Friday, June 20, 2008

How to deal with climate change skeptics

Someone posted this on a forum recently and there's been some good discussion about it. I wanted to post a few thoughts here on the subject.

I actually didn't think there was a lot you could do to get the people who don't think global warming is real/human-caused/really, really serious/more than a liberal or socialist plot other than wait 30 years, then slap the shit out of them, and say "Okay, now do you fucking believe me?"

The idea that humans have the power to dramatically alter the face of the earth and its climate shouldn't be a surprise. For example, look at Ireland: up until 2500 years ago, it was a completely different country. There were trees and topsoil. But after humans had logged off enough of the trees, there weren't enough left to support the topsoil and the ecosystem, and you now have huge chunks of Ireland that are nothing more than bleached limestone fields. Limestone doesn't break down into anything fertile, so it's really hard to do anything with it. In another 10,000-20,000 years, the slow accretion of dirts, bird droppings, dust, and what-not that work to create soil may ultimately provide a new layer of soils, but this is a "not in your lifetime and not even in the span of any civilization" kinda deal. As part of this, an entire group of birds and animals, a whole country-worth, was wiped out. As one example in thousands, there used to be Irish species of squirrels. Nope, dead, gone, extinct: no trees. You can probably guess at the thousands of animals, birds, insects, and fish that aren't there anymore. Similarly, the Sahara desert is largely man-made (though ~not~ exclusively, I want to add). The despoiling of oases through overuse and overgrazing has extended the Sahara hundreds of miles in every direction in recorded history.

However, epiphanies do seem to happen. I know a VP of Faux News who is (not surprisingly) a staunch conservative. (I'm waiting for his pictures and stories from his month in Baghdad in March, as a matter of fact.) His parents live in Des Moines, IA. It seems that he's woken up to the idea that Things Are Changing as a result of this recent round of floods. (I've a sister and b-in-law in Des Moines, myself, and it's really clear to the locals how much worse the floods are there.) Said VP has been making the sounds of a new convert about how awful this is and we've got to do something and so on. We're sympathetic to him, but there's a certain sense of "Welcome to the party, pal!!" along with some of this when we talk to him about it.

I think there are a number of people who will go so far as to give lip service--though they don't really believe it, I think--to the idea that this is 'normal' climate change and we're just seeing variations in the climate that (emphasis mine) human beings aren't responsible for. Okay, let's suppose that this is totally natural and that the incredible consumption of oil, deforestation of whole countries (Ecuador is a fine example, but there are many others), overfishing of most food fish, and just the pounding impact of too many people on the face of the planet doesn't mean anything at all. It's a big leap, but bear with me on this one; we're supposing: "Humans had nothing to do with this 'natural climate change' that seems to be occurring."

Okay, then, good to know.

But we're still gonna get fucked.

As the oceans rise (documentable) from the ice caps melting (documentable) and the Midwest dries out (documentable) and water supplies dry up (documentable) and all the other documentable problems that are on the list, I am sure that as we're dying in a dustbowl or watching Florida and parts of Texas submerge for the rest of human civilization under the sea (who said global warming was all bad?) and dehydrating to death that it wasn't our fucking fault.

I saw a bumper sticker recently that said "Imagine if global warming were real." That part's not really hard. I'll let yuh skate on the idea of what's causing it for right now, but just imagine it as real. Now imagine what it's going to mean to you. We don't know what a lot of that is going to be, because it's catastrophe mathematics and we just don't know enough about this to predict yet, but we're going to see it unfold.

We're running out of oil (documentable). Whether you believe in peak oil having past or peak oil now or peak oil soon, it's incontrovertible that we've got a finite amount of oil and we keep using it. We're going to die of thirst in the dark, but I'm sure we're all going to be saying "And thank you, Jesus, it wasn't our fault!" Yes, that will be a comfort, I'm sure.

I think global warming is real. I don't think we know much yet about how it's going to affect humans and the world we live in, but that it will is not in question. If you don't believe that it's real, I encourage you to go buy a house on the beach in Florida. Or the Texas gulf coast line. Sink all your money into it and make it look really, really nice. Take out a second mortgage if you like; property values are going to rise after this current bubble in the real estate market. Of course I'm fulla shit and couldn't possibly know anything about this because it's alllll junk science. So go prove me wrong. I fucking dare you.

Me? I'm living in an area that's not expected to warm up above the living point and I'm planting a lot of fruit trees that prosper in warmer weather.

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