Saturday, November 19, 2011

Can we address Climate Change at all, or are we too stupid?

 

What struck me most about the film “Most Dangerous Man - Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.” was the bafflement of Daniel Ellsberg felt after the complete airing of the Pentagon Pagers. Ellsberg, who had just revealed in top secret documents how the US presidents back to Eisenhower had been lying about the benign role of the US in shaping Vietnam policy, was amazed that the public didn’t rise up and end the Vietnam War. Not only that, the public reelected Nixon with an overwhelming majority.

It’s something to ponder. Even if the American people understand a crisis and are given all the facts will they change their behavior? This is especially pertinent with Climate Change, a crisis on an unimaginable scale because we humans have never experienced anything like a quick and massive climate change during our entire evolution. Sure, we’ve had our storms and droughts and fires and other upheavals. But nothing like warming up the entire planet in a few decades that might tip beyond even our brainy species’ ability to right it has never even remotely occurred.

Climate Change is a phenomenon we are causing that has no historical equivalent. As Marshall McLuhan argued in “The Medium Is The Message”, we cannot use the past as instruction on how to addressed some changes in the future because we are changing too fast. No really, nothing like it.

The news about Climate Change, unlike the Pentagon Papers, has not been delivered to the public in a single wallop, but it has entered mainstream news with increasing regularity and ominous portent. The releases of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC, a very conservative group of scientists around the world, seem to have been counteracted in the US by a political party that finds the news about Climate Change very inconvenient. What are you going to do? Climate Change is physics not politics.

But still, given all the artificial doubt poisoning the press on Climate Change, it’s difficult to avoid stories like this that are becoming more frequent in mainstream media.

Extreme weather to worsen with climate change: IPCC | Reuters (Reuters) - An increase in heat waves is almost certain, while heavier rainfall, more floods, stronger cyclones, landslides and more intense droughts are likely across the globe this century as the Earth's climate warms, U.N. scientists said on Friday. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged countries to come up with disaster management plans to adapt to the growing risk of extreme weather events linked to human-induced climate change, in a report released in Uganda on Friday.  (November 18, 2011) Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters.com

In truth, this news about extreme weather worsening is not news at all. When you read the official documents the US and most departments within the US and nearby Canada on Climate Change, you find that the findings in the IPCC report above have been known for quite awhile. Not only that, most of these reports include how the various departments think they can address Climate Change. Here are but ten reports from major agencies and governments and groups on Climate Change that include changes that our coming to our world and possible solutions:

1. From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007 from Natural Resources Canada

2. The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity from The US Department of Agriculture

3. Indicators of Climate Change in the Northeast 2005 from Clean Air -Cool Planet

4. Stop trashing the climate from Institute for Local Self-Reliance |Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) | Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives | Eco-Cycle

5. Bird and Climate from National Audubon Society

6. New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report from New York Climate Change Advisory Group

7. Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast from Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment

8. Climate Change Indicators in the United States from the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA)

9. Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

10. Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) from United States Global Change Research Program

That’s the good news, the information is there and there are solutions suggested so that everyone can read them. The bad news is that in all these documents there is not enough money, not enough will, not enough interaction between government and their institutions, not enough awareness by the public, not enough ability to regulate corporations to make them act on any of the provisions in the studies, and, quite frankly, not enough interest or understanding in mainstream media on how to handle something as large and compelling as Climate Change. The media doesn’t have a clue as to how to present a catastrophe as relatively slow moving as Climate Change. Back during World War II, they got it. Back in World War II mainstream media told the public (as much as they could given the need for secrecy) everything expected of them, what was happening, why, and what how everything was going.

With Climate Change, the media is acting as if they are on the sidelines of what they believe is a ‘special interest’ issue, one that only a certain segment of society would be interested in. This is a dangerous illusion that will certainly cook our species until we wipe out all life on this planet—think of the history of Venus, where greenhouse gases have so build up the heat there that you can melt lead on the surface.

To return to the question: Can we address Climate Change at all? It took many years after the Pentagon Papers for the Vietnam War to end. Then, we thought our country would never embroil itself in an unwinnable war that would tear our country apart, but we lied ourselves into the Iraq War. Now we face Climate Change. The information we need is out there that overwhelmingly proves without a shadow of doubt that anthropogenic (us) Climate Change is happening and happening quickly.

The public sits, the government waits, the media squirms, and the politicians waffle. Someone has cried “Fire!” and some look around. No one moves. We look around and still no one is moving…

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