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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/9/18

Remaining calm about climate change

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Message Craig K. Comstock
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If we listened to scientists we might get all upset about climate change. An example is the current article by Robert Hunziker reporting that a decade-old paper on the "worst case" has turned out to be conservative, even though it was intended not as a prediction but as a stimulus to get us thinking.

Why has reality met or exceeded what was said to be the worst case? In part because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has neglected many factors and used linear or straight-line projections. "In the real world 'discontinuities' (non-linear) are common throughout climate history," Hunziker explains.

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What caused a panel of distinguished folks to under-estimate the effects? Or as I like to ask, why is climate change the issue from hell? How have most of us stayed so calm? Some have explicitly denied climate change caused by humans . Others feel they have accepted the science but have rated climate change as a problem less severe than jobs and many other issues.

It's easy to grasp why purveyors of fossil fuels have funded candidates, lobbyists, and "think tanks" that protect their interests. Those who extract and sell coal, oil, and natural gas do not want to curtail their business and leave their reserves "in the ground." Stock prices would fall.

Less easy to understand is what radical-right ideology could offer as a solution if climate change were happening. If you praise "the free market" as the cure for almost every economic problem, if you denounce government regulation, and if you have faith that we will be saved somehow by a technical device, then why worry? Climate change can't be real because, if it were, any adequate solution would require a change of ideology.

People who want to honor science often content themselves by laughing at deniers. For them, however, climate change is the issue from hell because of many factors, such as these:

The Way We Think

Humans are well equipped by evolution to respond with alacrity to sudden dangers, but not to gradual processes, even if the latter, over time, are even potentially fatal.

We feel that humans can't possibly affect something as huge as "climate," even if stubborn facts show we do.

It is easy to dismiss as "deplorables" people who lack a scientific education, to snort at them but do little more.

Nobody is to blame for the greenhouse gas phenomenon: fossil fuels powered the industrial revolution. Nobody could foresee their downside. Calamitous climate change can't be happening, because we didn't do anything wrong. It would be so unfair.

The cost of climate change is almost unimaginable, including the inundation of coastal cities and agricultural areas, flooding or drought in other growing areas, wildfires, terrible storms, and so forth. The prospect elicits a similar reaction as the prospect of nuclear war: it's too horrible to happen.

Economic Self-interest

Our economic system works, at least for the top, and we fear "disrupting" it, even if conversion would generate many new jobs.

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Craig K. Comstock Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Author of three recent books, Better Ways to Live: Honoring Social Inventors, Exploring New Challenges (2017); Enlarging Our Comfort Zones: A Life of Unexpected Destinations (2016); and Gift of Darkness:Growing Up[ in Occupied Amsterdam (more...)
 

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