The term “Dust-Bowlification” is referenced, and the argument is that making banal observation of climate change may doom us to catastrophe, by: 1. Missing, ignoring or obscuring the longer-term upward trend. 2. Discounting that even a fairly modest rise in average temperatures translates into a much higher frequency of extreme events. The New York Times recently gave such an example where a devastating drought is now gripping America’s heartland and doing vast damage. Reasons for banal observation is given example: “Even with the best will in the world, it would be hard for most people to stay focused on the big picture in the face of short-run fluctuations. When the mercury is high and the crops are withering, everyone talks about it, and some make the connection to global warming. But let the days grow a bit cooler and the rains fall, and inevitably people’s attention turns to other matters”, then “the role of players who don’t have the best will in the world. Climate change denial is a major industry”.
The analogy of why climate change should remain on the agenda is well captured in the story Loading the Climate Dice. A story of how we should think about the relationship between climate change and day-to-day experience. It goes on the say a NASA scientist and his associates suggested, “representing the probabilities of a hot, average or cold summer by historical standards as a die with two faces painted red, two white and two blue. By the early 21st century, they predicted, it would be as if four of the faces were red, one white and one blue. Hot summers would become much more frequent, but there would still be cold summers now and then”. That was 25 years ago, and it has been proved as since 2000, “cold summers by historical standards still happen, but rarely, while hot summers have in fact become roughly twice as prevalent. And 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000”.
CO2Land org thinks it is even more worrying when we look around globally and note that extreme high temperatures are now fairly common. The rising incidence of extreme events means that the costs of climate change are not a prospect into the future. Albeit it is a smaller fraction of what will happen as in context this change has occurred “even though so far global temperatures are only about 1 degree Fahrenheit above their historical norms” Is it too late to act.? The issue we will have the most difficulty with in adapting to climate change is food security.
The New York Times uses “The great Midwestern drought is a case in point. This drought has already sent corn prices to their highest level ever. If it continues, it could cause a global food crisis, because the U.S. heartland is still the world’s breadbasket. And yes, the drought is linked to climate change: such events have happened before, but they’re much more likely now than they used to be”.
In Australia, and here it comes: Our history on climate action is not encouraging. The politics divides and the deniers keep on denying, despite the matter will make them culpable for the looming disaster. Science is proving to be correct in the predictions of climate change despite enduring creditability arguments. The banal observations make it difficult to follow with enthusiasm and the public will lose interest again until the next for the looming disaster.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 23, 2012, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Loading The Climate Dice. By PAUL KRUGMAN