Happiness strategy: Don’t think about global warming

May 28, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More

It’s easier for most of us to think of our extreme droughts, floods and tornadoes as isolated unusual events, and to deny any connection to global warming. That denial makes good sense. It allows us the freedom to not consider that our daily actions are destroying people’s property and lives. Hence, this denial is the tactic of the mainstream media, which sees its job as keeping its audience in a good mood so that it can sell products for its advertisers.

Bill McKibben says we really do need to start connecting the dots, however. It’s not that we can say that any particular drought, flood or tornado is necessarily a result of human-caused carbon dioxide, but McKibben insists that it is time to invoke the phrase “climate change” to describe the current level of occurrences of extreme weather. And it’s time to force the Obama Administration to take this issue much more seriously at a time when many members of Congress refuse to consider the issue at all.

At Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org.

According to McKibben, who outlines numerous recent cataclysmic weather-related disasters worldwide, there’s a lot of room for improvement for the Obama Administration:

Now, to President Obama, look, the guy has done a better job on climate change than George Bush. That’s not an enormous claim to make, but, you know, happily, he’s doing something. He’s also doing a lot of things that are very, very damaging. He has opened this vast swath of the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to coal mining. The early estimate is there’s enough coal there to be at the equivalent of having 3,000 coal-fired power plants running for a year. His administration is currently considering allowing a permit for a huge pipeline across the center of the country that will run from Canada from the tar sands in Alberta down to refineries in Texas. That’s the equivalent of lighting a fuse on the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.

What is the meaning of “350” in 350.org?

Three-fifty is the most important number in the world. The NASA scientists told us three years ago that any value for carbon in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million was not compatible with the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted. That is strong language. It’s stronger still when you know that everywhere, outside your studios, up on top of Mount Everest, in the Antarctic, right now we’re at about 390 parts per million CO2 and gaining fast. That’s why this is not some future problem. It is the most pressing present crisis that we have.


Category: Environment, global warming, Sustainable Living

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Karl says:

    Carbon Dioxide is shown (at least in this unbiased data) not the problem many thought it was.


  2. NIklaus Pfirsig says:

    The NASA data simply shows that much more heat is being radiated from the planet than the computer models were deigned to account for. There is no doubt that the global climate is warming.
    The alarmists are those that greatly overestimate the rate, and the denialists are the ones who say it isn’t happening. There are some regular contributors to this blog that deem me a denialist, because I try to look at the problem in as non biased a way as I can.

    Political prejudices on global warming causes fall into two camp. One states that the global warming is entirely manmade, and we must address the problem in a political-economic manner – cap and trade. My take on this is that if the proponents of cap and trade truly believe the problem is solely caused by CO2 emmissions, then they would advicate cap without trade. Cap and trade creates an artificial commodity, “carbon credits,” that institutionalize a bribery system to get around the cap.

    Climate and weather systems are incredibly complex. Attempting to control the climate by manipulating only one of a hundred variables without considering interaction of the others is somewhat akin to driving on the autobahn blindfolded.

    Does CO2 change the climate? A little. So does farming, solar flares and sunspots, volcanic activity, the damage caused by sunamis earthquakes and huricanes, algae blooms, cow and termite flatulence, and many other factors. Some of these factors affect others and the cumulative effects of all of them can be significant.

    I have a jar at home into which I drop my loose change every day. the daily amount contributed to the jar is seldom over a dollar, but over three or four months time, when I empty it, it will hold over $100 dollars. Much like that jar, the effects of small changes among many variables can combine to result in major changes.

  3. The most basic evidence from tree rings and ice cores, among other things, shows a build-up of CO2 growing precipitously from the time when industrial-level burning began, around the end of the 18th Century, the arguable “beginning” of the industrial age. The increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere tracks fairly closely with an expanding industrial economy. This is so basic as to be absurd to ignore. Humans are the source of most of the additional CO2 (among other things)—either through burning or through increased out-gassing just from larger populations (farting and the decay of waste products in landfills) and other aspects of our civilization that people usually take for granted, not to mention clear-cutting of forests.

    For a long time it seemed that the oceans “took up” the excess, but that stopped somewhere around 1985 to 1995.

    So this much is clear—humans and our activities have increased greenhouse emissions. The argument has been among scientists, what effect does all this have? The jury is still out in many regards, but it is generally accepted now that human activity is changing the parts-per-million concentrations of certain gases in the atmosphere and that changes the escape of heat from the surface, through the atmosphere, into space. Things are getting warmer.

    The question is, how much of what we do is actually having the impact we’re seeing? Clearly, in conjunction with all other natural events (as Niklaus mentioned) climate change is occurring. The question of our contribution is important because it will tell us whether or not we can actually have an impact in the reverse. Can we stop the process or have we simply added just enough to tip the balance and now no matter what we do the planet will get warmer.

    The denialists come in two camps—those who simply don’t want to know that badness may be coming (and don’t want to feel responsible for it if it does) and those who are too invested in the status quo to risk major changes in how we live that might cost them.

  4. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    There is a tendency in politically motivated discourse to push the “If you’re not with me, then you’re completely against me” mentality. This tactic is often used by politicians and con artists to control their mark (no pun intended — honestly!!).

    So people that disagree with the believers of the anthropogenic co2 hypothesis are automatically labeled climate change denialists, even when they acknowledge climate change and suggest alternate hypotheses, some including human activity other than burning stuff. Any scientist in disagreement with the political status quo is dissed a A shill for the anti group. It is this particular attitude that pisses me off, that politicized science is totally bass-ackwards. In real science, when the measured date doesn’t support the hypothesis, the hypothesis is reformulated to explain the data. In politics, data that fails to support the foregone conclusion is either dismissed or ignored. Ad hominem attacks fly from both sides while lesser publicized hypotheses that are a better fir to the data are ignored.

    This is becoming all too common today. Being vindicated for a viewpoint or opinion i more important than understanding nature.

    Tree ring data simply confirms the historical records of global warming, and the ice core data indicates a correlation from prehistoric times. However, correlations do not indicate cause and effect, and correlations are closely matched, are much more likely to indicate co effects instead of causation.

    My understanding of the ice core data is that the increase in CO2 lags the snowfall indicators by a few centuries. the raw data is freely available for download at the NOAA website

    I disagree that co2 is the single most significant mediator of global warming. It is acknowledged to be a very minor greenhouse gas. Water vapor, on the other hand, is much more common as a green house gas, and is a much stronger thermal storage potential.

    The reclamation of arid and semi arid lands for agriculture introduces a lot omore water vapor into the atmosphere, while reducing the amount of radiant energy that is reflected back into space. We should consider this as well as other human activities.

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