Saturday, September 15, 2018

The End of Climate Change Denying

I found Etched in stone, an article written by Peter Dykstra to be a rather salient article, hitting on several issues I've observed in recent years. Stating, "Rigid beliefs die hard, or not at all," Dykstra sets out discussing how there are people who hold beliefs that are not rational and they will hold firm to those beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He specifically mentions Vietnam vets who are convinced comrades are still being held prisoner in Vietnam; beliefs concerning Obama's birth certificate and religious beliefs; and beliefs concerning vaccines. I can add a number of others that I have encountered in my work, in my classes, among my friends, and even in my family - beliefs such as the Moon landings were faked; 9/11 was a government conspiracy; chemicals are being sprayed into the atmosphere by jet airliners to change the climate; any number of conspiracies surrounding Hillary Clinton that are too numerous to list here; there's a face on Mars; evolution science isn't valid; and the list goes on.

Oh, yeah. Climate change isn't real.

The science concerning anthropogenic climate change (AGW) is conclusive and settled. Over 99% of published climate scientists agree that manmade climate change is real. The data is monumental. And, yet, there are those who cannot be convinced otherwise. For the most part, this isn't important. As Dykstra pointed out, climate change denialism is rapidly fading away and the adherents are increasingly isolated fringe elements.

This is the first point I took from his article. No matter how much science is presented, these individuals will stick to their hardened beliefs. Years from now, when even the Republicans finally admit the science is real, there will still be a cadre of tinhats firmly holding onto their claims that AGW isn't real. There is nothing that can be done about that and I try my best to never discuss it with these people. They are not rational and no amount of science or logic will ever persuade them they are wrong. In fact, it is not possible to even persuade them there's a possibility they might be wrong. So, why bother?

However, mainstream denialism is dying out. This is a second point from Dykstra's article that I have personally observed. The paid shills of the fossil fuel industry are having an increasingly difficult time getting their ridiculous claims printed in the mainstream media. This is partly because the vast majority of the public has realized they only produce sophist arguments for the purpose of deception. The vast majority of the public now acknowledges AGW is real and this percentage is increasing. Few people are interested in listening to the anti-science crowd tell them how climate change isn't real when all the while there are more frequent and severe heat waves, wildfires, floods, winter storms, rising oceans, hurricanes, etc. They can see with their own eyes that climate change is real. Therefore, anyone telling them it isn't has no credibility in their eyes. You can see this by the comments people make on the few articles that still appear. There are the deniers, frequently Russian trolls, but their claims are so shrill and off topic that no thinking person pays them any attention. And, that's it. There are no longer any civil, rational, logical arguments presented in the comments section supporting the claim that the science isn't real. If their claims are valid, it should be easy for them to present valid arguments. So, why don't they?

I suppose we could chalk all of this up as a victory, but I can't. The reason is that these people won. They delayed any action on climate change so long that we are now stuck with the new reality. Politicians, bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, have succeeded in stopping any action to address the issue. Now, the issue is here to stay. They fought hard to ensure their billionaire buddies continued to make obscene profits at the expense of everyone else, and they succeeded.

And, this is the last point I want to discuss. Any effort to stop global warming is doomed to failure. I look at the data and repeatedly see a shift in the late-2000s. Sometime between 2005 and 2010, the data consistently shows an inflection point. The data has a lower rate of change before that point than after. To me, this says the tipping point has already been crossed. I've discussed it in private with others and I'm not the only one saying it.

But, even if I'm wrong and, as many scientists claim, there is still time to address global warming before we cross the tipping point, it doesn't matter. This would only be important if we were addressing our emissions at a sufficiently rapid rate, which we're not. Emissions are dropping around the world, but we're still pumping the atmosphere with greenhouse gases in amounts too large for the planet to deal with. Some of these gases will remain in the air for centuries. That means, even if we have time to avoid the tipping point, we are failing to use our remaining time wisely. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is still growing and it's growing at a rate that guarantees we will see a more hostile future. There is nothing that can be done about it.

Does this mean we're locked into a catastrophic future? No, at least not as a race. For many people, it will be catastrophic. The people suffering through Hurricane Florence right now might call it a catastrophe, but the rest of the world will continue and, as a race, we will increase our numbers by 200,000 people today. We'll do that again tomorrow. A new major city every week.

So, the race will not end. But, it isn't going to be as comfortable, either.