Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Why We (Probably) Won’t Solve Climate Change

We seldom tackle problems that involve long-term strategies. We haven’t evolved that way. We survived by planning for today and tomorrow – not for next year – so our brains struggle with abstract concepts like global warming that might potentially harm us, but that we also might find a solution for some time down the road.

So far, we’ve pretty much always found a way to save ourselves from devastating environmental consequences. Sure, there have been times when groups of people (like the Anasazi) were forced to leave an area they’d inhabited because of flooding or drought or lack of food or war, but they simply found another spot that would suffice.

It’s that kind of mentality that still drives us.

We hear that the oceans will rise a few inches in the next decade and it seems piddling: a minor annoyance. What’s more difficult is understanding that the rise in the oceans doesn’t occur only in the oceans. The storm surge from hurricanes gets far worse. The extra surface area of water, though relatively small, increases evaporation, putting more water into the air.

The greater the humidity (or dew point), the more warmth that air can hold. So we get into a positive feedback cycle: more warmth = more water in the air = more warmth, etc. This changes the oceans’ currents, which changes the jet stream, which results in weather patterns different than what we’ve been used to. Certain areas become more prone to drought. Others become more susceptible to flooding. Some become more likely to experience both drought and flooding.

No single event can be blamed on global warming, of course, so as a result, many people say global warming is a myth, created by Chicken Littles who shout that the sky is falling – or they believe it’s a vast conspiracy to change people’s behavior for insidious, if ill-defined, purposes.

They say since we can’t prove global warming is the cause of a particular flood or drought or hurricane, the whole idea of global warming must be a hoax.

And then there are the business interests that rely on the status quo – the oil companies that want us to keep driving; the airlines that want us to keep flying; the hotel industry that wants us to keep traveling; the auto industry that wants us to keep buying vehicles; the energy industry that wants us to keep using coal and natural gas. There are many other businesses that thrive on the status quo remaining the same.

All the talk of global warming scares away potential business or at least might scare away potential business. So they pooh-pooh the idea that we should consume less, drive less, fly less. They denigrate and minimize those who disagree with them, and some of us believe them. They portray a world that’s scary, but they claim that those who disagree with them are the ones who are really trying to scare us into giving up our way of life, our freedoms.

They don’t need everyone to agree with them – just enough folks to plant the seeds of doubt and prolong the actions that would harm their short-term interests.

Mostly it’s the fear of change that stops us. But change is coming. Change is happening every day. The world remakes itself every few millennia and it’s doing so right now. We may fail to stop the continuing warming of the planet. If we do, that won’t harm the earth. It will only harm certain species, among them homo sapiens sapiens.

book 1 in the Susquehanna Virus series

book 1 in the Susquehanna Virus series

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