Talk is Good. Action is Essential
In a recent column I wrote that we have left the time of denial and entered the time of disconnection. It is completely clear to anyone who is aware that something has changed with the climate. As someone who has, through writings and speeches, been a target of climate change deniers, this year has been different than any year of the past decade. I have yet to hear from a single denier. The reason is obvious: we are living in this change now. How can one deny what is experienced when stepping outside, turning on the television, or picking up a newspaper?
Denial was a complete rejection of science. Deniers often used the phrase “Do you believe in climate change?” My general response has always been that I didn’t hold any belief about it as it is clearly happening now, and started to point out a long list of facts and realities. It was impossible to get past two or three facts without the denier, stopping me by dismissing what I was saying as it didn’t fit their belief structures.
[Two things just occurred to me when writing the above paragraph. First, deniers didn’t believe in science, nor do anti-vaxxers. Maybe COVID-19 has had a disproportionately lethal effect on deniers. Second, I realized that the latest book in the 2020s series is about just this, Cognitive Dissonance]
During July, August and now September there are multiple daily reports about the climate crisis, or at least the manifestations of it. 70 million people under an extreme heat advisory. Hundreds of heat deaths. Forest and brush fires burning out of control in the three pacific states. Unprecedented forest fires in Greece. An entire Greek island needing to be fully evacuated. Flash floods in Belgium, Germany, and the United States. Death and destruction everywhere due to all these “historically unprecedented” events. As written here through the years, when there are a high volume of “once in a lifetime” ‘Once in 500 years” “once in a 1,000 years” events even Dylan’s Mr. Jones has to know that something is going on,
Yes, it is an improvement when the media now state that all these events are part of climate change. Just a few years ago it was a “possibility” that it could be climate change. Now it is reported as a reality. A hot, wet, dry, lethal reality. However, this is still a big disconnection. The media, and unfortunately, many environmentalists, stand is a smug stance of “see, I was right about climate change” Being right has nothing to do with changing the situation. Only changing the situation, changes the situation.
Talk is good. Action is essential.
Relative to almost any key metric about global warming and the resultant climate change, things are getting worse. We are generating more GHG emissions annually, the number of species becoming extinct continues to increase, sea level rise continues and the rate of it is accelerating and ever more plastic gumming up everthing, the number of fish kills and ocean dead zones increase and of course “extreme weather events” are on the rise.
All while the word sustainability is ever more used. All the while we talk about and accept the reality of what is going on all over Spaceship Earth.
The first action to take – are you listening media folks- is to stop using the phrase “climate change”. It is now a “duh” and taken for granted. “Well, it must be climate change” or “That’s climate change for you” Instead start to use the phrase “climate crisis” or even better “the climate catastrophe” Speak the truth. Attributing change is reporting of the obvious. Calling something a crisis or a catastrophe immediately begs the question of what to do to face it.
So the first action to take is to talk differently about it. Try it. Today, when speaking about the topic, replace the word change with the word crisis or catastrophe.
The next step is to bring actions from future commitments into present action. This is an obvious statement but the majority of people, certainly during the past decade, have derived comfort from commitments about future actions. Take the Paris Agreement of 2015. Yes it was bad that Trump pulled the U.S. out of it. Yes it was good that Biden brought the country back into it. So what? Where is the triumph? Right now the Paris Agreement of 2015 is a complete failure. Not one key signer of the agreement has met their own stated goals on GHG emissions. Not one.
Earlier this year, the head of the IPCC at the UN stated that, as of 2020, CO2 reductions were only at 1%, not anywhere near the 50 to 70% needed by 2030. We feel good about doing something, but it nowhere near enough. Of course, the reality is that the countries that signed it, the ones that matter due to their GHG emissions level, are in non-compliance, including the U.S.
Yes it is a legally binding agreement, but if all the key signers are in violation, who is going to sue them? How will a completely disregarded agreement become real?
The Paris Agreement of 2015 is a true reflection of humanity’s inability to face the climate catastrophe. Feel good about making a commitment and then don’t honor it. Feel good that someone is making a commitment so that you don’t have to. Point the finger to the other guy or country. “What about China?” is something I have heard too many times.
We have met the enemy and he is us.
More soon on what to do.