Wednesday, August 11, 2021

We’re doomed, but no reason to get upset


     Robert Frost wondered whether the world will end in fire, or in ice.
     While fire is clearly winning, I believe the world really ends through cowardice. Though “cowardice” isn’t the right word; the exact term is hard to put a finger on. “Denialism,” maybe. Head-in-the-sandism. The human tendency to see a hole in the ground, understand it is there in our path, then fall in it anyway, eyes open, because this is the route we always take, and we’ll be damned if we’re going to deviate. We’re no sidesteppers!
     Long before people were denying the usefulness of masks or refusing life-saving vaccines, they were pooh-poohing global warming. It isn’t happening or, if it is, it’s caused by natural shifts. Not by people, oh no no no, we wouldn’t wreck our world through carelessness. Since it’s not our fault, there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Nobody actually pounds the floor with their fists and whines, “We don’t wanna! Doing stuff is hard!” But that is the general tone.
     The past few years we’ve seen a series of heat waves, brutal droughts, record floods, massive storms. A gathering drumbeat of doom so loud even some Republicans suspect there might be something going on. The latest shoe dropped Monday, a report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
     Where to begin?
     “All is lost,” is not a phrase you see much in professional journalism, even in the negative, “not all is lost,” used in Monday’s New York Times, trying to focus on the dwindling hope that a hotter planet, with melting ice sheets and rising seas might yet be mitigated. Though even that optimism is yanked away in the headline: “A HOTTER FUTURE IS NOW INEVITABLE, A U.N. REPORT SAYS.”
     What is odd, to me, is that the same people denying climate change also crave upheaval. They’ll quote the Book of Revelations and announce the world is ending, based on nothing. But let the world’s scientists join hands and chant, “Yes, the world is indeed ending, at least as the cool green place we’ve known and loved,” and suddenly they’re covering their ears and humming. Then what’s with all the stockpiled weaponry? The freeze-dried food? Geez, climate change ought to be your dream come true.
     I decided to read the report itself, rather than just reports of the report.
     Formally titled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis” the report has a blue cover and is ... ah ... 3,949 pages long. Quite a lot, really. Well, let’s begin. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

To continue reading, click here.


  1. WELL! I didn't see that coming. Not particularly upset? Me neither

  2. One of the things I find intensely annoying about this whole debate is how big business, and to some extent government too, has framed it as an issue of personal responsibility. We're all at fault for climate change, and the pollution that causes it, so the story goes; we can only solve it through our own personal choices.

    This has been going on for decades. Remember the commercials with the Indian with the tear running down his cheek because someone threw litter on the ground?

    It's all bullshit. Let's think less about how the litter got there and more about who made it -- the plastic bottle, the laminated wrapper, whatever --in the first place.

    I can cut back on my driving, turn my thermostat up or down as the season warrants, and it won't make a damn bit of difference. The "individuals" who have to take responsibility are the decision-makers in business and the government. And if the former won't, the latter damn sure better.

    Oh, and that guy in the commercial? He wasn't even really an Indian.

  3. Cowardice? No. Political certitude and personal hubris that cloud the truth, yes. Politicians protect their seats no matter the peril to their children, not because they don't care, but because they've convinced themselves that they are right. When a talk radio host can point to a February snowstorm in Buffalo as dispositive to global warming while ignoring reports of record heat, drought and wildfires in Australia occurring the same week, truth has left the building. A close friend, bachelor and law degreed, 20 plus years an FBI special agent, upon my reference to a NPR segment, scoffs at the notion before hearing the facts. Ignorance, denial, hubris. Pride goeth before a fall, they say. Unfortunately, the coming fall might leave us no place to land.

    1. Proof of global warming / climate change cannot be found in anecdotal weather events . Both deniers and alarmists need to understand the data sets that indicate warming are enormous. The Earth's climate is a tremendously complex system . People on NPR and at the NYT profit off clicks the same as FOX news and the late Rushbo . Both sides are believers. What people believe is of no consequence. Scientific facts exist regardless of what people believe and clearly it doesn't matter what you believe because we westerners just keep on stomping our disproportionately large carbon footprints on the earth and say it's somebody else's responsibility to reduce consumption of fossil fuel.
      We have these arguments at airports and real estate offices or over seven course meals in air-conditioned outdoor dining patios. None of us actually are willing to do anything different to change the trajectory of this disaster we're causing other than complain or blame others. Except maybe buy an electric car. Which is not reducing our footprint enough to slow warming. We're all Hippocrates or indifferent.

  4. After watching "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006, I was not scientifically literate enough to adequately judge whether or not the case that had been made was completely valid. One thing I have learned, as a film buff, is that many documentary filmmakers are very good at making you believe what it is they wish you to believe.

    What I was immediately certain about, however, was that if very much at all of the case laid out by Al Gore was on target, we were screwed. I knew there was absolutely no way that this society, let alone many others just learning to appreciate the wonders of an automobile lifestyle and air conditioning, etc., would be making the huge changes necessary to cut carbon output. Nothing that's happened since then has made that inconvenient fact less evident.

    I had a hunch that pinning his hopes on his belief that "political will is a renewable resource" was not gonna be a very fulfilling enterprise for Gore. If I could have even imagined the nature of the "political will" exhibited by the twice-impeached, big-time loser's cult members prevalent today, I'd have been even less optimistic.

    Still, your concluding that you're "not particularly upset" seems like a kinda weird flex to me, Neil. Yes, there's nothing you can do about it. Personally, I don't know why that makes it any less upsetting. The apocalyptic photos and video from all over making the rounds with increasing frequency seem quite worthy of concern, to me.

    1. Hmmm, well then let me ask you this: what good does being upset about it do? It strikes me you're arguing for a reaction that harms you, in a concrete way, while accomplishing nothing whatsoever.

    2. I can't argue with that. I didn't suggest that being upset about it does any good, necessarily. (Though certainly it motivates many who proceed to do what they can to better the situation.) If I were evolved enough to not be upset about things that I can't do anything about, I don't doubt that I'd be better off. I'm still upset about Merrick Garland not being on the Supreme Court, for crying out loud. ; )

      Perhaps "upset" is too strong a word, but it's not unusual for you to write about various features of life in these United States that annoy you. I'm just surprised that you seem to be so at ease with this.

    3. "At ease" isn't a phrase I'd use. "Resigned" might be better. Maybe it's my recovery training: we accept reality, no matter how harsh. I'm much more agitated—good word—about the 2022 election, because that is an up-in-the-air, all hands on deck situation. Beyond buying a Telsa, which I can't afford, I don't see my role, global-warming wise.

    4. You can buy a used Nissan Leaf for less than $5K. But I see a role for a wordsmith of your caliber well beyond the car you drive. The solutions are too fun not to propagate. And the enemies too bumbling not to punch up at.

  5. To be resigned is to have accepted something unpleasant that one cannot do anything about. "Acquiescent" is another word for it. My word of choice about climate change is "saddened"...not even "frightened"... and closer to "pissed off." More akin to Charlton Heston screaming: "We finally, really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Oh, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

    My birthday is next week. Still trying to get my head around turning 74. As Casey Stengel said: "A lot of people my age are dead." I see cute little kids running around at outdoor summer events, and it saddens me to think about what the climate, not to mention the political climate, will be like when they reach their seventies...if they even do. At the rate the situation is deteriorating, a lot of them won't. They have a very hard road to travel, and it's mined.

  6. The harshest reality is that too many humans think only of themselves. That is why our planet is in the state it’s in.
    I try to make as small a carbon footprint as possible knowing full well it has no impact. At least I can live with myself knowing I’m not one of them.

  7. Combo of denialism, greed, and procrastination may do us in.

  8. Four thousand pages on climate change, that can be summed up in two words:
    "We're toast..."


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