Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nothing Convinces Quite Like a Taste of the Lash

The onset of extreme weather events is rapidly culling the ranks of climate change skeptics.    Megastorms, droughts, heat waves and floods are prevailing as science never could, especially in the home of denialism, the United States.

A poll released on Friday by the Associated Press-GfK found rising concern about climate change among Americans in general, with 80% citing it as a serious problem for the US, up from 73% in 2009. Belief and worry about climate change were rising faster still among people who do tend not to trust scientists on the environment.

Some of the doubters said in follow-up interviews that they were persuaded by personal experience: such as record temperatures, flooding of New York City subway tunnels, and news of sea ice melt in the Arctic and extreme drought in the mid-west.

About 78% of respondents overall believed in climate change, a slight rise from AP's last poll in 2009. The result was in line with other recent polls.

Among climate doubters, however, 61% now say temperatures have been rising over the past century, a substantial rise from 2009 when only 47% believed in climate change.

The change was not among the hard core of climate deniers, but in the next tier of climate doubters, AP reported. About 1 in 3 of the people surveyed fell into that category. "Events are helping these people see what scientists thought they had been seeing all along," Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University psychologist who studies attitudes to climate change and consulted on the poll, told the news agency.

But getting the public to accept the fact of global warming is still a long way from gaining their support for mitigation or adaptation measures.   They may accept it, they may agree that change is needed, that doesn't mean they're about to give up the SUV.

This began and was always going to be "a day late and a dollar short" struggle.   Success lies in getting ahead of the onset of global warming and its impacts but we're still running far behind even as we collectively purport to "get it."

The best options for dealing with global warming began slipping through our fingers probably as far back as the late 60's when we simply didn't know any better.   A number of those once-best options have now been foreclosed to us for all time.   That leaves us with a deck of next-best options and these too, by turns, are slipping through our fingers.   At some point, when the impacts are great enough and we're far down the deck of next-best options, we will be forced to accept whatever options by them remain to us or to the future generations to which we bequeath this as our lasting legacy.

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