Perspectives of Grey: Climate Change

Climate change delay

Climate change and our environment is something I have wanted to discuss here since the inception of this site.  I make no claims to being an activist or a hardcore environmentalist in the least… frankly, I know I am throwing a stone or two in my own glass house simply by owning and driving a car.  That said, we all must do something regarding what may be the greatest danger to our future on this planet.

Often we hear talk about “saving the planet”… I find that statement slightly disingenuous.  The planet will be fine in the long run… but our existence, as humans, is what is in jeopardy (as well as all other beings).  Not just our way of life, but our life itself.

What I really wish to discuss are the arguments against climate change, or as many who disagree with this continue to refer to as “global warming” (a very unfortunate name given early in the research).  At this moment approximately three quarters of the United States is being covered in a deep layer of snow and ice.  Detractor’s are having a field day with this… such wonderful comments such as “huh… global warming ey?  Al Gore is an idiot! He he he”.  Which then begs the question, do people actually understand the difference between weather and climate?

Weather is the local conditions outside your window in the short term.  Climate is the global patterns over the long term.  Although we are currently buried in snow, the global climate has been increasing in temperature every year and is showing no signs of abatement.  The last ten years have been the hottest years on record since we began keeping records in the mid 19th. century.  That is a fact.

For those of you bristling at the use of the word “fact”, perhaps we need to differentiate between ancedotal evidence and fact.  Fact is something that is scientifically verifiable as defined with the scientific method… remember that from junior high school?  Anecdotal evidence is just that… anecdotal and has no real bearing on fact.  That would be a hypothesis.  When data proves the fact and disproves the hypothesis then we simply must move on with what we know.

At some point however, many people in this country have decided that politicians and a political viewpoint can supersede fact.  When did we decide climate scientists are charlatans?  And my biggest question… why are we so willing to disbelieve something that is as obvious as the nose on my face?  Why are people so resistant to bettering our environment?  We have to live in it, and it’s the only one we will ever have.  Oddly enough, this is a point Bill O’Reilly and I completely agree on.  If taking steps to improve the environment helps both the planet and our quality of life on it… how is that a bad thing?

For too many years there has been a habit in the U.S. (and I’m sure in other places) of mocking those who wish to improve the quality of life as being “radical” or a “greenie”… in favor of what?  Oil, coal, SUVs and my favorite… mountain top removal?  Yes, we are happy with the cheap (?) and readily available (?) sources of energy we have been living with since the industrial revolution… but those resources are finite.  And for all the talk conservatives make about “protecting our future for our children and grandchildren” when it comes to economic policy, why do they not give a shit about the air they breathe, the water they drink and the soil their food comes from?

For a while I was making a habit of listening to the conservative talk radio shows on my way home from work.  Mrs. Blahg eventually made me stop listening to that due to my increasingly angry tirades over what I was hearing.  One of these talk show hosts here in the SF Bay Area is a man by the name of Brian Sussman (now on in the mornings).  He is a former local CBS weatherman turned radio guy.  One statement he made in particular (among many statements) that got me worked up was this, “Why do we need the EPA?  Our air and water are clean… we don’t need them!”  Apparently his memory is shorter than a goldfish.  I grew up in Long Beach, California.  The smog in the LA basin as I was growing up was horrendous.  As auto regulations and smog control kicked in the air cleared and eventually we could actually see that we were surrounded by mountains.  I remember saying to myself… “what are those?”  I’m not quite old enough to recall rivers in Ohio catching fire… but they did.  I’m also not old enough to recall a world where people would just chuck garbage from their vehicles and think nothing of it.  If it weren’t for the efforts of Lady Bird Johnson and her Keep America Beautiful campaign I may very well be driving down trash littered highways. 

What I’m getting at is that change is possible, and often times it takes governmental action at the federal level to make change happen.  Like we did in California in the 1970s and 80s… the nation can change, and in the long run we all benefit.  To say that the status quo is acceptable in the face of all the evidence is not only foolish, it’s reprehensible.  If you do not believe in climate change… ask yourself… why?  Is partisanship an actual reason to destroy our environment?  I don’t care how you feel about Al Gore… I don’t care what some politician has to say about science… and I certainly don’t care is someone says the planet will be fine because in the bible God told Noah that he wouldn’t destroy it again.  If any of those reasons speak to you than I’m afraid you are not a reasonable person.

Perhaps you are now steaming and mumbling to yourself that I’m an arrogant prick because not all scientists are in agreement and the debate is ongoing and there is no consensus.  To that I say, bullshit.  The lion’s share of climate science is pointing in one direction.. and it’s not good.  Yes, climate is cyclical.  Yes, we still get snow.  But the changes we are seeing now can and are attributable to what we as humans are spewing into the atmosphere. 

Have you ever been in an alley with a lot of non smog controlled cars?  All that exhaust gets trapped and it becomes hard to breathe… get a bit light headed… not feeling so great.  Now imagine our atmosphere as an alley… the end of the troposphere is only 6 miles from the surface… so imagine everything being pumped into that 6 mile atmosphere and getting trapped.  Do you really think that has no consequences?

As for the wicked blizzard hitting the country… from the very beginning of this debate one thing has always been said, as global temperatures rise the planet will exhibit more and greater patterns of weather.  More blizzards, more drought, more rainfall, more everything.  2010 was the hottest and wettest year on record.  That is a fact.

I recently heard a wonderful comparison using the story of Cassandra.  Cassandra was given the gift of seeing the future (this story is also in 12 Monkeys), but she had angered Apollo.  Although Apollo could not take away her gift, he made it so that no one would believe her.  Like Cassandra, Jimmy Carter gave a speech on energy and what it meant for the U.S. at the time.  Generally known as the “malaise speech”, (even though he never used the word malaise) many people point to this speech as part of the reason he lost the election in 1980 (among many others)… but if you listen to what he was saying then, you will see how little progress we have made mentally in this nation.  Perhaps Jimmy Carter was the United States very own Cassandra.

Putting on a sweater,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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