Home > Uncategorized > Callahan and Richman have asserted the efficacy of moral suasion in getting people and organizations to change climate behavior; here are two people's efforts to persuade, post-tornado

Callahan and Richman have asserted the efficacy of moral suasion in getting people and organizations to change climate behavior; here are two people's efforts to persuade, post-tornado

I discussed Callahan and Richman at some length previously.

Since I hope they are right, I bring you some comments I recently ran across:

1. Peter H. Gleick, A Cost of Denying Climate Change: Accelerating Climate Disruptions, Death, and Destruction, Huffington Post, April 28, 2011. Gleick is a Water and climate scientist; President of the Pacific Institute, and a MacArthur Fellow.

While I agree with much of what he says, I would note that his headline is off – given the thermal inertia of the oceans, the warming and climate change phenomena were are experiencing now are largely a result of CO2 emissions and other radiative forcings decades ago, and not a consequence of inaction over the last decade. Those consequences will be felt, but LATER. (I post his piece in its entirety, with his permission; emphasis added.)

Violent tornadoes throughout the southeastern U.S. must be a front-page reminder that no matter how successful climate deniers are in confusing the public or delaying action on climate change in Congress or globally, the science is clear: Our climate is worsening.

More extreme and violent climate is a direct consequence of human-caused climate change (whether or not we can determine if these particular tornado outbreaks were caused or worsened by climate change). There is a reason it isn’t called global warming anymore. Higher temperatures are only one — and not the most worrisome — of the consequences of a changing climate.

Climate science tells us unambiguously that we are changing the climate and trapping more energy on the planet. Trapping more energy will cause more extreme events and worsen extreme events that would otherwise happen.

In the climate community, we call this “loading the dice.” Rolling loaded dice weighted toward more extreme and energetic weather means more death and destruction. And it is only going to get worse and worse, faster and faster, the longer our politicians dither and delay and deny. Climate deniers who have stymied action in Congress and confused the public — like the tobacco industry did before them — need to be held accountable for their systematic misrepresentation of the science, their misuse and falsification of data, and their trickery.

The conservative (and economically driven) insurance industry understands the reality of data and observations: Munich Re (one of the world’s leading reinsurers) has said:

“The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change. The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge.”

The extreme nature of the ongoing severe weather is well described by Jeff Masters on his Weather Blog. The 3-day total of preliminary tornado reports from this week’s outbreak is nearing 300, close to the 323 preliminary tornado reports logged during the massive April 14 – 16 tornado outbreak. That outbreak has 155 confirmed tornadoes so far, making it the largest April tornado outbreak on record.

Of course, tornado outbreaks have occurred before. In 1974 and 1965, collections of tornados killed hundreds of people. But according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, it is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together. Loading the dice. At least 11 of these tornadoes were killer tornadoes; deaths occurred in six states. (Wikipedia maintains an excellent and growing compilation of historical tornado outbreaks for those interested, and raw data can be obtained from NOAA.) Only two other tornado outbreaks have had as many as 150 twisters — the May 2004 outbreak (385), and the May 2003 outbreak (401).

And it is not just the devastating tornadoes: parts of the Mississippi River are about to experience record flooding. As spring rain joins with winter snowmelt, a massive pulse of floodwater is moving south. As it joins with the record water levels coming out of the Ohio River it is expected to create the highest flood heights ever recorded on the Mississippi, according to the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service.

Yet while we call this a “1-in-a-100 year” flood event, that term is losing its meaning. The August 1993 flood event was a “1-in-a-500 year” event. Yet in June 2008 there was another such event. Now, three years later, we see another massive flood on the Mississippi, and record floods elsewhere. Loading the dice. As FEMA’s director, Craig Fugate, noted in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.” And that was last year.

The science community knows that we’re affecting the climate; in turn, that will affect the weather; and that, in turn, will affect humans: with death, injury, and destruction. There is a cost to tackling climate change, but there is a real, growing, and far larger cost of continuing to deny it.


2.  Lou Grinzo has an edgier reaction to Peter Gelick at his blog, also on April 28. Grinzo is Writer and editor of the blog, The Cost of Energy, 2004-present. He was a software programmer, designer, tester, IBM, 1980-1989; is a programmer, writer, editor, and consultant, 1989-present. In addition, he is author of Zen of Windows 95 Programming, Columnist and Contributing Editor, Windows Magazine, Columnist, features author, and Reviews Editor, Linux Magazine and Editor, LinuxProgramming.com.

I don’t agree entirely with Grinzo, as I think much proposed climate policy has been counterproductive, inefficient and/or unprincipled. But I can sympathize with where he’s coming from, even as I think that his anger is more productive channelled into different approaches – such as at freeing energy markets specifically or reining in corporate statism arising from the grant of limited liaibility more generally.

Peter, whom I know somewhat from an e-mail group we both belong to, is far too decent a person to put the ragged and rusty edge on this issue that it deserves. Not being so burdened by politeness, I’ll do it.

Did you enjoy what happened yesterday in the US South, when blissful reality was shredded by the brute force physics of our atmosphere and hundreds of people died horrible deaths, many hundreds more were injured, and millions were terrified because they just happened to live too close this climatic ground zero? Did you like watching houses and businesses and possessions being ground into so many tons of rubble? Did you?

No, of course you didn’t enjoy it, because it was a sickening nightmare from which none of us could awake. What reasonable human being could have liked it? That unremarkable observation leads inexorably and directly to one question: If you’re not fighting as hard as you can to keep such situations — and hurricanes and crushing heat waves and floods and droughts and inundated coasts thanks to sea level rise — from happening much more often and with much more devastating effects in the coming decades, then you’re failing miserably as a responsible adult and member of society. You’re nothing more than the equivalent of an underage drunk driver who endangers everyone around him because he’s too selfish to stop doing what he wants in order to serve his own best interests as well as those of others around him.

You’re telling the world that rather than do your part you want to keep flying to vacation spots, keep driving your much larger than needed/less fuel efficient vehicle, keep running your home electronics for many hours a week when no one is even using them, keep refusing to change your bloody light bulbs because you claim you “don’t like the light from those new ones”, etc. The timing is different, the individual acts are different, but the lack of maturity, the toxic mix of ignorance and arrogance, and the utter insanity of such destructive behavior are the same.

So make sure the next time there’s a heat wave in Russia that kills tens of thousands of people, or a devastating flood in Pakistan, or tornadoes or hurricanes ripping up parts of the US or some other unlucky spot, or another country violently slips closer to or into being a failed state and suddenly becomes newsworthy, that you switch your immense screen TV from the latest reality show or NASCAR event for a few moments to watch the highlights on the news. It’s the least you could do.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.