Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Can people be scared out of taking action?

In anticipation of the April 6 release of the IPCC report about the regional impacts of climate change, a Reuters article released today, Global warming happens: but is it "catastrophic"?, begins with this:

OSLO (Reuters) - Likely headlines predicting a global warming "catastrophe", "disaster" or "cataclysm" after a U.N. report due on Friday risk sapping public willingness to act by making the problem seem too big to tackle, some experts say.
Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, is on of those "some experts," and he cites the tendency for journalists and politicians to instill dread by predicting doomsday and then six weeks later describe the fear they created as "hysteria."

A climate frog needs to feel motivated to act. A climate frog needs hope that doing something will make a positive difference in the outcome. But a climate frog also needs to understand the stakes in order to understand the dire need for action and intentional adaptation. If one recognizes a potential outcome as "catastrophic," it shouldn't feel like overreaching to use that term.
"It is legitimate to use those words in specific scenarios," he [Steiner] told Reuters. "But does that mean that the whole climate change debate should be about doom and gloom? No, because we are finding that we can do something about it."
Sometimes - perhaps most of the time - that "something" will prove to be disruptive, painful, expensive, difficult...lot of other negatives. It's hard to frame all of the adaptive and mitigating necessities in an attractive way. Nature can be a terrible master, and the prospect of forced migration will never be framed as an "adventure in human adaptation."

So, no, appropriate action won't be pleasant for most people, but giving up and doing nothing is not an option. The sooner you can recognize the impact of climate change on your local situation, the sooner you can decide what to do about it. Meanwhile, burn less carbon always.

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