The debate about Sandy is heating up even if the planet isn't

by Solarevolution November 02, 2012 17:08
The debate about SuperStorm Sandy is heating up, whether the whole planet is or not. Here's what some have to say:
There is no doubt that warming is occurring but I am unclear that we understand that there is any clear correlation between warming and a bad storm although I understand the arguments for it.  I just don't think it is scientific.

I hear a hard edge in those who stridently assure us that big storms like Sandy are related to climate change.

I hear that too. I suspect fear enters into the picture for a lot of thoughtful people who have the skills and sufficient access to information resources to observe, think and act. Frankly, anyone who is not freaking out is just not paying attention. It's not just happening in New Jersey and New York. My family and friends in Sweden are in the most affected northern climate zone and they are experiencing dramatic weather changes first hand. As we rode through the Cordillera Blanca [White Range], my friends in Peru pointed out the now brown slopes. Glacier National Park had over 100 glaciers, now less than 30, and is predicted to be glacier free within 10 years. You can argue it's because of cattle in feed lots instead of cars, or chopping down the Amazon instead of burning black stones, but anyone who attributes these drastic changes to anything but human activity is delusional. We have adequate science to prove that the climate is way out of whack; how much is getting to be a detail.

I'm not suggesting people become apoplectic, but it is appropriate that we recognize the potentially devastating consequences and weigh our responses accordingly. There are those who have the skills and resources to sound the alarm about climate change. And logically, just as we don't have all the answers about peak oil (etc.), they don't have all the answers about climate change. That's a given. 
If you believe it, fine.  But acknowledge that is a belief and not a fact.
I don't base my actions on fairy tales. I operate by certain principles to avoid such traps:
  • I study issues carefully and read scientific articles, and employ journalism primarily to lead me to valid sources, not to jump to conclusions. I look beyond the sources to the support they receive, and apply Jim Hansen's adage: "It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it."
  • I devoted years of my youth to learning the analytic tools I would need to discern fact from fiction. As Winston Churchill allegedly put it, "Not everyone is entitled to an opinion; in order to have an opinion, you have to know something."
  • I apply those tools as things come up; I do the math. I have a well-honed "crap detector" and it comes in mighty handy: I encounter B.S. just about every day.
  • And when in doubt, I apply the precautionary principle. I didn't make this up. It is statutory in the European Union.

There are ways to get to the heart of the matter. 

you may be right but you don't know.
If we are in doubt about climate change, then under the precautionary principle, it is our responsibility to err on the side of caution, in this case to jettison our addition to burning stones at all costs, just in case the IPCC is right. If they are wrong, no harm can come of it. In fact, the consequence will be on the upside: a little more oil will be spared for our children. It is our moral obligation to do so anyway. If in the process we mitigate climate change, even a little, so much the better. They will thank us for holding to our principles in the face of ridicule or worse. 

And of course there's the argument that things are going to get very much worse as humanity crashes into peak oil, even if the climate tames down completely. There will be die off (thank you, Jay Hanson). There will be climate refugees. Do we therefore turn cynical? Do we sit on our hands?

My hat is off to those who are designing and building artifacts for a world beyond oil. They may be using oil / gas / coal to do so; they need not be apologetic about that. There is so much to do that they can go where they are welcomed, not where they face cynicism or worse. With success, there will be little post-carbon pockets of sanity, which with a little luck will propagate. No, they won't reach everywhere before things go really bad. It's like building life boats. Better than going down with the ship of fools on fuels.

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