Monday, October 18, 2010

When climate change becomes personal

A 2010 poll conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication have revealed some trends in belief that aren't that surprising.  2,030 American adults were polled, and asked questions about climate change. Not hard ones, either.  It turns out, about 45% of the people polled understood that CO2 traps heat, and 57% understood that this is what's referred to as the greenhouse effect.  Wait a minute...

Anyway, there's a lot of information (and please take a look at it yourself, as you have the freedom to do so), but the end result is that Americans (I am one of these) get a big F on knowledge about the shift of the climate.

But can you blame us?  Not only do we have a lot of misinformation going around, and neither the time nor the attention span to sort through it, but, even if this issue is knocking on our door, it hasn't yet put its muddy boots on our couch.  What I'm saying is, however immediate of a problem climate change is, it's not as immediate as paying for Alicia's Karate classes, or picking up Robert from the airport.  Summers are still hot, winters are still cold, and climate change is, to most of us, just a thing on the news.

Call me a pessimist, but I don't think that any real effort is going to be put forth by the public until it's too late.  And what I mean by real effort is, do you know how sometimes you think you're trying your best to, say, clean up the house, but then you hear that the in-laws are coming over in thirty minutes, and you're suddenly a coked-out Mr. Clean?  We're not good judges of our own potential, and nearly all of the time that we think we're giving something our best effort, we later find out that we were actually half-assing it.

So, when will we start really caring, with our full attention, about the climate, and our impact on the environment?  When will we stop pretending that carrying a half-dozen reusable shopping bags in the trunk of our hybrid is going to change a thing?  Especially if we forget them before we go into the store.

The day we stop tearing down mountains to get at the ore hidden underneath, stop putting walls across rivers, stop laminating the soil with endless asphalt, and do away with the idea of healthy population growth... well, I'm just afraid that it will be a very dark day.  A day when a Florida hurricane doesn't stop blowing until it's over Nebraska.  A day when people can't move to a northern state, because they're all frozen over.  A day when our crops stop flowering, and we just plain don't know why.

I'm not into fear mongering.  I'm actually a fairly laid-back person.  However, while I do have faith in people, as individuals, I don't have much faith for people as a society.  When I try to think of how far it will have to go before climate change becomes an immediate concern--something that's as important to day-to-day life as repairing the dishwasher--I can't picture it.

People make speculations all the time as to what it will look like when it gets really bad, but no matter how many PhDs the person has, or how many TV shows they've been on, it's all guessing.  We can no more predict the future of our climate than we can predict next weeks Lotto numbers.  It's too complex.  The only thing that we can predict is that, if you consider consistency and stability good, it probably won't be good.

Thanks for reading.

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