Monday, April 7, 2014

Picking Out Hope On Climate Change

While there's some speculation this morning that officials may have finally found the black box flight data recorders from the missing Malaysian airliner, the fact remains that CNN has been getting hammered on their obsession with the missing plane lately, with good reason.

Last week, CNN - one of the world's largest media organizations, that nominally is supposed to be covering news - effectively ignored the latest report from the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change in favor of almost continual baseless speculation about the missing plane.

The headlines from the IPCC's latest report are indeed dire, with news headlines like 'Climate Change: The Worst Is Yet To Come.' After looking at the report, we tend to agree with the panel's assessment, though: The facts underlying the information contained in the report are terrifying. Siberia is already experiencing mid-summer temperatures and forest fires, in early April. The arctic sea ice cover this winter was the fifth smallest on record - and we have ice core samples that go back thousands of years. If those facts contained in the IPCC's latest report sound scary, it's because they are.

Meanwhile, even as CNN mostly ignored the IPCC's report, at least they didn't lie about it like Fox did.

Still, ignoring the problem won't make it go away, any more than denying the existence of a polar bear standing next to you won't prevent him from having you for lunch. As more than one famous scientist has said, science and facts remain true whether you believe them or not.

In truth, CNN may simply have been a perfect real-time media example of what Ezra Klein pointed out brilliantly in his first major piece at his new venue Vox.com - that while more facts are often helpful for scientific purposes, more facts also often just make our politics and media more stupid.

In an applied sense, that discovery by Yale Law professor Dan Kahan and his team may also mean that some people are too stupid - or more appropriately, too identity-protective - to effectively handle the political responsibilities of taking political action on critical topics like climate change mitigation.

That tendency to remain frozen, due to inherent identity-protection mechanisms, can be seen in the example of the American people. Even when they're not facing voter suppression issues, as so many are this year, thanks to the Republican Party, Americans all-too-often still don't get out and vote. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's citizens - whose lives as well as their identities were quite literally threatened with death by the Taliban if they voted - came out to vote anyway, in record numbers this past weekend.

To us, that difference in voting actions further proves the point, that the courage to act is what's really needed on climate change right now - or as Jedediah Purdy called it recently in The Daily Beast, "the politics of the impossible."

The good news is, the impossible is already happening in a few places around the world.

For example, China's closing nearly two thousand coal mines this year and replacing them with solar, wind, and hydroelectric plants instead. Not to be outdone, India is boosting their solar output by thirty percent by next year. Both of these actions prove that the politically impossible is already becoming possible, in measurable degrees. What's even better is that the IPCC's report notes that the effects of climate change can still be reduced, so long as the world acts now.

That, in fact, appears to be the best bet for wise Americans right now who care about the very real future of life on Earth: Push and support those politicians favorable to fighting climate change to do everything they can to act, right now, over the wailing and crying of the ignorant deniers.

Later, when the polar bears are picking the remains of some climate change deniers out of their teeth, or the National Guard is rescuing climate change deniers from the latest costal flooding, we'll be more than happy to engage those climate deniers in a discussion about where and how to use our government resources.

We have a feeling they may be slightly less protective of their identities - and slightly more receptive of facts - at that point in time.