Vail Daily column: Global warming? Ho hum
July 2, 2015
Heat spells have a way of turning conversations to climate change, however briefly and generally as well-worn jokes.
Listen closely enough, though, and you might hear wisps of the soundtrack of "Jaws." True, deniers and skeptics still do a good job of plugging their ears and hollering loudly enough for neighbors to miss it, too. And while Democrats express more worry and Republicans almost none, collectively we still pretty much tune it all out, according to Gallup and Pew surveys anyway.
But the drumbeat of temperature gain — red for increase on the charts — has quickened over the years into a definitive pattern that maybe should concern us at least a little.
Waving this off as so much liberal hysteria resembles more and more the huffy declarations there was no real compelling evidence that cigarettes cause cancer — against all the real, compelling evidence. There's no shark out there.
Confusion over geologic temperature records is understandable. Stand back far enough and the Earth appears to be running at a relative plateau for the past 10,000 years after warming from much colder times 20,000 years ago. Go back 3 million years, and the temperature was warmer, then got progressively a lot warmer working back 500 million years. Think palm trees at the poles a scant 52 million years ago.
Then there are the more precise measurements of modern times and the trend of the past 10, 30, 50 and 100 years. That's where we see the temperature climbing fast and rising in synch with rapid increases in carbon emissions as the Third World grabs for what's theirs.
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Less understandable, at least to me, is our collective reaction.
The ostriches are strange enough, although I do get the psychological principles at play in refusing to deal with reality. But it's the skeptics who concern me most. They at least have given this some thought, sought to understand the evidence and come to logical conclusions. I'm good with logic that leads to different conclusions than my own; that's what makes life and newspapering so interesting.
But isn't it logical, when considering the evidence, to take a prudent course of action? Build seawalls where hurricanes might strike, basements where tornadoes strike? Start to unhook from the fossils the available evidence shows creating the problem? You know, just on the off chance their skepticism should prove as wrong as cigarette smokers who came down with lung cancer.
The evidence, after all, more than tilts in the warming direction. Our best science is pretty darn certain what's happening, at least, even if we don't know where the world will wind up as a result.
This raises the most distressing point of all, well besides all the scenarios conjured up from steadily cooking our world.
Why is it that climate change causes nary a ripple in the national psyche compared to things like Bruce Jenner changing his name and sex, Obamacare, ISIS, the economy, Apple wrist watches?
Gallup polls consistently show climate change ranking among the bottom of the issues Americans worry about. Then again, we fear getting on a plane when driving our cars is far riskier. We panic over vaccinations and load up at McDonald's. We avoid "politics" and bitch about the government. We're a funny breed for being so allegedly intelligent.
Our jokes are likely to become more strained as the drumbeat builds. "Jaws" isn't such a silly metaphor if you think about it.
I'm actually optimistic about our ability to solve the human part of climate change — a Yellowstone eruption beyond our influence. The few who do pay attention have fueled our pace of innovation, moved investment toward smarter energy strategies, and are well into making solar power the clear economic choice over fossil sources, the real game changer.
I think we're on the cusp of the biggest, most exciting transformation in history and have so little clue about the stakes. Otherwise Gallup and Pew would have different results. Well, back to "New mom finds conjoined kittens and you won't believe what happened next!"
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vail daily.com or 970-748-2920.
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