The very reasonable case for Alarmism
Alarms: Let's take alarm clocks - which ones work better? The ones that whisper gently, "Perhaps you should start to think about waking up..." Or the ones that ring loud bells and scream, "WAKE UP YOU SLEEPING MORON. YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE." In the end it doesn't matter, with a bit of practice you can sleep through both - for example, during the Blitz in WWII, London mums slept soundly in underground shelters, the bombs overhead didn't disturb their slumber, only the soft cry of their baby could wake them. I digress...
The latest distraction from action is 'Alarmism'. Here are two examples: Worst-case climate change called unlikely and How not to write a press release. These articles make their points very well, the gist being that over stating the case will either lead people to the conclusion that it's too late to do anything, or that the scientists don't know what they're on about so why bother listening to them.
Once again we see that by dividing up the problem of global warming into itty bitty pieces we can get rid of any sense of urgency.
However, if one takes a broad view, the most alarming thing about global warming is that people don't seem to be alarmed by it.
According to the scientists we have ten years to start to get ourselves together. Does that mean if we start in nine years time that everything will be alright? How do these scientists know how long it's going to take to come up with and implement a solution? Of course, they don't - so how can they say by when we have to start ? ...and if you're wondering if perhaps this means we might actually have more than ten years, I don't think so, especially since the impacts forecast for 50 years in the future are already arriving well ahead of schedule..
10 years doesn't sound like a lot of time to make people understand that something needs to be done and then, either (A) discover new technologies that will let our bizarre neo-dawinist survival-of-the-richest amoral global economy keep growing in a GHG emissions free style until it bumps into the next natural limit, or (B) change society's expectations so everyone can be happy with a sustainable low emission culture. Neither seems particulaly easy given twice the time...
As the graph above suggests, eventually the effects of climate change will render denial an impossible option. However by that time it'll probably be too late...
It beggars belief that anyone can see any reasonable advantage in trying to persuade us that climate change isn't a very bad thing, but that's what the fossil fuel and oil industry lobbyists are doing. It makes me laugh when they try to put it over that folks who are concerned about the environment have a secret agenda to take over the world - talk about projecting! According to the Guardian they're gearing up for another assault .. and they're joined by another bunch of freedom fanatics who want to pretend global warming doesn't exist because action against climate change will probably involve some sort of emissions cap and these guys have worked too hard to remove as many govenment restrictions to their money making schemes as possible to see their advantages slip away because of some Kyoto-esque international consensus - in fact they will fight tooth and nail to protect their "right" and "freedom" to make a profit even if it mucks things up for everyone.
SCIENCE & UNCERTAINTY
When one reads the news articles quoting scientists saying, don't worry it won't be too bad, one has check the small print - these climate scientists are confident of their work BUT often their work is a small field within the whole - they use "computer models to predict the impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels" - what that means is that someone tells them how much CO2 to put into their model and their job is to tell you with confidence what the resulting weather will be like for that amount of CO2. But how do they know how much CO2 there will be? Answer - they don't - they're relying on another branch of climate science that works on the carbon cycle.
The carbon cyclists try to work out where the atmospheric CO2 comes from and where it ends up - either in the atmosphere or in some sort of carbon sink -- let's hope the carbon cyclists are on top of their game because there seem to be more and more news articles suggesting our carbon sinks are in deep doo doo. Last year we heard that trees don't do as much work as previously thought and that peat bogs were turning from sinks to sources. This month we heard that plankton and coral (both carbon sinks) are being threatened by high temperatures and increased ocean acidity. So if we heard about it this month, how long does it take for a carbon cyclist to stick that info in their model, spit out the answer and give it to the climate modeller to stick in his model?
Deciding not to sound the alarm just because one branch of science is confident of their predictions based on someone else's data doesn't sound very responsible to me, especially when the task, the timescale and the opposition are all against us.
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