November 2008 Archives

Argues-with-Idiots

| 8 Comments
That would be my Indian name.   Argues-with-Idiots. 

I am tilting at the windmill of human denial about the danger of global warming.   

anti-sciencew.jpg
                                                                   illustration from ClimateProgress.org

And AGW is worse than ever. Even TIME magazine thinks we should wake up to the the dangerous misunderstanding of climate change.  This article ran just a few days before the election.

"... carbon emissions would need to be cut drastically from current
levels. Yet almost all of the subjects in Sterman's study failed to
realize that, assuming instead that you could stabilize carbon
concentration simply by capping carbon emissions at their current
level. That's not the case -- and in fact, pursuing such a plan for
the future would virtually guarantee that global warming could spin
out of control. It may seem to many like good common sense to
wait until we see proof of the serious damage global warming is
doing before we take action. But it's not -- we can't "wait and see"
on global warming because the climate has a momentum all its
own, and if we wait for decades to finally act to reduce carbon
emissions, it could well be too late. Yet this simply isn't
understood. Someone as smart as Bill Gates doesn't seem to get it.
"Fortunately climate change, although it's a huge challenge, it's a
challenge that happens over a long period of time," he said at a
forum in Beijing last year. "You know, we have time to work on it."
But the truth is we don't. "
            http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1853871,00.html

I think I am gradually growing to accept this human deficiency - we are unable to see, unwilling to act on far off dangers - no matter how certain.  The future of global warming becomes clearer... and the ONLY global survival solution requires a total unified human effort - with 100% support.. which is, of course, impossible.  The differing opinions and different thoughts and actions - quintessentially human - is a trait that best preserves our species by having sizeable factions in disputed survival judgements and errant thinkers taking different actions.    So whole populations with one trait may thrive, while those with another trait will fail.  It seems like a nice way to design a species: to allow groupings with individual differences to best adapt to a changing future.  This assures that random changes may still act to allow the species to change. 

hotsuns.jpgWe are not ants.  But in this case it may bite us back, for the errant few with denialist tunnel vision are working to constrain any unified effort to change.  And that spells doom. 

They may no longer deny, they may only want to delay. That delay will kill us, the delay means tipping points are passed and runaway global warming cannot be stopped, no matter how strong the human will and effort.   And a destabilized climate will continue to wreak havoc, and the predicted increase in temperature (11 degrees C ) can extinguish most animal life at sea level.   With less heat increase, perhaps better survival.

First comes the decimation of our species -  it will take a few decades, disease, drought, storm floods and the attendant wars and violent struggles to survive - met with violent defense.  Eventually the chaos will wean out the weak and the unwilling and the remaining population will have full commitment to survive - but almost no capability to affect global cascading events.  Then in a hot and changing age the struggle will be to survive amidst dwinding resources and scarce living places - perhaps limited to mountainous areas near the poles.   Pretty grim future.  Even though that struggle may be a few generations out - it may be good that people don't realize this just now.  How does one tell a young person about this?

And so I am not going to argue with idiots anymore because the ship is now hitting the iceberg and no change of direction can prevent it.  Now the discussion is about how to best deploy the lifeboats and figure out how best to slow the sinking. Bush was the captain that crashed the boat, Obama is the new captain.  So this is a change of attitude.   The science and the projections remain the same.   I realize this is dystopic - but it is not implausible, and it conforms to IPCC climate predictions.

Argues-with-idiots-no-more.


Cross posted to climatedebatedaily.org

"Humankind cannot bear very much reality"

...said T.S. Eliot

Let's call denialism a form of delusion. 

It is a self-protecting and understandable psychological reaction to the overwhelming stress of perceiving very bad, possibly bleak information.   Information describing threats to our lives and future.

The human political reaction to climate destabilization must be swift and certainly will be painful.  And no matter how much we sacrifice, we can only mitigate and adapt to warming - not fix it.
delusionr.jpg
This is a horrible conclusion.  No one wants this.  We all prefer that it go away, we all want to put it out of mind.  And we all have some degrees of denial - no one can absorb the stark truth and constantly hold it in our minds. The inevitable climate destabilization should be at the front of our thinking and should influence every decision in our day.  It does not.  Each of us is imperfect.

Some of us will always have tunnel vision preventing us from seeing the looming danger ahead.

We shoulder the added challenge to be polite and tolerant to those denialists while continuing to attack the problem.  We should also be ruthless toward any professional PR denialist  funded by carbon fuel industries.


Professional Denial or Benign Dismissal

I can forgive those who deny climate change.  It is horrible to look directly into the face of an ugly future.  To survive, thrive and keep our social structure requires lots of privation and work.  And we may be unable to summon the willpower necessary.   Humans may really not want to do all that work and sacrifice - and so may choose to ignore it.  In this case, a typical reaction is not to deny facts, but rather to ignore them.  

fossileyesss.jpg
"Yes, yes, looming global climate instability - So?"

Not fighting to stay ignorant, just passively giving up.

This is the opposite side of the spectrum from denial - because here we actually accept and know that AGW is real, and that there a globally serious challenges.  This is way over on the other side - the side that just wants to ignore the bad news.  Like an ostrich putting its head in the sand.  Dismissing danger.  

I have met them - usually they appear to be very happy, doing what they want. And they accept even the most dire predictions - but they refuse to be bothered.  There is very little written by these folks...after all, why bother?   And they don't do blogs.  

These are people I meet face-to-face.  I have no new information for them, since they are relatively current and completely accepting of the science.

This may be the classic "out of sight - out-of-mind" attitude.  And these people are almost as difficult as denialists.  The only difference is there is no obstruction and they demand little.  But this attitude is no beneficial value to our future.  This problem requires full engagement by the entire population. 

Two groups are missing: the professional denialist on one side and the benignly dismissive on the other.


 

Skepticism is not Denial - FAQ

Skepticism is a necessary component of the scientific process. 

Denial is a required task of the carbon fuel industry's PR campaign.  

A skeptic can be informed, a denialist is rigidly dogmatic.

Grist offers an excellent lesson in How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic.   They list about 250 common questions with a succinct answer for each.

http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics#Levels%20of%20Sophistication

Un-Deniable Summary Statements 2008

I am grateful to a dear acquaintance who requested a brief update on global warming. She wanted a current problem summary.   I rise to the task and offer this one page overview.   The following is a distillation of a year spent reading, studying and ranting. Statements footnoted with links.

Most all scientists will agree that:

1. Global warming is real; is made much worse by human civilization; and is accelerating.

Weather channel has the message http://climate.weather.com/video/?clip=11333
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/Fingerprints.html
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/hockeystickFAQ.html
http://climateprogress.org/2008/02/11/how-do-we-really-know-humans-are-causing-global-warming/
http://climateprogress.org/2007/11/17/must-read-ipcc-synthesis-report-debate-over-delay-fatal-action-not-costly/
Oxfam http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/issues/climatechange/introduction.html

2. We can no longer fix it.  We can only adapt, mitigate and suffer the consequences.

Adaptation: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation_to_global_warming
Public Health perspective http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.pu.29.031708.100011
http://www.newwest.net/city/article/experts_say_mitigation_adaptation_key_for_montana_dealing_with_climate_chan/C396/L396/
http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2007/1029barnard.shtml
http://ehs.sph.berkeley.edu/krsmith/publications/2008%20pubs/ARPH%20Editoria.pdf

3. We have begun to act.  But over the next few decades - if we do little or nothing - humans will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Given Continued Inaction, Climate Future of Hellish Wildfires http://forests.org/blog/2008/07/continued-inaction-and-climate.asp
Melting of methane ice triggered long-ago warming surge: study http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j3U0vEk53bVXHIcGUqqO64rvDAUg
Beyond the Point of No Return http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=7003&method=full

4. Actions taken now require 30 to 50 years for effects to begin — and thousands of years to completely revert to a healthy atmosphere.

How long will global warming last? http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=134
EPA U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Reports http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

5. Model scenarios do not exclude a prediction of horrible calamity.   We do not know the time-line for anticipated changes.   Farther out in time is much harder to predict.

http://news.scotsman.com/politics/Call-to—dub-climate.4324444.jp
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/
Keep in mind these are pretty optimistic scenarios http://climate.weather.com/blogs/9_16231.html
How Bad? and When? Graph view: http://localsteps.org/howbad.html
Special Report on Emissions Scenarios http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Report_on_Emissions_Scenarios
The costs of inaction http://ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Climate-CostsofInaction.pdf

6. Climate change is dangerous because of “tipping points” - an important concept to know - where one event triggers another.  Like connected, amplified teeter-totters.   Science has a hard time with tipping points, because they lead to greater complexity and runaway impacts

Tipping points discussed http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/musings-about-models/
http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=5896&method=full
NASA says we are close http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070531073748.htm
Permafrost tipping point http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611154839.htm

7. Currently, scientists are disturbed to note the rate of change is picking up.

http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=5896&method=full
http://news.scotsman.com/politics/Call-to—dub-climate.4324444.jp
Research shows rapid changes in the past http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080619142112.htm
Oceans warmed 50% faster over the last 40 years to climate change http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/06/18/ocean-warming.html?dcitc=w01-101-ae-0001
http://www.thetechherald.com/article.php/200828/1464/Antarctic-ice-shelf-likely-to-break-up-experts

8. For decades the fossil fuel industry has funded huge PR campaigns to discount the science and restrict legislative reactions that would stifle their business.   These have been very effective.   The Executive branch has actively suppressed government studies on global warming.  Seemingly intelligent people will often deny brutal truths.

Naomi Oreskes video lecture about the organized campaigns to create public doubt and confusion about science. http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.asp?showID=13459
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/25/carbonemissions.climatechange
Dr James Hansen testimony before Congress http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TwentyYearsLater_20080623.pdf
Article: http://www.prospect.org//cs/articles;jsessionid=anjGFkx1cf95IxGn6P?article=the_manufacture_of_uncertainty - “The Manufacture of Uncertainty - How American industries have purchased “scientists” to undermine scientific verities when those verities threaten their profits.”
Scientists are far more concerned than is reflected by public opinion; they have very little voice in this issue, business has much. http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/exxonmobil-smoke-mirrors-hot.html
Exxon still funds denialist groups http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=6962&method=full
Read the original Exxon memo http://research.greenpeaceusa.org/?a=view&d=4383
Systematic suppression of science - George Monbiot http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/04/10/the-real-climate-censorship/
“…the problem is not that people aren’t hearing about climate change, but that they don’t want to know. The professional classes have the most freedom to lose and the least to gain from an attempt to restrain it.  Those who are most responsible for carbon pollution are - being insulated by their money - the least likely to suffer its effects. “
…we all have our self-justifying myths.  We tell ourselves a story of our lives in which we almost always appear as the heroes. These myths prevent us from engaging with climate change…
…The most powerful story of all, endlessly narrated by the hired hands of the fossil fuel industry, just as it was once told by the sugar slavers, is that we are both all-important and utterly insignificant.  We are too important to be denied any of the delights we crave, but too insignificant to exert any impact on planetary processes.  We fill the whole frame of the story when it suits us and shrink to a dot when that scale is more convenient. We are capable of occupying both niches simultaneously…
…It is not just because (the movie) The Great Global Warming Swindle is at odds with the entire body of scientific knowledge on this subject that I have bothered to contest it. It is also because it is consonant with the entire body of human self-deception. We want to be misled, we crave it; and we will bend our minds into whatever shape they need to take in order not to face our brutal truths.   - George Monbiot 7-22-08

9. Europe and other nations seem to better understand the problem than the US.  Most humans will not really get it until they feel the sea level rise and experience more storms, floods, heat waves, bio changes, crop losses, etc.

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/hurricanes-and-climate-change.html
http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=6891&method=full

10. Dramatic and painful climate problems happening sooner will better work to stimulate change.   Any changes made now are more effective than the same change enacted in the future.   The longer we wait, the harder it gets. (8 years have been wasted)

Tracking Extreme Weather Events http://www.heatisonline.org/weather.cfm
Austrialia heat waves by 2010 http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/heatwaves_coming_climate_scientists_say_551103

Concluding:

11. Most adults alive today will see more and increasingly intense global warming problems; Children growing into a very unpredictable world will need all the preparation we can give them.  Philosophically: we should learn the dangers, still enjoy life, educate the kids, and push change as fast as we can.   No engagement is more important.

Specific solutions http://www.heatisonline.org/solutions.cfm
http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=6403&method=full
Spirituality and Hope http://www.ecologicalhope.org/
http://climateprogress.org/2008/04/22/is-450-ppm-or-less-politically-possible-part-2-the-solution/
Spend 1% to halve greenhouse gas by 2050: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hfpZd7sSjQH6m99E7NkvDYVL-ywg
Vatican calls it a sin http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1289476/vaticanproclaimspollutionanew_sin/
Babtists on climate change http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/10/baptist.climate/

To stay fairly current, a minimal information task is to subscribe to an email newsletter like Grist’s http://www.grist.org/

For background see the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ - remembering that the science in that movie is now about 5 years old.


Prepared by Richard Pauli July 2008 rpauli@speakeasy.org