It's been interesting watching the change in tenor in the conversation about climate change over the past couple of decades. When I started blogging back in 1999 on Dave Winer's editthispage.com, my blog was called Time's Shadow and I was notionally going to focus on the things I thought were likely to yield big changes in society in the years ahead. I thought they were nano-technology (not so much, it turns out), genetic engineering (starting to see it) and climate change (can't miss it).
Back then, there was still a bad faith debate on whether climate change was even occurring. It wasn't bad faith on everyone's part, but the big oil companies were acting in bad faith, and many people of possibly good faith relied on them. That we were seeing anthropogenic global warming made sense to me, and the evidence seemed pretty strong even then.
Well, fast forward almost a quarter of a century, and the debate has shifted radically. While there are still holdouts who maintain, "the climate is always changing," nobody is denying that climate change is occurring. The parties still beholden to the fossil fuel industry (Republicans, in the main. Some "libertarians.") are now embracing adaptation and resilience as our response, while mitigation, that is, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, never seems to enter the conversation.
Among the climate-"woke," it's no longer about trying to convince people that climate change is occurring and we're responsible for it, it's about overcoming the resistance to mitigation on one side, and the edge of the Overton window that now includes, "We're doomed" on the other.
I struggle on this issue, because I'm pretty far into the "we're doomed" end of the spectrum. But, it's not helpful.
I subscribe an RSS feed from The Invading Sea, which covers "Florida and the Climate Crisis." It's a news-aggregator, so there are pieces from other platforms and papers. Lately I've been seeing some op-ed pieces from "young Republicans" who are acknowledging climate change and seem to exhibit some appreciation for the threat it poses. They typically advocate for "conservative, market-based solutions" over "big government." The only specific action I've seen is advocacy for the carbon tax, and the usual deregulation to "spur innovation."
This makes me angry. The single biggest reason we have failed to address climate change and transition away from fossil fuels fast enough to matter, is because of Republicans. But we are where we are, and blaming people isn't going to help either, even if they are overwhelmingly responsible.
I'm still somewhat baffled by what I see going on around me. I'd say "astonished," but having read a lot of history recently, I realize there's an enormous quantity of hysteresis in social systems. America knew what was taking place in the Pacific and in Europe long before December 7, 1941. Roosevelt tried to do what was politically feasible for him to do, at least for Europe. Much like what Biden seems to be doing with regard to the climate emergency.
It took a galvanizing moment to move people to action, and that was Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. It seems like this reservoir of concern or anxiety, a sense of needing to take some action, just builds and builds, until something comes along that breaks the dam. And then a lot can happen.
If there's a reason to be hopeful, WW II suggests what this country can do if it turns its will and its resources to it.
But I don't know what the catalyst will have to be. Will we be slowly boiled, or will we jump out of the pot?
I'd tell you that climate change is just one dimension of a larger problem, which is the root cause. But that's all really bad news, and this doesn't end well in any scenario. The best we might hope for is the least worst outcome.
For now, I remind myself every day that I am an incredibly privileged individual, and I try to appreciate that fact, be grateful for it and acknowledge that I in no way deserve it.
It's just an accident of birth.
Originally posted at Nice Marmot 10:22 Monday, 7 August 2023