Friday, August 27, 2010

This week, the big picture: Dialogue, and Disaster at the Top of the World

Hansen - Our planet is close to climate tipping points” and it is “clear that needed actions will happen only if the public, somehow, becomes forcefully involved.”

That means you.

Science-aligned climate blogger Michael Tobis has a dialogue up, that lays out the big picture, and he's soliciting feedback/criticisms from you (*). Among its take-home messages is one of a largely-unrecognized uncertainty - we do not know how much global warming it takes to trigger a dangerous level of climate disruption.
"We know how to connect CO2 to warming, give or take a factor of two. We know that 5 C or 6 C on a global scale is huge. But we don't know where the danger point [for climate disruption] is. "
And Tobis points out that we could be very close - perhaps there already. Recall Holdren's metaphor:
We're driving in a car with bad brakes [and with our children in the back seat] toward a cliff in the fog. We may not know exactly where the cliff is, or whether we'll be able to stop in time; but prudence demands that we try to stop the car.
Read the dialogue, then see its lessons come to life this week's excellent NYTimes op-ed Disaster at the Top of the World. We don't have a lot of slack in the global food supply/production, and if reduced Arctic sea ice causes the jet stream to shift/weaken- as it seems to be doing...

The column also notes our tribalism and cognitive bias, and how they've been taken advantage of:
"Climate change has become an ideologically polarizing issue. It taps into deep personal identities and causes... “protective cognition” — we judge things in part on whether we see ourselves as rugged individualists mastering nature or as members of interconnected societies who live in harmony with the environment. Powerful special interests like the coal and oil industries have learned how to halt movement on climate policy by exploiting the fear people feel when their identities are threatened."
Note to reflexive contrarians: this is not a sporting event. Please use your binoculars - and if upon closer examination your team turns out to be the Four Horsemen, give some thought to whether you still want them to win.

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