What's really going on here?
The question I'm asking is why this #AAAS report has gone around the web and received more media coverage than perhaps any other report like it, surpassed only by the #IPCC reports published by the #UN itself. It has clearly struck a chord, a wavelength, a nerve.
The stroke of brilliance, as many observers have noted, is the report's focus on risk management. Regardless of what anyone thinks of climate change, no one can or should object to treating it exactly as we all treat normal, daily risks: by insuring against them, which is to say by taking steps to reduce the impact of any likely or potential damage.
"Insurance" in climate terms is the combination of mitigation and adaptation, as well as every social and business measure we can take to avoid catastrophe.
That is, indeed, refreshing and brilliant. But there must be something more to the rather dramatic reaction to this report. After all, there have been countless references over the years to this same risk management approach. Why the hoopla over this one?
Others have said the report uses simpler language than scientist organizations like AAAS are accustomed to confusing us with. And they're right about that, as well.
A bit more time will probably have to pass before we can pinpoint the chord and wavelength more clearly, but without the benefit of hindsight, I think the buzz is more a sign of a tipping point than simpler language or the risk management angle.
Consider the report's title. What We Know. It's a reference to something matter-of-fact, instinctive, practically natural. It's what we know. Don't you know? How can you not know? Hello!
Growing majorities are already believers. People are coming around. In the U.S., most people fear climate change. A quarter of the population fear it greatly. And that's in the U.S., clearly the most recalcitrant of all the majors.
Yet, the entire issue has remained stuck over denials and petty politics. The UN hasn't managed any significant negotiation. The 2015 global deal seems destined to fall abysmally short of what's needed. So as the climate keeps worsening, it shouldn't surprise anyone that so does the frustration percolating beneath the surface.
It is a social tipping point in the making, no doubt -- one sure to overwhelm the deniers and merchants of doubt as swiftly as tipping points tend to do. That's why they're called tipping points, because they happen when an underlying current tips past a threshold and changes the game.
Interestingly, the AAAS report does something else that is curiously refreshing. It alerts us to the potential surprises that await us in nature's own tipping points, a generally obscure fact few scientists like to highlight. These scientists decided to place those tipping points -- dragons, as they're referred to in some circles, and in this report -- front and center in what we know.
So read the report (linked here) and judge for yourself. Is it the language and the risk, or is there something deeper going on here?
#climate #climatechange #sustainability #globalwarming