Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: will people finally understand what's happening?

The Hurricane Sandy has been a tremendous blow against the wall of indifference that the forces of denial had been able to erect against the idea of anthropogenic global warming. So successful these forces have been, that it had become politically incorrect even to mention the subject. But Nature doesn't know about political correctness and it is not affected by ideological debates. Will Sandy be enough to change the general perception of Climate Change? 

There is this story in Italy about a boxer who goes into the ring and takes a terrible beating from his opponent in the first round. His coach tries to encourage him and he says, "it was OK, you dodged all the blows!" So, the second round starts and the boxer again takes a tremendous beating. His coach consoles him saying, "you are doing fine! He missed you all the time!" There comes the third round, and the boxer again takes a terrible beating. He goes back to his corner and his coach tells him, "excellent! He keeps missing you!" At this point, the boxer says, "OK, but, you know, you should keep an eye on the referee, because, up there, there is someone who's beating the hell out of me!"
Reality always wins and, if people are punched hard enough, eventually they learn. It also means that learning is not necessarily a painless process, unfortunately. How much more punishment do we have to take before we finally understand the reality of climate change?



  1. Hugo - your question misses the core of the issue. It should be:

    "How much worse punishment will we commit ourselves and our children to before we are willing to discuss the requisite collective political action ?



    1. It seems to me to be the same: once we realize that there is a problem, we'll try to find ways to solve it. Soon, the discussion will evolve into a debate between technofixers and socialfixers, but first we need to arrive to agree on the fact that there IS a problem.

    2. Hugo - it is unclear whom you mean by 'we' - politicians of leading nations were informed and convinced by scientists by 1990; as were the early generation of activists; by 1996 the Global Climate Coalition (fossil lobby) were fully informed; by 2005 even a 70% majority of Americans were convinced of the climate problem, let alone less well programmed cultures around the world.

      If the 'we' you refer to was about the remaining denialists seeing the light and joining in constructive discussion, then I think you'd be mistaken. Handing denialists a veto over when candid discussions of requisite action can begin seems a sure-fire recipe for failure.
      But perhaps there is some other sector you're waiting for ?

      I hope we could agree that those candid discussions are LONG overdue already ?

  2. The reality will finally set in when the food runs low, fuel becomes rationed to government and high priority users, and no one can make money denying it any more.

  3. Ugo,

    one thing is to understand something, quite other is to do something about it. I gave many presentations about dire outcomes of climate change to young people. They understood it, but there seems little hope they want to do something about it. I am not even desperate anymore. I am just observer now... I work at the "Global Change Research Centre" and I even stopped talking about climate change. People just do research as usual and I am one of the few using bike to get to work....



    1. Alex, there is no need to be desperate. Humans are what they are, they are slow, stubborn, self-centered, prone to delusion in all sectors of life. Climate Change is the greatest challenge that they have ever faced - probably worse than the Toba eruption that left alive, it seems, just a few thousands of us. We survived that, it is not obvious that we'll survive the planetary eruption that we are ourselves creating. If we do survive, we'll emerge out of the battle much different, perhaps better. If we don't, we'll, it's fine: evidently we didn't deserve to survive. The universe is large and somebody else will pick up the challenges we left unfinished. But, as long as we have a chance of survival, we need to fight for that chance. So, no despair. Take up the challenge and fight!

    2. Ugo, thanks, I am still fighting in a way! Moments ago I finished a presentation on climate extremes and relation to global warming to be presentented in Bratislava on Thursday.

      On saturday I give a presentation on peak oil and energy security in Slovakia for some people from slovak gouvernment, so lets see how that plays out!

      Many thanks for your support and I look forward for your next blogs!


  4. "How much more punishment do we have to take before we finally understand the reality of climate change?"

    The question is rather: what do we do then? Because people finally understanding that there are problems/limits, is great, but if the discussion doesn't move to debating systematic solutions, ie changing the system, ditch neoclassical economic theory, dismantle the machine that funnels all money and power to the 1% oligarchy, it's all pretty useless.

    In the end it isn't about AGW, or solving AGW, it's about changing the system.

    1. Well, Neven, I think that the question has to be seen as a two-step process. If we don't obtain a general agreement at all the levels of society that climate change is an urgent priority, then there will be no change; nothing will be done - just as nothing is being done now.

      So, I think this is our priority right now: push the urgency of the matter into public consciousness. But whatever we do, the system will change.... oh, yes! It will! Already now it is changing so fast that we don't even see it rushing by. Not necessarily in the way we would like it to change, unfortunately.

  5. "How much more punishment do we have to take before we finally understand the reality of climate change?"
    That is a good question...

    We might ask a similar question to people who smoke cigarettes knowing that doing so will give them cancer. Must they wait until they are actually diagnosed with cancer before they choose to adopt substantive change? No... but too many do.

    Human beings are complex enough individualy. Collectively, we are a nightmare of complexity.

  6. Lucas,

    Well said.

    ("Collectively, we [H. sapiens] are a nightmare of complexity.")

    The first step is to understand the human brain in the context of how it "thinks" when in an isolated mode (not in a group).

    The second step is to understand it when in a group setting.

    Can you picture a group leader admitting to his followers that "we" can no longer be as "powerful" as we the collective used to be? That the steam engine of progress needs to come to halt before it goes screaming at full speed over the self-destruction cliff? Can you imagine that happening in a country that prides itself as being the greatest, most powerful, exceptional nation on Earth?

  7. "Can you picture a group leader admitting to his followers that "we" can no longer be as "powerful" as we the collective used to be?"

    well i can imagine myself really enjoying hammering my delusional underlings into submission with our dominant scientific and rational arguments, but then i'm not a leader. to be a leader in the US you really have to be a delusional magical thinking cult follower or you'll be voted out. or more likely not be there in the first place. political parties are businesses (which are essentially religious cults), and actively self select the most ruthless candidate to protect the cults interests and survival at ANY COST. So they are usually the worst leaders for the rest of us.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)