Saturday, June 01, 2013

Resurgence of Climate Change denial in US


ClimateChangeDenialThis unusually cold winter, which is to say what used to be a normal winter, has sparked a resurgence in climate change denial in the US:

After Cold Winter, American Attitudes Chill on Global Warming American opinion on climate change seems to rise and fall with the temperature | A cold winter may have caused Americans to change their beliefs on global warming, a study published Thursday suggests. As previous polls have shown, Americans' thoughts on climate change seem to vary with the weather. According to a new Yale University poll, 63 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, a 10 percent drop from the number who believed it was happening last September, when a similar poll found that 70 percent of Americans believed global warming is happening. (May 9, 2013) US News and Word Report

But not everyone in the Northeast seems to think a ‘good’ winter means our Climate Change troubles are over:

100+ Ski Resorts Sign Climate Declaration Calling for U.S. Policy Action on Climate Change  Today, 108 ski areas from around the U.S. joined with 40 other businesses, Ceres and its Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) project in signing the Climate Declaration, which calls upon federal policymakers to seize the American economic opportunity of addressing climate change. These ski areas join iconic American businesses, including General Motors Co., Nike and Levi Strauss & Co., as well as founding signatory Aspen Snowmass, in asserting that a bold response to the climate challenge is “one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.” (May 29, 2013) EcoWatch

The ski industry is right to be concerned about less snowfall and snowpack for future winters, though it might be too late to save that particular industry. The predictions for New York winters say more rainfall, back and forth freezing, and not more snow. The warmth already built up from our dumping fossil fuels into our atmosphere with long-lasting carbon dioxide molecules and warmth being absorbed by our oceans (causing acidification) still has to work its way through the eco-system. A recent study Earth Warmed More at End of 20th Century Than in Past 1,400 Years (one of many) shows how not only is our climate increasing in temperature very quickly, but it will take time for that warming to play out. Some effects, like flooding, droughts, wildfires, and more extreme hurricanes, will happen sooner and seem more threatening than the oceans rising and a massive loss of biodiversity. But not really; it’s just that climate doesn’t register as alarming to us as freaky weather does.

Australia does not have this problem with occasional cold winters throwing them off:

Is Australia the Face of Climate Change to Come? Extreme weather Down Under may foreshadow events on a global scale. In early 2012 once-in-a-century floods submerged swaths of Great Britain and Ireland, causing some $1.52 billion in damages. Then in June record-high temperatures in Russia sparked wildfires that consumed 74 million acres of pristine Siberian taiga. Months after that, Hurricane Sandy pummeled seven countries, killing hundreds and running up an estimated $75 billion in damages. Just this week, a tornado of virtually unheard of size and ferocity tore through a small city in Oklahoma, leaving 24 people dead. Each of these one-off traumas was bad enough, wreaking havoc, but in Australia such events seem to be becoming commonplace. The Lucky Country has experienced a major spike in extreme weather in the past few years, with a string of devastating incidents just since January. That has people wondering if the island continent is somehow a perfect bellwether for the Earth's changing climate. So scientists are bearing down on the problem with intensity, investigating Australia's increasingly violent weather patterns and trying to figure out what they might portend for the rest of the world as our climate changes. (May 24, 2013) National Geographic [more on Climate Change in our area]

Having said all that, some folks here in the Northeast may ask, “So, if we are only experiencing longer growing seasons, a slight increase in hurricanes, some hotter days in summer, and a little less snow in the winter, why worry?”

The worry is that when we do start worrying it will probably be too late to stop the worst effects of Climate Change. We have done almost nothing since Dr. Hansen warned Congress about Climate Change in 1988 to address this planetary crisis. If we wait a few more decades to act, the odds are that folks in the future--who will be more desperate for more jobs, more thirsty for water, and more hungry for food--will not have the ability to adapt to or mitigate Climate Change.

Failing to understand the difference between weather and climate spells a disaster unlike anything humanity, which grew and thrived in the Holocene (a remarkable stable climate period), ever experienced before. It means no preparation time. It means continuing to operate recycling systems that include a landfill, a sort of delusional get out of jail free card for your waste. It means favoring a transportation system, dependant on huge tax expenditures for road and bridge creation and repair, which caters only to those able to afford fossil fuel guzzlers, forcing the less fortunate to fend for themselves.

It might mean this: If we in the Northeast who have incredibly fertile soil and massive quantities of fresh water ignore Climate Change, we ignore the plight of those around the world who are and will continue to have emergency issues with food and water. Some regions around the world that are presently having trouble growing food because of climate change (droughts and floods) might be unable to continue that. We may have to offer up our region for the plight of others.

I’m not making just a narrow moral point here about selfishness, denying Climate Change while others suffer. I’m pointing also to a practical problem of insecurity, as many of the 1% of the 1% must be feeling in these days of disproportional wealth, as they try to hold on to their riches while millions die of hunger and thirst. At some point, balance must be achieved – between the haves and the have-nots, between hot and cold. Some areas around the world, like our Northeast North American region (which will have plenty of our own Climate Change issues) might be forced to provide the water and soil for those who need it.

I know, ‘forced’ is not a pleasant word. It comes in many unpleasant flavors, including that nagging guilty feeling that you’re eating up all the food at the party. Yet the moral imperative does provide that redeeming quality of an enlightened empathy for those others (humans, plants, and animals) who share the same planet.

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