Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Climate: the 9/11 moment has arrived?



Image from "The Atlantic" Magazine


A few weeks ago, I published a post titled "Climate, a 9/11 moment? on Cassandra's legacy. In it, I said that we could experience a "9/11 moment" when:

"Something will happen; something so big, so horrible, so terrifying that people will watch the news in TV while telling themselves: "it is happening now, it is happening to us!

Does Hurricane Sandy fit the description? For sure it has caused the return of climate change in the mainstream news. Enough to qualify as a "9/11 moment?" Perhaps not, but surely we'll have more of these moments in the future. It is going to happen.



h/t Fausto


17 comments:

  1. Are you joking? Five minute after the landfall of Irene the usual "climate change deniers" bandwagon started to play the old song "Always there are been hurricanes hitting New York, this is not unusual at all..."

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    1. "New York's Bloomberg endorses Obama to lead on climate change" (guardian.co.uk)

      Only few weeks ago this headline would be pretty unusual..

      Regards

      Fausto Ghini

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  2. Until you are alive, you can always deny everything you want. Unfortunately, unlike science, stupidity has no limits. There is no disaster that can open the eyes of those who want keep their eyes closed.

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  3. don't think it will hinder US denialism in any way. most will just think its quite a cold storm, like any other, so therefore wont associate the storm with global warming, however big it is.

    we are not talking about sophisticated people here

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  4. Ugo,

    I think you are a bit optimistic here... denialist machine is stronger than ever... :-)

    Alex

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  5. Well, not so overly optimistic. After all I put a question mark in the title!

    Nevertheless, even the US, most adults at some point cease to believe that they were born in a cabbage patch. Don't they?

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  6. On the other hand, if you read what Obama recently said about climate change, here

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/10/27/1100561/challenged-by-mtv-obama-says-he-is-surprised-by-his-own-climate-silence/?mobile=nc

    ....now a record storm affecting the nation’s most populous cities, neither candidate found the issue to be worthy of discussion. Pressed about this finally the other day on MTV, President Obama called climate change a “critical issue” that he was “surprised” hadn’t come up during any of the debates, a response that was at once completely accurate and totally disingenuous. (As one commentator pointed out, he might have brought up this “critical” issue on his own since “he is the friggin’ POTUS.”)


    No... I mean, did he really say that??? And he kept a serious face while saying that? Or he kept any kind of face while saying that? I think only a Borg could have shown such a friggin' despise of the intelligence of Earthlings.

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  7. Ugo, even if people knew with 100% certainty that humans were impacting climate, and if they then knew with 100% certainty that climate change caused Sandy, and even if they knew that there would be more/worse such weather into the future, the vast vast majority would just move their houses inland and keep consuming.

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    1. This is not Nate Hagens, right? :-)

      "and keep consuming" - so you assume indefinite supply of resources? :)

      Alex

      P.S. - Otherwise I agree...

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    2. Nate - which culture are you referring to as 'people' ? It sounds like a common American delusion that American culture is human nature, when in fact it is merely the most heavily programmed society on the planet as regards consumerism and a bizarre nationalist supremacy complex. (Childhood indoctrination to flags should have been outlawed internationally after WW2).

      Personally I doubt your projection does Americans justice, not only because the vast majority couldn't afford to move their houses inland but also because, as soon as it's seen as a matter of national self-respect, the discipline of avoiding carbon emissions will be rigorously respected.

      At least that's my take on the many Americans I've come to know since the sixties.

      Regards,

      Lewis

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  8. Hugo - the last I heard they'd recovered over 1800 bodies from Katrina, over 6,600 were still reported missing, and miles of wrecked houses were just being left to rot.

    We failed to build a viable movement on that disaster to protest the bipartisan US climate policy of a 'brinkmanship of inaction' with its Chinese rival. We could fail again on Sandy, for which there is far stronger evidence of AGW as the critical factor (both in the SST allowing the hurricane to thrive so far north, and in the disrupted Jetstream providing conditions that steered it onto the Jersey Shore, without which 99.9% of the damages would not have occurred).

    Some of the media are shifting - for instance Bloomberg Businessweek has a cover headline over a NYC flood scene saying:
    IT'S THE
    CLIMATE,
    STUPID !
    but most are doing a Revkin of prevarication by attribution studies (which would be just great if, in say 5 years time, science had got anywhere near modelling even the dynamics of the feedbacks driving the observed acceleration of arctic sea ice loss).

    Personally I doubt we'll see anything in the way of widespread popular demand for commensurate action on climate before there is a change in activists' approach
    - from slamming industry for pursuing profits (aka: keeping ahead of competitors) to slamming the US politicians for running the bipartisan climate policy,
    - and from vaguely demanding 'action' - or maybe even just a bit more lip-service - to promoting a clear, specific and credible charter of demands that are globally applicable.

    Without that charter of demands there is nothing remotely tangible around which even the core of the requisite mass movement can coalesce, let alone the general public. (350.org is a nonsense in this regard - due to the timelag, we'll not see what the warming off 350ppmv of CO2 looks like until about 2020, and it is entirely silent on how that concentration should be achieved internationally).

    If we are ready to make that change in campaigning, then Sandy offers an excellent platform on which to do so - tens of millions affected, a major city damaged, strong AGW components, clear probability of repeat impacts, etc. If we are not ready, then whose to say whether some future disaster would give a sufficient platform, for depressed defeatism is gaining ground even as more people start to understand the threat. - I.e., we'd better bloody try as it's not likely to get easier in future at either popular or diplomatic levels.

    Your input (and anyone else interested too) on just what those demands should comprise would be appreciated.

    Regards,

    Lewis



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    1. You know, Nate, there is an old joke in Italy about a boxer who takes a terrible beating from his opponent in the first round. His coach tries to console him telling him "it was OK, he always missed you!" So, the second round starts and the boxer again takes a tremendous beating. His coach consoles him saying "unbelievable, he missed you all the time!" There comes the third round, and the boxer again takes a horrible beating. He goes back to his corner and his coach tells him again "very good, he keeps missing you!" At this point the boxer says, "you know, you should keep an eye on the referee, because, up there, somebody is beating the hell out of me!"

      All that to mean that if people are punched enough, eventually they will learn. It also means that learning is not necessarily a painless process. Unfortunately.

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    2. The above was meant as a reply for Nate, but I think it works also for Lewis' message. I think that, unfortunately, it is appearing more and more clear that people will learn only if they are beaten hard enough by nature. Unfortunately that is exactly what's going to happen and it will not be a pleasant experience. In the meantime, we are bound to do all what we can do to try to soften the blow. Not that we can do much, but we should try

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  9. Hugo - apologies, I've misquoted the Bloomberg headline. It should read:

    IT'S GLOBAL
    WARMING
    STUPID !

    Regards,

    Lewis

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  10. Changing minds one at a time won't work.
    We humans, travel in herds and think as herds.

    I recall a study about 2-3 years back on how herd thinking flips virally when a tipping point is reached in a population.

    Remember when most Americans believed smoking tobacco was good for you, or not wearing your seat belt was a sign of "personal freedom" (denial of the laws of physics)?

    Then. One day. It flips. As if it never was the other way around.

    Not sure if Hurricane Sandy will trigger that flip.
    Maybe it will happen after Washington DC floods over and a couple of US Senators drown?

    (Not being in Europe, I'm not clear on how Italians or others see the Climate Change debate. Is it the same there or do they think America is full of Taliban-style lunatics?)

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  11. You said it very well, Step Back. I see the flipping point arriving. Sandy will not be enough, but it is a big push in the right direction. Then, something will give to the system the final push and well be rolling down on the other side. Most likely, much too late but, who knows?

    About Italy, it is not very different than in the US - indifference kills more than hate.

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  12. Ugo, now don't exaggerate with self flagging...
    In Italy, as in most Europe, differently than in USA, practically all mainstream politicians support the scientific consensus about climate change, with just some fringe and extremist media that are doubters (Luckily we lack Creationists, too...).
    May be they don't understand the urgency of the situation, also because, following European politics, we already do, on the side of energy efficiency and mitigation of CO2 emission, a lot more than USA or China, even at the cost to damage our economic competitiveness.
    Just consider that EU average citizen emit now the same CO2 than the average Chinese (but they are almost three times than us... ), and half the average American.
    Obviously the current economic crisis doesn't help, promoting the theme of "growth" over the environmental issues.
    Fortunately a growing part of society, and politic, began to understand that environmental issues ARE the way out from the crisis...

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