SWCCT: Sea Level Rise Test
San Francisco, CA
2022, Senior, Creative Writing
The following is an excerpt from the Standardized Wealthy Conservative Conscience Test, offered to conservative white men between the ages of 45-90 who donated significantly to anti-climate causes. This section focuses on Sea Level Rise. See also: Coal, Fracking, Gas Pipelines, and Wildfire.
Directions: You have approximately 100 years to complete this assessment. If you finish before time is called, you may check your work on this test only. If you begin to feel seawater at your feet around 30 years in, please stay calm and try to maintain your focus. We can confidently state that, according to our projections, the water should not reach higher than your chest level before exam time elapses. Scores will be released via skywriter plane to the location printed on your test booklet. Special circumstances may be considered if your location has since become uninhabitable. We are looking at those of you with private islands. Please note that if you are unhappy with your numerical score, we are unable to make corrections (or take bribes) after exam time has elapsed. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. This multiple-choice exam consists of five questions and one free response. You may begin.
Question 1: If, as of 2022, NASA measures sea level rise at a rate of 3.4 millimeters a year, and you live, as we know you do, in a multimillion-dollar mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, how long will it take before you are forced to relocate based on water level change alone?
- 3.4 millimeters a year? That’s an infinitesimal change. Basically nothing. You snowflake liberal scientists always cry wolf. It’s not crying wolf if it’s reality, Gerald.
- I’ll be dead by then so I really couldn’t be bothered, honey. But rising seas, that sounds pretty unlikely. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it was real though… you know, a pretty girl like you would look nice in a wetsuit. Oh my god, ew. And how did you even figure out I was a woman???
- According to NOAA’s projections, the area will be significantly affected by three feet of sea level rise, which could happen as soon as 80 years from now. Ding ding ding! Science! This is obviously the right answer! Oh. you selected “A.” Okay. Sure. The only place to go from here is up!
Question 2: Consider the phrase “Make America Great Again.” Assuming you believe that America was “great” around 120 years ago when women didn’t have the right to vote and segregation was legal, how much have sea levels risen since the “golden age” of the country?
- Listen, I know what I’m talking about here, and the seas didn’t rise. Don’t you think someone would have noticed the ocean literally getting bigger? I bet you couldn’t find a single newspaper article about rising seas in the last 100 years from a reputable source. com would never publish that kind of propaganda. Someone did notice. You then spent gobs of money to discredit them so you could keep getting rich off oil.
- Don’t get hysterical on me, but I always thought that the passage of the 19th Amendment was a little hasty. Sea level rise is just the kind of absurd fantasy that my scientist ex-wife and her airhead friends believe. Us men are much more reasonable. Gerald, your ex-wife, and her friends aren’t airheads. They’re well-educated scientific professionals trying to communicate reality to you.
- The Smithsonian currently estimates that sea levels have risen between 5-8 inches on average since 1900. We have a winner! See the statistics? The government agency? No? You chose “B”? That’s okay. There’s still time to learn… 4 questions to go.
Question 3: As obscenely wealthy conservatives who have donated huge amounts of money to spreading climate disinformation, we imagine you’re all quite familiar with the types of industries that produce greenhouse gasses. Looking at you, Koch brothers. We’re shocked you showed up, honestly. Someone in the office just won the pool. Maybe one of you can correctly tell us: how much more have sea levels risen now than they would have without increased greenhouse gas influence?
- A little bit, but nothing to be concerned about. Being able to heat our homes and drive our cars is much more immediately important. Hard to heat a house or drive a car underwater, Gerald.
- I don’t know why you’re so concerned with greenhouse gases. Why don’t you just focus on physical greenhouses? We need to feed the world, which is what I’ve used my money to fund. Is that what you’ve used your money to fund? Are you sure? Because we’ve heard differently.
- Sea levels have likely risen two times as much as they otherwise would have. Anyone? This one? Of course not. Let’s just move forward, I guess.
Question 4: I think that we can all agree that the world has changed a lot in the last 30 years, from the fall of the stock market in 2008 to the rise of iPhones and the #MeToo Movement. I know some of you are familiar with that last one. I also know you all have had to track these rises and falls when making the financial decisions you care so much about. So, you should know this one… which of the following things has significantly risen since the 1990s?
- My net worth. I mean, yes. We get that you’re successful, Gerald. We’d even be happy for you if it didn’t come from absolutely wrecking our planet. However, “my net worth” was not the answer we were looking for.
- I’m not stupid. I know you want me to say sea level rise. But I’m not like the rest of your I won’t fall into your trap. So, you know the answer, but you refuse to admit that it’s fact. Okay. Sure?
- Sea levels, due to the accelerated melting of ice caps and glaciers. Hey! This one! No? “
Question 5: Consider the free market. Many of you are big fans of deregulating business, and wary of too much government intervention in the economy. I get it. Profits are pretty cool. So is living on Earth, but I get it. Understandably, you might not want to be overseen by the government. No one wants to be caught doing things they shouldn’t be doing. But I think there’s a line, right? Some policies aren’t government oversteps. True or false: Climate policies like a carbon tax are secret strategies that will lead to eventual dictatorship.
- It’s only a matter of time until we’re living under a communist regime led by the coastal elites, honey. I think you’re mixing conspiracy theories here… but no. There is not a direct line between preserving our planet and an entirely new economic system.
- Climate policies are not tantamount to an authoritarian society. YES. RIGHT ANSWER. No? It really is the hope that kills you, isn’t it?
- I never meant to get caught! There were NDAs, and I paid off so many people, and there was this nice toxic workplace culture to fall back on… I never saw it coming. I meant hidden breaches of environmental regulatory law. Yeah. Not that
Question 6: This is your free response. Jokes aside, the world is changing in a very scary way. This assessment has given you the chance to reflect on your actions as you watch the effects of your choices play out. We hope it has made you think about where you’re directing your massive amounts of power and influence. Please share with us how you feel now that you’ve completed the exam.
Test-taker left this question blank. No points were given.
FINAL SCORE: 2/10 (FAIL)
I was very inspired by the Shouts and Murmurs section of the New Yorker, which often tackles tough topics through a lens of humor and irony. I also drew on some of the techniques I learned in my Creative Nonfiction class, particularly the “hermit crab” essay. In a hermit crab essay, a writer uses a traditional form or structure—like a test—to conceal a deeper or more profound idea. I used this form to create the surface-level humor of poking fun at the terrible people responsible for so much climate denial, while also attempting to tackle deeper questions. What does it mean to take responsibility for one’s actions? How do people wield their power and influence? What does it mean to hold people accountable?