Year 3, Month 8, Day 6: Al Gore Is Fat, Apparently.

Paul Krugman’s piece on climate change has been making the rounds. Here it is published by the Seattle Times:

A couple of weeks ago the Northeast was in the grip of a severe heat wave. As I write this, however, it’s a fairly cool day in New Jersey, considering that it’s late July. Weather is like that; it fluctuates.

And this banal observation may be what dooms us to climate catastrophe, in two ways. On one side, the variability of temperatures from day to day and year to year makes it easy to miss, ignore or obscure the longer-term upward trend. On the other, even a fairly modest rise in average temperatures translates into a much higher frequency of extreme events — like the devastating drought now gripping America’s heartland — that do vast damage.

On the first point: Even with the best will in the world, it would be hard for most people to stay focused on the big picture in the face of short-run fluctuations. When the mercury is high and the crops are withering, everyone talks about it, and some make the connection to global warming. But let the days grow a bit cooler and the rains fall, and inevitably people’s attention turns to other matters.

Making things much worse, of course, is the role of players who don’t have the best will in the world. Climate-change denial is a major industry, lavishly financed by Exxon, the Koch brothers and others with a financial stake in the continued burning of fossil fuels. And exploiting variability is one of the key tricks of that industry’s trade. Applications range from the Fox News perennial — “It’s cold outside! Al Gore was wrong!” — to the constant claims that we’re experiencing global cooling, not warming, because it’s not as hot right now as it was a few years back.

Shrill. Sent July 26:

One of the simplest and most important pieces of advice we give to our children is that actions have consequences — and that much wisdom lies in considering them before we act, rather than realizing belatedly that we have erred. An ounce of prevention, a stitch in time.

Why, then, are we adults so bad at following our own suggestions? We’ve known for decades about the likely consequences of an accelerating greenhouse effect (presidents have been getting scientific advice on global warming since the 1960s!). Each new piece of research interprets, contextualizes and refines its predecessors, making climate change one of the most exhaustively researched subjects in the world. We’ve been well warned about the dangers of continued consumption of fossil fuels.

Teenagers think they’re immortal, terrifying their parents with foolish thrill-seeking — but our society badly needs the wisdom of considered consequences, not the adrenaline rush of self-destructive folly.

Warren Senders

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