Scary Enough Yet?

August 30, 2013

scary52Crystal-clear skies and a fingernail-moon brighten this way-too-early Friday on California’s north coast as we continue our our warmest summer ever: The official thermometer read 74 degrees, topping the previous best of 72 recorded in 1991. Sweltering!

Weather isn’t scary enough? Just wait for the pants-shitting fright to dawn.

(Illustration found here).

Beyond the now-widening debacle of Syria — the UK Parliament handed David Cameron his ass in saying no to an intervention, and now it looks as if President Obama will go it alone, a situation which leaves the US in a raw, peculiar spot. The UK and the US people don’t want to get involved in Syria — what next?
Really, no one seems to know. The US military apparently doesn’t like the idea, either:

“There’s a broad naivete in the political class about America’s obligations in foreign policy issues, and scary simplicity about the effects that employing American military power can achieve,” said retired Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold, who served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the run-up to the Iraq war, noting that many of his contemporaries are alarmed by the plan.

Beyond that never-ending dust-up, the scary simplicity  of climate change is the real deal once you understand it’s not all that simple. A new move to name hurricanes after climate-change deniers is a good, but futile enterprise, but those in the environment business know anything is good that scares up awareness.
Via the Guardian:

350.org, the US-based environmental campaign group which aims to build a “global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis”, has launched a new petition.
It wants it supporters to urge the World Meteorological Organization to name hurricanes after “deniers and obstructionists.”

Of course, the campaign has zero chance of succeeding.
Hell would glaciate before the WMO would consider such a request.
350.org knows this.
It’s just their inventive, tongue-in-cheek way of further highlighting the US policy makers — predominantly Republicans — who “deny climate change and obstruct climate policy.”
(The Washington Post’s weather editor has more on why hurricanes are not necessarily the “best post children” for climate change due to the scientific uncertainties that still exist when trying to link today’s extreme storms with climate change.)

What we are now seeing more of, though, are climate policy sceptics.
Yes, some of these are the same characters as before, but who have subtly, artful repositioned themselves over recent years.
So rather than claiming that climate science is a hoax, a fraud or fundamentally flawed, they now say the proposed climate policies will have little, if any, impact on the planet’s temperature gauge and are therefore a waste of time and money.
They know that this is a more tenable (and electable?) position from which to argue their point.
(In the UK, only two political parties – Ukip and the BNP – proudly state in their manifestos that they doubt, or reject, climate science; proof, if it were ever needed, that climate scepticism is predominantly built upon a foundation of ideology rather than science. Additionally, the work of James Painter at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford has also highlighted how cultural/media support for climate sceptics varies greatly from country to country.)

One major problem is the average man/woman-on-the-street for the most part really don’t understand what climate change is doing, and how it’s doing it. Despite Hurricane Sandy, huge wildfires, a pond at the North Pole, heat waves, and all kinds of other horror-tales, people have yet to be frightened of global warming — what’s the rush, it’s years into the future. There’s more than enough anxiety right now, today.

People are scared of a lot of shit — some real, some half-baked, and others phoney as a $3 bill.
Cass R. Sunstein, professor at Harvard Law School, and former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has piped up with an interesting view of climate change and being scared. Human perception of danger is the problem:

The first obstacle is that people tend to evaluate risks by way of “the availability heuristic,” which leads them to assess the probability of harm by asking whether a readily available example comes to mind.
An act of terrorism, for example, is likely to be both available and salient, and hence makes people fear that another such event will occur (whether it is likely to or not).
So, too, a recent crime or accident can activate attention and significantly inflate people’s assessment of risk.
By contrast, climate change is difficult to associate with any particular tragedy or disaster.
To be sure, many scientists think that climate change makes extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy, substantially more likely.
But it is hard to prove that climate change “caused” any particular event, and as a result, the association tends to be at best speculative in many people’s minds.
Second, people tend to be especially focused on risks or hazards that have an identifiable perpetrator, and for that reason produce outrage.
Warmer temperatures are a product not of any particular human being or group, but the interaction between nature and countless decisions by countless people.
There are no obvious devils or demons.
Third, humans are far more attentive to immediate threats than to long-term ones.
Behavioral scientists have emphasized that in their private lives people sometimes display a form of myopia.
They may neglect the future, seeing it as a kind of foreign country, one they may not ever visit.
For this reason, they might fail to save for retirement, or they might engage in risk-taking behavior (such as smoking or unhealthy eating) that will harm their future selves.
In a political context, citizens might demand protection against a risk that threatens them today, tomorrow or next month.
But if they perceive climate change as mostly a threat to future generations — if significant sea-level rises seem to be decades away — they are unlikely to have a sense of urgency.
Climate change lacks other characteristics that spur public concern about risks.
It is gradual rather than sudden.
The idea of warmer climates doesn’t produce anger, revulsion or disgust.

Scared ain’t funny sometimes — George Carlin answers: The future will soon be a thing of the past.

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