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Tipping point on climate change politics?

July 7th, 2012 · 3 Comments

This guest post from eOz derived from a response to something that I wrote commenting about how the fires in Colorado and heat records falling across the country seemed to have people thinking climate change. eOz’s thoughts merits a posting of its own.

I also work with a variety of clients, many of whom buy into the corporate-sponsored push-back against global climate change out of fear of economic boondoggles, as they see carbon taxes and other measures. But the tide of opinion coming in and going out has left a kernal of doubt in their minds. If we can localize the effects, like the [speaker] noting to his mom that a phenomenon in her back yard is tied to the concept, we are moving with the tide as it comes back in in a way the monied interests cannot deflect.

When Gore’s media campaign foundered politically, many people turned their attention away. Obama’s pollsters and politicos can’t get traction right now. But as individual citizens link the abstract big picture of the global warming hypothesis to what they are seeing in their own back yards, all the vociforous attacks the “drill baby, drill” lobby could mount cannot dislodge that lingering, persistent question in people’s minds. Eventually, some part of the media will pick up on it, in tentative fits and starts. If they don’t get their head bitten off for it, they will try another story, etc..

It is frustrating that time is inexorably moving forward in the natural world while we meandered our way to progress in the political tides going back and forth. But, as Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind” and this issue is rising again in people’s minds. Here in Iowa, the corn crop burning up brings it to people’s minds, even if they only admit to it in private right now. The shattering of temperature records, the fragility of our electrical grid responding to environmental pressures well outside its design envelope and real capability, the seeping of water into porous rock formations along the coast… all impacts of natural processes that, tide in and tide out, trigger the associations in people’s minds that our efforts to keep this issue alive have planted.

The seeds of doubt have been sown. Most have fallen on barren ground, but not all. As some of those seeds find purchase on ready soil and marginal soil, they root in and grow. When farmers in Iowa start wondering as they see their bumper crop whither into economic calamity, more seeds find purchase. As homeowners return to survey the burned-out wreckage of their community in record heat and talk among themselves trying to find reason in the midst of chaos, more seeds find purchase. As people see beach erosion and water welling up in their back yards, more seeds of doubt and wonderment find purchase.

It is painfully slow and frustrating, but the one thing our hyporthesis implies is that nature is already in motion, and no amount of rhetoric can influence that. If we remain prepared, we are getting the chances to provoke real doubt about the competing hypotheses.

I wish we could have gotten past all this human wrangling before now, and there is no assurance that we are not already too late and have missed our best chances. But that is no reason to back down as long as we have breath and media to keep the pressure on. If the tide comes back in stronger this time, riding on doubts in minds across the political spectrum, we need to be ready with plans and proposals to lay down, yet again, before the People when they are ready.

I know you, and many others, have done yeoman’s work in this regard, and it is that preparation which is important. Even if it is “too late” in an absolute sense, mitigation and adaptation when we, as a people, are ready to act is still worthwhile and important. Keep it up. Keep the pressure on. If we can’t mitigate Florida, maybe we can Manhatten. If we can’t head off the processes already underway, we can be ready to help our fellow citizens adapt as best we can when they are ready to respond.

It’s not the best course. It’s not even a good course of action. Those opportunities have, or are, slipping through our fingers. But I do sense the tide is turning again, and this time not at a big picture level. This time it is arising in conversations around the water cooler and in the frustrations of farmers and people whose homes were built too far into the forest. It is rising in a way politicians will finally not be able to hold back, no matter how much corporate money they have at their disposal (or vice versa, it’s getting hard to tell the cause and effect between corporate money and policiticans these days).

The military and insurance industries have already crossed the Rubicon on this. More and more business and government interests will be forced to follow suit. At each juncture; at each crack in their armor; at each moment of doubt, we must be there as a fellow citizen concerned for their welfare. If it’s all we can do, it is still a most worthy cause. Whenever the People are ready again, we best serve them by being prepared to guide them and challenge them to solve problems instead of laying down and giving up.

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Tags: climate change · Energy · Global Warming · guest post

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 GeaVox // Jul 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Regrettably it is too late…

    Climate change takes hundreds of years to move in the kind of direction we have pushed it into, feedback mechanisms are even slower to respond.

    As an example… Fall in in seawater salinity is connected with polar and glacial melt, changing thermo-haline circulation, with unpredictable consequences, as salt-water has different thermal properties from fresh water. As the North Atlantic Deep Water circulation begins to suffer from the drop in oceanic salinity, the thermal gradient between it and the surrounding waters could decrease, reducing oceanic currents’ momentum.

    That could weaken theirs crucial ocean conveyor belt and create a north-south divide, with heat retention in the south Atlantic, as the heat mechanism of the Gulf Current weakens, and colder climate in the north, as it fails to circulate the heat to nort-western Europe.

    Environmentalists have been trying for decades to get people, industry and governments to understand these realities and respond sensibly, but 20 years elapsed between Rio 1 and 2 and both, together with every single climate summit in between, have failed spectacularly to deliver the necessary culture changes, so real action is likely to lag behind by another 20 years.

    People may realize AGW is for real in some areas of the US, now that it affects THEM, sadly, AGW required immediate and drastic action 30 years ago, to give the global climate to adjust.

    Now too many vast processes that carry immense amounts of energy are firmly underway.

    Sea level rise, for example, is not yet easily perceivable, as water has to fill a huge volume of underground cave space, before its effects begin to show significantly above ground, a bit like a dry sponge may take a while to soak-up water.

    Similarly, summer heat waves are just one of the short term effects, and may be replaced by swings in the opposite direction, and the same people will then claim that means AGW isn’t real.

    This is because people confuse climate and weather. While extreme weather events will become more commonplace, the short-term temperature increase is not the problem, just as the increase in rainfall in northern Europe, right now. The alarming thing is the maxima and minima that mark these extreme weather events as outliers, and the increases in their frequency, which herald much greater and longer-lived changes, until they finally become permanent.

    When they do, the thermal gradient will rise steeply, globally and create bands of extreme weather, with increased evaporation bringing heavy precipitation to the north, removing it from the equatorial belt, but without the benefit of thermo haline circulation that acted as a thermal equaliser.

    The Oil industry will continue to invest huge sums to promote AGW-denial and prop-up increasingly profitable business… As oil becomes scarcer, these industries stand to make an unprecedented killing on world markets from the dregs of oil production… Don’t look for change from those who have invested in these, they are parasites in the most axiomatic meaning of the word; operating much like fleas, they suck this planet’s oil just as parasites suck blood, both are incapable of changing their feeding habits.

    We Humans have revealed our genetic inclination to idiocy in so many ways, by now, that nothing short of “present and immediate danger” will persuade the dominant, overwhelmingly parasitic mentality of profiteering to switch to sustainable technologies, methodologies and philosophies.

    Sadly, by the time we hit that level of danger, the planet’s global climate will have entered a much more extreme phase and may follow the same kind of “runaway greenhouse effect” that made the planet Venus a red-hot desert, where life simply cannot exist.

    Men have conducted an experiment of planetary proportions, with neither the knowledge of what it could do or of how to reverse it. This is the nature of men: playing with fire and often getting burned. In the same way just as young men die of their rash stupidity everyday, humanity, with it’s pitiful 200,000 or so years on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old…

    No, my friend, I see no cause for optimism, while ignorance rules supreme and people fear to face reality because it might affect their profits.

    Tragically, most humans would rather enjoy a few years’ personal luxury and condemn their children to a harrowing future than forego their own comfort and preserve the global climate balance.

    “Graveyards are full of the wisdom of hindsight”

  • 2 GeaVox // Jul 7, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    PS. Look at the “StatOil sea floor drilling system ” advert on this very same page, if you don’t believe me! Do you think THEY are anywhere near allowing the knowledge of Anthropogenic Climate Change science filter through to the terminally ignorant? NAH! Not in a million years!
    …. And we don’t HAVE that long!

  • 3 » Climate Change // Jul 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm

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