Showing posts with label catastrophic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label catastrophic. Show all posts

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Popcorn catastrophe

Ken Ward observes that when climate activists cry catastrophe! and then list benefits like green jobs and reduced oil imports to be gained if we take preventative measures, [it] is odd and confusing behaviour, like running into a crowded movie theater and shouting "Fire! -- and don't forget to buy popcorn on the way out, with all the unexpected traffic, it's on sale!".

This reminds me of one of my disappointments with Australia's current government. Despite heads rolling, it has succeeded in passing the Clean Energy Legislation that puts a price on carbon, compensates low income households and small businesses, and invests in renewables. In the weeks leading up to implementation, it ran an ad campaign about it. What did they say?

Did they mention that this legislation is a response to the catastrophe of climate disruption, like "We know the cinema is on fire, here comes the fire brigade!"

Did they say, "We're on the job, making Australia a safer place for future generations."

No, they ran ads of soothing domesticity that said, "You'll get some money. Aren't we nice?"

That's it. Nothing else. Indeed, they didn't even mention the legislation!

This is like addressing the crowd in the cinema and not mentioning the fire that has started in the projection room, saying instead, "There's a street parade outside they are throwing coins to the crowd."

Little wonder that Australians are disappointed and confused by their government.

Nevertheless, muddled as they are, the Government is better than the Opposition who have promised to undo the Clean Energy Legislation. That's like disbanding the Fire Brigade. I guess that their messaging is consistent. Given that they don't fully acknowledge climate disruption, it's like saying, "There is no fire so we don't need a Fire Brigade."

Eventually, all countries will get onto war footing to fight climate disruption. In the meantime, as individuals we can match our words and actions to the magnitude of the problem and call a spade a spade, as the very excellent James Hansen does in this Washington Post article today.

UPDATE: Researchers note that altruism and personal gain tend to cancel each other out. Appeals to self-interest can backfire and accidentally encourage people to behave selfishly in other areas. Source: NatureClimateChange. There's another reason that governments should encourage pro-environmental behaviour for the greater good and not just for personal monetary gain.


The Transformation tab reports examples of progress towards a low-carbon future. Here's the latest snippet.   

British supermarket chain Sainsbury has installed over 69,500 solar panels on its stores, laying claim to the title of Europe's top solar generator. The company said that it has 16MW of solar capacity spread across 169 of its 572 UK supermarkets, meaning that collectively the firm manages the largest solar array in Europe. Source: BusinessGreen

Friday, June 8, 2012

On our watch

A disaster is unfolding on our watch.

What is happening? Are the guards asleep on duty? Do they not believe their eyes? Are they afraid to call out? Are they shouting in the wrong language? Are we ignoring those that do call out? Are we confused because the leaders say it's bad, really bad, while doing nothing about it?

All of the above.

Many of us understand the calls, but we can't quite grasp the magnitude and urgency of the situation. We nod our heads and wait for our governments to show leadership. We're waiting to see what our fearless leaders do.

KC Golden urges us to stop waiting,
We need to stand tall – with both feet, whole hearts, and strong, explicit words – on the side of the truth.

In a similar vein, Kate Lovelady, Leader of the Ethical Society of St Louis, ruminates on the need to bring our carbon actions in line with our values when she asks what message she conveys when she flies to a conference instead of taking a train.  

Action is by far the most powerful communication.  Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden replaces a thousand speeches about healthy food and active lifestyles.

So, how do we bring our words and actions in line with the real urgency of the situation?

Climate Solutions draws on this study to suggest that the tactical risks of talking explicitly about climate are overblown. Yes, it can be a “loser” as a “message,” but generally only when we talk like losers – when we internalize and reiterate our opponents’ bad frames. They find that focusing on climate is generally a “winner” when we:
  • Invoke a strong sense of human agency and responsibility. We’re causing it. We should fix it.
  • Foster engagement and efficacy. Futility is the enemy of responsibility, and it’s rampant in our political culture. But people remain hungry for solutions, and eager to participate. Pollyannish optimism? No. Can-do determination to build a better future? Definitely.
  • Embed (don’t bury) climate in the challenge of freeing ourselves from fossil fuel dependence. Almost everyone at least suspects that fossil fuel dependence is a dead end, and feels victimized by the forces that perpetuate it. Climate solutions can free us!
KC Golden again,
  • My primary point here is not:  “Talk more about climate because it’s not as bad of a message as you think.” My point is: Talk about climate because we must – because tackling it is a moral imperative, and we’ll never convince anyone of that if we keep dodging and weaving around it.

It's happening on OUR watch. We need to meet it head-on, hug the monster, and get on with the job of mobilising all our forces to head off catastrophe.


New today on the Transformation page (see the tab up there?).

8 June 2012. Amazon deforestation is at a record low. Data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research shows that 6,418 sq km of Amazon forest was stripped in the 12 months before 31 July 2011 – the smallest area since annual measurements started in 1988. Since the peak deforestation year of 2004, the rates of clearance have fallen by almost 75%. Most (81%) of Brazil's original forest remains – one of the highest levels of any country. Source: The Guardian.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hug the monster

“Hug the monster” is a metaphor taught by U.S. Air Force trainers to those headed into harm’s way. It's a technique that helps individuals act constructively in terrifying situations by channelling their fear into action. Without a technique like this, fear can be paralysing.

Bill Blakemore on Nature's Edge, an American ABC News blog, uses the metaphor to observe that in recent years scientists and media have held back from talking about the dire consequences of unmitigated climate change. Perhaps the denier tactic of labelling honest discussion as 'alarmist' was a factor, and perhaps there was some concern about public levels of anxiety or panic.

To avoid the unpleasant, scary bits, the strategy has been to focus on the upside of mitigation and adaptation strategies, also call bright-siding. In this approach (there's an example here) the focus is on clean energy jobs, greater efficiency, and fuel security. 

Michael Tobis sketched this schematic in 2010 to illustrate the discrepancy between informed opinion and public discourse.

Schematic by Michael Tobis

Blakemore observes that the avoidance phase seems to be coming to an end with a turn towards more realistic discussion.
Established scientists, community and government leaders and journalists, as they describe the disruptions, suffering and destruction that manmade global warming is already producing, with far worse in the offing if humanity doesn’t somehow control it, are starting to allow themselves publicly to use terms like “calamity,” “catastrophe”, and “risk to the collective civilization.”
Of course, climate scientists have been 'hugging the monster' for the decades they have been working to collect the  evidence. Over time, they have come to recognise the catastrophic consequences of BAU climate change. Recently, their sense of urgency has increased and scientists like James Hansen and Jason Box have become activists, getting arrested in protests against fossil fuel mining.

I couldn't maintain my self-respect if I didn't go. This isn't about me, this is about the future. Just voting doesn't seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also, because this is a democracy after all, isn't it?
Jason Box, climatologist at Ohio State University, in the Guardian

Michael Mann's book about the The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars reveals the tactics that have constrained public discussion and public policy.

David Spratt observes that bright-siding is a tactical mistake because it leaves out the most compelling reasons for action. Why bother with solar power at all if you aren't aware of the dire consequences of business as usual fossil fuel burning?

He notes that all great behavioural change campaigns have two elements, first they point to the downside of current behaviour and then they recommend a feasible behaviour change.
  • Road accidents cause injury, seat belts save lives, buckle up!
  • Smoking causes cancer, take up <this remedy> to stop smoking.
  • Drunk driving causes car accidents, have a designated driver.

Now that the tactics of the denier camp are becoming more visible, thanks to books like The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars and Heartland's own-goal with unsavoury billboards, we can look forward to more forthright talk about the consequences of climate change.

We'll need to fortify ourselves to be able to look realistically at what lies ahead. There are monsters to hug.