Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Climate Think: Comparing Climate Change and Drunk Driving

Here are two examples of what can be called Climate Think:
  • If we viewed terrorism the way we view climate change, there'd be no security checks at airports, because no one could prove definitively when or even if a plane will be hijacked in the future.
  • If we viewed drunk driving the way we view climate change, there'd be no law against Driving While Intoxicated, because no one could prove for certain that alcohol was the cause of the accident.
The burning of carbon fuels previously stored safely underground has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide by 40%. All weather is now influenced by climate change. The oceans are now 25% more acidic, due to some of that extra carbon dioxide turning into carbonic acid when it's absorbed by the oceans. All ocean chemistry is now influenced by climate change. Our bodies strictly regulate our internal chemistry, including pH, yet many people seem to think we can radically alter the earth's chemistry without consequence.

If the universe were patrolled by police, the earth and its drivers would be arrested for DWI.


When it comes to terrorism and drunk driving, the potential for harm is considered sufficient to take action. Contrast that mindset with the tortured and timid suggestions that climate change can in part be blamed for the destructiveness of recent hurricanes and wildfires.

Using Climate Think, a drunk driver could argue that his accident was minor compared to many accidents caused by sober drivers. He'd point out that many drunk drivers make it home safely, and there's no way it can be definitively proved that his alcohol levels caused the accident.

You can see these sorts of rationalizations being used in news coverage of climate change quoted below: "the possible role climate change played..", and "climate change is not necessarily causing specific fires to occur." Imagine the same sort of apologist approach being used to report on drunk driving.

An editorial in the Washington Post: This editorial has a brave headline, but then gets very timid, with its "time to talk" and "possible role" and "measures the nation should take."

See it, say it: Climate change
"While California prepares for what promises to be an arduous rebuilding, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other places hit by this year’s unprecedented back-to-back-to-back hurricanes are still mopping up and, in Puerto Rico’s case, just beginning to rebuild. So it would seem to be a natural time to talk about the possible role climate change played in these disasters and about measures the nation should be taking to slow global warming."
An article in the NY Times: It would be interesting to see a news report state that alcohol levels accounted for half of a driver's weaving on the road, or half of a deadly accident.

California’s Wildfires: Why Have They Been So Destructive?
Researchers from the University of Idaho and Columbia University published a study last year saying that climate change had caused more than half of the dryness of Western forests since 1979. 
Parched landscapes can increase fire size and duration, said Scott L. Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. 
But it is important to note, he added, that climate change is not necessarily causing specific fires to occur. Wildfires are a natural part of a forest’s life cycle and have been part of the state’s history since long before anyone called it California.

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