July 18, 2010
Unfortunately, the likely coming super heat waves and the hurricanes that will take out parts of Miami and Shanghai, for example, will show that, in a politically tangible way. And nobody will remember climategate 10 years from now.
It’s hard to answer your question directly: You’re asking me to predict random events in nature, like hurricanes and heat waves, souped up a little bit by global warming and what the political situation is going to be, because who’s in charge when these random events happen will determine how they’re politically framed. Wish I weren’t so cynical and I could tell you that we are rational decision makers, but unfortunately random events have a lot to do with it. I’ve seen it before.
Scientists also create some of their own trouble because we’re a very snooty, elitist bunch, and we believe [in] a very high-knowledge entry barrier before you’re even entitled to have an opinion over technical issues. Part of that entry barrier is high because we’re so incompetent in explaining things simply.
We know we have a rough 10 percent chance that [the effect of global warming] is going to be not much [how, exactly, was this percentage calculated?]; a rough 10 percent chance of ‘Oh, My God’; and everything else in between. Therefore, what you’re talking about as a scientist is risk: what can happen multiplied times the odds of it happening. That’s an expert judgment. The average person is not really competent to make such a judgment.
…I don’t want to see a civil war, and I worry about that if the blogosphere is carried to a logical extreme.
One of the big tipping points is [whether] you could flip the Gulf Stream and knock it out. Probably not anytime soon. But if we continue on the path that we’ve been on for 150 years, we probably could. And it could last for hundreds of years, which is effectively irreversible on the human time scale.
…We’re never going to convince that 25 percent who absolutely believe it’s a conspiracy against American religious and economic freedom, and that this is some UN plot to take away our hegemony. And we don’t need to convince the other 25 percent that is already convinced. It’s that 50 percent in the middle that will listen to an argument, that is not immoral or deeply ideological, but that’s a little lazy and ignorant, often quite frightened. We have to get to them to create a tipping point for a majority. And that can be done. My fear is that it’s going to take a hurricane to take out Miami or fires in the West before they finally wake up. I just hope that it’s milder crises sooner, and not more extreme events later.
This article was posted: Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 8:36 am