Sunday, December 14, 2014

Climate Doomsaying

Eli links to an Aaron Sorkin bit of laconic climate doomsaying. Even though I largely agree with the climate scientist characters's matter of fact predictions of bad stuff to come, I have to say that I doubt its effectiveness. People are bombarded almost daily with predictions of doom of one sort or another, by preachers, cable news, random nut jobs, and politicians - hope that's not redundant.

More to the point, we all know that our own personal doom is not that far in the future. All these things make it hard to get to worked up about sea levels being 80 feet higher in the next millenium. For most people, thinking about the future means dealing with the next hour, the next day, and if they are really well off, maybe the next decade or two.

Our species evolved in the Pleistocene, a time of climate hazards considerably more tumultuous than today. Catastrophes wiping out big chunks of the species were a regular occurrence. That might have kept us from evolving the kind of minds that were comfortable with not planning too far ahead.

Another factor has been the tendency of some climate scientists to blame any bit of bad weather - a bunch of hurricanes striking the US, a major tornado outbreak, a drought in California - on climate change. Even if they ultimately turn out to be sort of right, a decade without a major hurricane strike, a quiet tornado year, or a rash of flooding rains in California makes people forget, or worse, remember and disbelieve.

Call me a pessimist, but my guess is that people in Miami will believe climate change when the water reaches their knees. Oklahoma and Kansas might be harder sells.

In any case, I personally find it hard to get to worked up about our impending collision with the Andromeda galaxy, four billion or so years hence. Though I am a bit sorry than neither I nor our planet will be here to see it.