Environment

Betting on Doomsday

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMar 11, 2009 2:36 PM

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In the Uncomfortable Truths Department, here's one that is sure to raise the hackles of environmentalists who were quick to jump on the recent Australian bushfires/global warming bandwagon. Money quote:

To say that climate change caused these fires is untenable.

Before all you well intentioned environmentalists have a reflux reaction, breathe deep, swallow the bile, and then hold your noses while you link over to your favorite climate bogeyman, where you can read the analysis in its entirety. (It's not by him, either.) In all seriousness, we really need to tread carefully when trying to connect climate change to current weather disasters. To that end, it's worth keeping a copy of this story on your desktop. I know, I know, it's written by that second favorite whipping boy. But this piece--despite being two years old--remains one of the best distillations of the climate change conundrum:

By the clock of geology, this climate shift is unfolding at a dizzying, perhaps unprecedented pace, but by time scales relevant to people, it's happening in slow motion. If the bad stuff doesn't happen for 100 years or so, it's hard to persuade governments or voters to take action.

Those of you driven nuts by this don't understand human behavior. Look at it this way: few of us change our unhealthy diets or take up exercise in earnest until we feel that tightening in the chest or wake up in a cardiac unit. I know that my life-long love affair with Lucky Charms, hostess cupcakes, and snickers bars is destined to end badly. And one of these days, I'm going to start eating tofu and more green, leafy vegetables.... Now back to the matter at hand. This passage in that 2006 article by favorite whipping boy # 2 illuminates the paradox:

Many scientists say that to avoid a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations, energy efficiency must be increased drastically, and soon. And by midcentury, they add, there must be a complete transformation of energy technology. That may be why some environmentalists try to link today's weather to tomorrow's problem. While scientists say they lack firm evidence to connect recent weather to the human influence on climate, environmental campaigners still push the notion.

So Mr. Indispensable, and all the rest of you who are taking this tack out of expediency, you get points for understanding the human brain, but I still think you're betting on the wrong horse.

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