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Now They Tell Us

Now They Tell Us

By Orville Schell, Michael Massing

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Carbon’s Climb Speeds Up

Posted on Mar 14, 2013
Tobias Mandt (CC BY 2.0)

By Paul Brown, Climate News Network

(Page 2)

One other fact that most people conveniently forget is that the atmosphere takes up to 30 years to react to the extra CO2 that has been pumped into it. The extreme weather events occurring internationally are caused by the carbon levels of the 1980s.  Weather extremes will soon be getting a whole lot worse, whatever we do now.

Outside the climate debate and these dire predictions, economists and politicians talk another language – of the need for growth and development to feed the world’s growing population.

The ostrich approach

The expansion of China, India, Brazil and two dozen or more states in Asia (and more recently Africa) is taken for granted. It is as if the stresses of climate change, water and food shortages, and the migration of peoples from arid and drowned lands, belong to another world.


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An example of this double think comes from the UK. Government ministers are urging youngsters to save for their pensions, while at the same time putting back the retirement age. They are talking about this younger generation having a life expectancy close to 100.

If the scientists are right about climate change, then this is complete bunk. In 80 years’ time most pension funds will have collapsed, along with the rest of civilization, and this will mainly be because today’s politicians, who have their heads in the sand, have failed to act.

So why was there so little reaction to our lurch even closer to the 400 ppm milestone when so many people understand its implications?

For the scientists, part of the reason is that they have been battered into silence by the powerful and well-funded climate sceptic lobby, which has hacked into their emails, campaigned to have their grants stopped, and repeatedly questioned and obstructed their research.

Journalists have some trouble re-telling such a grim story. Each new record is incremental, and news desks do not like to depress readers too much. In the words of a (probably not apocryphal) news editor: “The punters like reading about other people’s misfortunes and not their own.”

Politicians calculate that they will be out of power before the worst of the effects happen, so why take difficult decisions that damage their chances of re-election?

Maybe many of the rest of us have a version of the same thoughts. We may not last long enough to see the worst of it, so why worry? The next generation may wonder why we were so irresponsible when the disastrous consequences were so perfectly clear.

Paul Brown, one of the founders of the Climate News Network, wrote Global Warning: The Last Chance for Change in 2006. It was published in the United Kingdom by Guardian Books and A & C Black Publishers Ltd that year and in 2007 by Readers’ Digest in North America.

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