09 April 2017

Ask (the Deniers) and Ye Shall Be Answered

Isn't synchronicity a wonderful thing? Just a couple of days after wondering, in last week's post, what it will take for climate change deniers to see the light (or should I say, feel the heat?), a book arrived in the mail. This book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer, had been recommended by a friend, and it came as if to answer my question.

The inside front flap explains everything, quite succinctly:
[A] network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs — that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom — are sincerely held.
I would like to invite these "exceedingly wealthy" people to never again use public services like highways and hospitals that were built and paid for by a government (that is, by your taxes). I know that lots more things are privatized in the United States than they are in other countries, but you can't tell me the US Government does nothing with the tax money it receives. Mind you, if Americans had health care and public schooling like the rest of us in the developed world, they wouldn't be complaining about taxes. Instead, they have crumbling infrastructure, the most costly health care system in the world and one of the worst education systems in the OECD. And they (well, some of them) will fight to the death to maintain their rights to crumbling and costly and lousy. (I have to admit that I keep wondering why they feel they have to spend over half of their taxes on their military — to protect what? Crumbling, costly and lousy? And the illusion of freedom? That's some weird arithmetic!)

I was asking what it would take to change the minds and hearts of climate change deniers, but I see now that the problem is an extremely deep and viscerally felt sense of disconnectedness and insecurity that (they believe) only greed ("intense and selfish desire for something"), mammon and "winning" can fill. This philosophical illness even has a name: pleonexia.

My sense is that only extreme shock therapy will ever have any hope of transforming greedy, insecure people who feel no connection to the future, to other people or to the rest of Nature. Perhaps it's a game to them ... let's see how close to the edge we can go.
Data visualization by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief
Well, is this enough of a shock for them? Is four years close enough to the edge? A look (Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget) at carbon dioxide emission numbers for 2016 shows that we only have 4.1 years left (at current levels of emission) if we want to stay below 1.5ºC of global temperature increase. You've seen the havoc wreaked by 1ºC — how much more of this before even "exceedingly wealthy" people will start to be impacted? (If one single denier ever has the nerve to say, "Why didn't they warn us?" I will not be held responsible for socking them in the mouth!)

This CarbonBrief paper finally mentions something that my hubby and I have been promoting since 2014 when the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report came out. RCP2.6 is a "representative carbon pathway" (I call it Really Cool Plan 2.6) described as:
[a] "peak and decline" scenario where stringent mitigation and carbon dioxide removal technologies mean atmospheric CO2 concentration peaks and then falls during this century. By 2100, atmospheric CO2 reaches around 420 parts per million (ppm) – about 20 ppm above current levels. In this scenario, global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.3-1.9ºC above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Note that RCP2.6 is the only scenario that will keep us below a 2ºC global temperature increase. And if that doesn't sound like much, remember that +2.0ºC, before it became bandied about as though it's a target we're aiming for, was suggested as a safety guardrail. 

Now consider this: Once you've hit the guardrail, it's almost always too late — you're already spinning out, caught up in a catastrophic accident. 1.5ºC is those little bumps that wake you up when you fall asleep at the wheel and start swerving — oftentimes disastrously, sometimes luckily not. A 1ºC rise in global average temperature is the equivalent of all the lines painted on the road that we need and ought to stay within. And we're there already. If we keep veering all over the road, we're all going to die. Including the climate change deniers and the "exceedingly wealthy."
Photo by Roger Gendron

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?