategically, to be able offer a healthy planet to the next generations.

That meant convincing the skeptics and deniers at St. John Bosco would be easy, right?

Not so fast.

“I learned then that it’s very hard to change people’s minds on climate change, or on many things,” recalled Rosen. “People are just very invested in being right. So, if you tell them ‘I know the science, I’m right, you’re wrong’ — the person you’re trying to convince will just get defensive.”

So Rosen called an audible.

He tried to connect with deniers and skeptics on things on which they could agree — i.e. we all need clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a habitable planet to share — and get into the climate change discussion that way.

As I listened to the Dolphins quarterback discuss his high school climate discussions, the language and tone sounded very similar to that of Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, the climate scientist at Texas Tech and the best climate communicator I’ve ever heard. She lives in Lubbock, the most conservative city in the country with a large evangelical population that is deeply skeptical about climate change. Check out her terrific TED Talk below and her wonderful video series Global Weirding to see what I mean.

 

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe delivers her 17 minute TED Talk

 

Like Rosen, Dr. Hayhoe, named by Time Magazine in 2014 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, emphasizes finding common ground and shared values with doubters and deniers. Her message, tailored to the Lubbock community, is about ‘tending to God’s Green Earth’.

Another Hayhoe maxim: One of the most important things one can do to fight climate change is to talk about it.

 

TALKING THE CLIMATE TALK…

Rosen continued to do just that while at UCLA.

“Some guys on the team questioned climate but I really enjoyed having a good back and forth,” Rosen shared. “Again, I would try to listen and then focus on the solutions, on a healthier, cleaner, cooler environment. These were positive discussions for the most part because my teammates wanted to learn.”

Speaking of learning, NFL scouts had been studying the 6′ 5″ Rosen as a potential franchise quarterback practically from the time he set foot on the Westwood campus, attracted by his rifle arm and other physical talents, a high football IQ and his aforementioned curiosity. The Arizona Cardinals selected him with the tenth pick of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Things didn’t work out in the desert: a rough rookie year was followed by the firing of the Cardinals’ head coach. Then the team used the first overall pick in this year’s draft to select Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma.

A trade was inevitable, and the Miami Dolphins were the perfect partner on two levels.

  1. They were quarterback-needy and,
  2. Miami/Miami Beach is the U.S. city that is, by many metrics, the most at risk to climate change-caused sea level rise.

 

Rosen certainly has a lot on his plate football-wise: Making the offense installed by new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea second nature, showing Dolphins management over the rest of the season that he is the man to lead the team up from their 0-4 abyss, and proving he is the team’s long term solution at football’s most important position.

 

Rosen throws his first touchdown pass as a Miami Dolphin last Sunday to DaVante Parker

 

But that won’t stop him from speaking out on the environment and climate change.

And the Dolphins’ owner is fine with it.

“I’ve already spoken to Stephen Ross¹, and he told me he’s very concerned about the environment and is interested in doing something about it,” Rosen shared. That includes contracting with 4Ocean, which funds the removal of trash from the oceans and coastlines by selling bracelets made of recycled materials, and also provides the Dolphins with reusable water bottles.

 

Josh Rosen and fellow 4Ocean volunteers help with beach cleanup (Photo credit: 4Ocean)

 

It should be noted that Ross, who made a good chunk of his fortune in the New York City real estate market, hosted a much-publicized $250,000 per person fundraiser in the Hamptons to support the re-election of Donald J. Trump this summer. The President regularly denies the reality of climate change, pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and has overseen the reversal of dozens of executive orders and federal programs designed to protect the environment.

 

…AND WALKING THE CLIMATE WALK

For his part, Rosen is an enthusiastic endorser of adidas’ Parley for the Oceans apparel made from recycled materials — he recently visited their Portland, Oregon headquarters to learn about how the garments are made.

It’s a safe bet that Rosen is the only NFL quarterback to make the environment and climate change such a prime focus of his off-field activities. Why is he such a rarity?

“Athletes, like most people, don’t see that climate change is affecting them and others right now,” emphasized Rosen. “If they even think the about the issue, athletes might see it as a problem that will impact their grand kids. So, they need to be educated about climate change to see that it is happening now, and that there are real solutions available right now.”

The Dolphins’ QB is excited about some of those solutions — he admires the way Elon Musk has innovated with Tesla. Rosen is convinced that others will take the baton from Musk and turn EVs into the dominant form of vehicular transportation. He’s also interested in learning more about carbon pricing — a tax or fee applied to fossil fuel production that will accelerate the movement of producers and consumers from oil, gas and coal and towards renewables and energy efficiency.

“I haven’t done much research on it yet so I’m not sure about which [carbon pricing] approach is best,” acknowledged Rosen. “But I do know fossil fuels are not priced properly — air pollution and climate change aren’t accounted for in the price, for example. Once that is corrected, renewables will be much more competitive and will grow enough to eventually solve our fossil fuel problems.”

The $54 trillion question¹ — the estimated global cost of keeping average global temperature increase versus pre-industrial levels at 1.5° C — is: Will humanity act aggressively enough and in time² to avoid climate change’s most catastrophic consequences?

“I believe most people will see the hundred-year floods, the massive droughts, the political instability, the climate change-infused mass migrations as our responsibility as humans to do something about,” Rosen offered. “I believe we will make the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. Will we do it fast enough? I don’t know. I will do my best to do my part.”

 

GSB’s Take: Rosen plays the highest-profile position — quarterback — in the most popular sport — pro football — in the United States. Thus he has the chance to be the most consequential eco-athlete in this country.

For that to happen, Rosen has to develop into a top-tier QB. And for that to happen, the Dolphins need to significantly improve the team around the 22-year-old signal caller.

It might get worse before it gets better: Miami, already considered by many to be the worst team in the NFL, recently sold off several stars to accumulate future draft picks.

Despite the rough start to the Dolphins 2019 season, Rosen has arguably been the most impressive player on the team. For the stat-geeks among you, here are some analytics that back up that notion:

 

 

While the sample size is small — Rosen has only started two games for Miami and mopped up in relief in two others — the young QB has shown he has toughness to go along with talent. 

Those qualities will serve him well in the climate change fight.

So play as well you can, Josh Rosen³, starting with Sunday’s eminently winnable home game against the winless Washington Redskins.

And keep speaking out on the climate crisis.

 

¹ The 2018 UN IPCC report estimates the worldwide cost of taking the necessary steps so we don’t hit the 1.5°C threshold — is $54 trillion. It also estimates that if we take a business-as-usual approach, the cost to the global economy would be $69 trillion. So, according to this analysis, humanity would be $15 trillion better off it makes the investments to head off climate change.
² Per the same 2018 IPCC 2018 report, humanity has until 2030 to decarbonize by 45 percent if we are to have a decent change to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
³ Except in the two games versus GSB’s beloved, bedraggled and also winless New York Jets.

 


 

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