A Gap in ‘Hope’

March 31, 2015

hag21Overcast-gloomy with lingering rain showers this early Tuesday on California’s north coast, which according to the NWS, will start to feel a drizzle-down this morning, with smooth, sunshine-sailing the rest of the week.
So far into this new year, the weather up here has been pretty delightful — some days warm and clear. Wind makes a difference. Yesterday was gorgeous and the sun warm to the touch, but a sharp-chilled, northern breeze kept outside play to a minimum, but made for a bright, all-windows-open afternoon for apartment dwellers.

Down south, though, not chill — San Diego posted 74-degrees on Sunday, or ‘8 degrees above normal for this time of year.’
Meanwhile last Tuesday, Antarctica felt its warmest temperature ever recorded at a balmy 63.5-degrees, and worldwide (via WunderBlog): ‘So far in 2015, five nations or territories have tied or set all-time records for their hottest temperature in recorded history.’

(Illustration: ‘Storm in a Teacup,’ by Hag, found here).

And at this point in ‘recorded history,’ the news on climate change is increasing, a lot of it due to assholes like Ted Cruz, or Jim Inhofe, but also because of a near-constant stream of research, the newest study/report worse than the last, on how our living-situation with our only environment is looking terrifyingly bad.
However, the mass media doesn’t cover climate change in detail — not yet, though, some like the Washington Post in recently hiring environmental writer Chris Mooney, enlarging climate coverage.
But in the fine details, and this fine-stream of details, the media has floundered, and apparently has caused what’s been termed a ‘hope gap’ in attempts to paint solutions where none are on the table.
A study published last week from Nature Climate Change, on how the media is a major ‘science–policy interface,’ and how information on climate shit is “framed” for consumption, supposedly bridging the gap between science and the ignorant, unwashed masses.
And a hard job it must be — reporting/reflecting optimistic solutions to an event unstoppable at this point, and a way-pessimistic subject.
John Upton at Climate Central, in a post on Saturday, tried to upbeat climate news to fill the ‘hope gap’ in media coverage. Some points:

Perhaps more provocatively, the results of the detailed analysis also suggest that newsrooms on both sides of the warming pond are struggling to produce stories about climate change in ways that are engaging for their audiences.
Instead, they’re fueling senses of hopelessness on the issue.
“I don’t find their major findings surprising,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, said of the study, with which he was not involved.
“We find in our audience research that even the alarmed [those most concerned about climate change] don’t really know what they can do individually, or what we can do collectively.
“We call this loosely ‘the hope gap,’ and it’s a serious problem. Perceived threat without efficacy of response is usually a recipe for disengagement or fatalism.”

One of the authors of the paper, Saffron O’Neill, a geography lecturer at the University of Exeter whose research focuses on social science dimensions of climate change, said the downward trend in coverage of each of the IPCC reports was “quite possibly” a consequence of “climate story fatigue.”
She said journalists may have grown weary of covering IPCC reports after the first one came out.
“That’s certainly something the IPCC could change,” she said, suggesting the panel reconsider the way its reports are released.

The problem is the problem. If you have been following the science the last few years, you’d know our climate is pretty-much cooked — the only real solution at this point (after 30-plus years of warnings) is shut down everything, impracticable, and thus the crux of the problem.
Which is heat — in 2009, during the UN climate summit in Denmark, just about the whole world agreed to what was formulated as the Copenhagen Accord, that is to keep global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius (3.6°F), above the norm. And the whole UN bullshit failed, and six years later, worse.

And yesterday, another bit of bad-news science — a new study indicates that lofty goal of a 2°C temperature rise is ‘utterly inadequate’ to now do the job.
From NewScientist:

Back in October, US climate analysts David Victor and Charles Kennel called it scientifically meaningless and politically unachievable.
We should get used to the idea of something warmer, they said.
Now the target has been denounced as “utterly inadequate,”, by Petra Tschakert of Penn State University in University Park, who has been involved in a UN review of the target.
She wants a 1.5 °C target instead.
Writing in the journal Climate Change Responses, she says this lower limit is necessary if we want sea levels to rise less than a metre, to protect half of all coral reefs, and to still have some ice during Arctic summers.
Tschakert is not alone.
There was a groundswell of support for a revised 1.5 °C target at an expert meeting during the climate conference in Lima, Peru, last December, as part of the UN’s target review.
The review is set for publication in June and could be adopted at the Paris climate negotiations this December, where new emissions limits for after 2020 will be agreed.

Is a cap on warming at 1.5 °C achievable?
Many think that, with the world already warmed by 0.85 °C, it is now all but impossible.
But even so, it could shape the blame game, said Tschakert.
The Paris agreement is likely to include a clause entitling the poorest countries to compensation for “loss and damage” resulting from climate change.
If a 1.5 °C target were set – and then exceeded – their case for a payout in the event of climate disaster would be that much stronger. “The stakes,” she writes, “are enormous.”

Also more on the review at Phys.org and EurekAlert.

And what’s worse, and, adding to insult to injury — the very warming of the earth itself is making for more warming.
Yesterday, via Science Daily:

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that in addition to the well understood effect of greenhouse gases on the Earth’s temperature, researchers can now confirm directly from ice-core data that the global temperature has a profound effect on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
This means that as the Earth’s temperature rises, the positive feedback in the system results in additional warming.

See why reporting on climate change is so riddled with less-than-optimum hope — there is no good news. And even with all the science, and all the numbers, and all kinds of obvious, ‘look-out-your-fucking-window’ observations in extreme weather events, there’s the problem with human greed — as this from UK’s former climate change envoy.
Per the Guardian:

In an open letter to Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden, John Ashton said the company’s promised transformation in response to climate change is in reality “a manifesto for the oil and gas status quo.”
The companies justified their strategy, he said, with the unsupported claim that the economic and moral benefits of providing cheap energy to the world’s poor exceeds the risks to the same people from climate change.
Ashton, an independent commentator and until 2012 the UK’s top climate diplomat, wrote the letter, published in the Guardian, in response to a speech by van Beurden in February.
The Shell CEO said those calling for “fossil fuels out, renewables in” were naive and said provoking a sudden death of fossil fuels was not a plausible plan to tackle global warming.

Ashton said: “It is their right to say whatever they want, but it is essential that this prospectus be challenged.
Underpinning [the oil and gas industry’s response to climate change] is a cynical calculation that it will be politically impossible to mobilise a truly transformational response, together with an equally cynical attempt to make this self-fulfilling.” Shell declined to comment.
In the letter, Ashton wrote: “You and your peers cannot complain if society increasingly comes to see in your behaviour the characteristic marks of the professional narcissist, paranoiac, and psychopath.”

So there’s the latest in environmental happenings — there is indeed a ‘hope gap,’ but it ain’t nothing yet.

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