Weather or Not

HeadlineHurricane Irene hits the East Coast of U.S. No reason to get excited, hurricanes happen and the hype is often worse than the event. If this were the only weather-related headline we could go back into hibernation as we usually do when something that we’d rather ignore calls for our attention. But in little over six months there have been disastrous tornadoes, historic floods, enormous wildfires, a sizzling heat wave, unanticipated earthquakes, disruptive volcanoes and widespread drought. And some of these are happening in very surprising locations. Climatologist Bill Patzert, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, terms the current situation, “global weirding.” Of particular significance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released figures showing temperatures in the U.S. over the last decade were about 1.5 degrees warmer than the temperatures of the 1970s.

Even a small change in the weather can have a dramatic affect on how we live our lives. Rising temperatures impact energy consumption, food supply, construction costs, travel arrangements, species extinction etc. Maybe we better start paying attention!

Despite an overwhelming number of climate scientists warning that global warming is real and caused largely by human activities, a small minority of dissenters is loud and relentless. They provide cover for the majority of us who would like to avoid being inconvenienced or face further uncertainties in an already unsettling decade. Like debt and deficits, we’d rather pretend they’re not a problem or leave it to the next generation to worry about. Is there a pattern here? What beliefs are driving our behavior? Are they accurate and what are some of the ramifications if our inaction turns out to be a momentous mistake?

The first belief is that the large majority of scientists viewing global warming as a real danger requiring immediate action aren’t credible or accurate. The second belief is that doing what needs to be done to stabilize the climate would cost too much in terms of job losses and economic disruptions. The third belief is that we can ignore this threat without paying a significant price in the future.

We are trying to keep these posts as short and to the point as possible. So we will examine the accuracy of these beliefs and their likely consequences in the next post. We welcome your feedback on short vs. long posts as well as anything else that is relevant.

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