Monday, October 29, 2012

The trouble with Climate Silence

The 2012 presidential debates are over and Climate Silence ruled. Didn’t hear about Climate Silence? That’s because the two candidates for the most powerful job in the world kept their mouths shut about the most important issue in the world—accelerated anthropomorphic Climate Change.

On one level it’s understandable how the two candidates, starving for more billons to feed the mainstream media machine, would be reluctant to talk about an issue so riddled with fake doubt by those whose ideology doesn’t match reality. “Climate of Doubt”, a major investigative report by PBS’s Frontline, gets to the heart of the matter, though sadly it aired just after the last debate.
On another level, it’s incredible that the American public would allow the politicalization of a scientific issue. You cannot just vote Climate Change away, or gravity for that matter.

ClimateSilenceBut it seems we are hell-bent on doing just that. For me, the most poignant moment in “Climate of Doubt” came when a Republican senator just ousted from office by his stance on the science behind Climate Change said at a senate hearing (and I paraphrase) “What do you do when your child is sick and 98 doctors tell you a procedure will save him, while 2 tell you not to do it?”

 It looks like we are going with the 2% of scientists who don’t back Climate Change—even though that’s not in the 100%’s best interest. Not only that, we are increasing oil production in our own country where soon we may be producing more oil than any other country—even more than Saudi Arabia. At the same time, we are going to eliminate the production tax credit for renewable energy at the end of this year.

One of my heroes, world-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough,  whose1980’s program “Life on Earth” first woke me to the deep resilience, persistence, and interdependency that exists in the four billion years of life on this planet, highlights the Climate Silence problem in the US.  Viewed from the perspective of an expert on the biological machinations of our planet who is also independent from the dysfunctional American press, Attenborough says:

US politicians duck climate change because of cost The naturalist warned it would take a terrible example of extreme weather to wake people up to global warming. One of the world's leading naturalists has accused US politicians of ducking the issue of climate change because of the economic cost of tackling it and warned that it would take a terrible example of extreme weather to wake people up to the dangers of global warming. Speaking just days after the subject of climate change failed to get a mention in the US presidential debates for the first time in 24 years, Sir David Attenborough told the Guardian: "[It] does worry me that most powerful nation in the world, North America, denies what the rest of us can see very clearly [on climate change]. I don't know what you do about that. It's easier to deny." (October 26, 2012) The Guardian

The candidates debated and their handlers calculated that they need not debate Climate Change. And they are right, the American public goes mum. We have this strange capacity to marvel at our own self-destructive behavior then proceed regardless. Nevertheless, you cannot have a sensible and useful debate if you structure the debates in such way that only a few (the Green Party was forced out) are allowed to participate. Critical issues like Climate Change, which are going to have to be dealt with by all branches of government, have been pre-agreed not to be discussed. That’s not a debate; it is a dangerous delusion—a game where only a few can play and the outcome affects everyone. It’s like the spats of old between Feudal-era kings that forced peasants to war with each other, creating untold misery upon those who have been excluded from the decision-making process.

Yet, there are instances when we the people finally rise and face the facts and change our behavior—a Pearl Harbor moment. For Climate Change, this moment of clarity may come if the Arctic melts soon. That’s when our planet’s air conditioner becomes our planet’s fireplace.

A North Pole Without Ice Scientists say this year’s record declines in Arctic sea ice extent and volume are powerful evidence that the giant cap of ice at the top of the planet is on a trajectory to largely disappear in summer within a decade or two, with profound global consequences. (August 30, 2012) Environment 360

My suggestion (though, admittedly, if you’re not going to listen to climate scientists why listen to me?) is that while humanity kicks this hot little can down the road a little further, experts might poke a new bullet point into the numerous Climate Change studies. Right after the point where a study says we should pour a lot of bucks into educating the public about this scientific phenomenon, include a bullet about combating the folks thwarting our collective action to save ourselves. Sure, it would be costly. The 1% has a lot of money to convince the 99% to sacrifice the 100%’s planet for the 1%’s whims. Even so, a planet that isn’t continually passing warming tipping points is a very handy thing to have.

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