Monday, October 21, 2013

We Need to Talk About Climate Now

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...
Temperature predictions from some climate models assuming the SRES A2 emissions scenario (Wikipedia)
by Lyn Bender, Online Opinion:

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

Even in our current environment of avoidance and reluctance to discuss the reality of climate change, it's hard to ignore the climate when NSW is on fire.

The Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, proposes that it is unseemly and insensitive to speak about climate change at a time like this.

With no hint of sardonic wit, Hunt condemns the 'politicisation' of tragedy, when after all climate change is the most politicised issue in the country alongside the tragedy of refugees, arriving by boat.

It seems that no time is the right time to discuss global warming, even as people are suffering from our failure to address climate change, or to prepare for its current manifestation.

There is no doubt that many people in NSW are suffering trauma and are in shock from the mega fires that are still raging.

This tragedy brings home the kind of suffering and horror that may become commonplace in a warming world. It is a horror movie right there on our big plasma screens.

Pyromaniacs, accidents and carelessness can start fires. But they only take hold in optimum conditions. That is why there is a declared fire season and warnings are issued.

How many right now, like Wendy Harmer in Sydney, are listening to their children coughing from the smoke at night and calculating how old they will be when the proverbial really hits the fan around 2050?

I have been kept awake at night for several years now with exactly those thoughts and calculations.

Recently my GP sought to identify a cluster of symptoms I reported to him, as being due to depression. But there is no DSM-V category for despair about climate change inaction.
In Victoria in 2009 we have had the harsh lesson of the Black Saturday fires.

A close member of my family, who is a fireman in Victoria, tells me that the Victorian Fire Service understands well, the link between catastrophe and climate change.

After Black Saturday, a new category; catastrophic fire conditions, came into the lexicon. Stay and defend, or go, included urgent advice to evacuate.

But understanding what lies ahead exacts a heavy emotional toll.

It's a big call, mourning for loss in a magnitude of billions. Not in mere dollars, although they will be collateral damage, in this war that we have declared on our earth. The billions will be counted in lives, tragedies, suffering and impoverishment.

In the loss of futures, hopes, safety, plants, animal species,ecosystems and of our only home. Many may try to flee, to remaining regions that may sustain life. But sanctuary will be temporary as the earth warms relentlessly .How many of us can Tasmania sustain anyway?

This is what will happen if we continue to ignore the warnings issued by science and the evidence of our senses.

The latest IPCC report leaves no doubt. The science is now absolutely settled, with 95 percent agreement amongst scientists: This is as close as science, committed to probabilities and caution, ever gets.

The world is warming and it is human induced. That's it. What's more its, very very bad news. By 2047 our coolest years will be warmer than our previous hottest years. And this will have set in as normal, our time of departure from the old normal if we continue on our current trajectory.

We face annihilation and because our way of life is geared to the maintenance of our reliance on unsustainable growth and the burning of fossil fuels, we are continuing on our path as surely as the Titanic to its nemesis, the iceberg.

The sinking of the Titanic has provided us with a lasting metaphor regarding the folly and hubris of believing in humanity's indestructability.

Like our fragile civilization, the Titanic sailed forth with its cargo of glitterati and luxury, bathed in willful ignorance of the dangers ahead, and graced with insufficient life boats. There was no plan B.

But it is not just the gullibility of the populace , and its desire to believe in the power of desire, who have brought forth a terrible fate. It's also those who profited from selling the tickets on that voyage , while saving the costs of complying with safety precautions.

I am not the first to note the irony of the unforgettable lesson of the Titanic that we continue to fail to remember. We are still ignoring warnings because the ship, in which we have invested, must sail.

There is a lot at stake and this time its loaded with coal: our planet's black death. This is the stuff that we can't afford to take out of the ground , much less export or burn.

Al Gore warns of a carbon bubble far more devastating than the sub prime mortgage bubble that precipitated the global financial crisis. Gore estimates that there are $7 trillion of oil assets on the books of multi national energy companies, that can never be realized.

It's a big job to mourn any loss.

In the local community rooms in the Edinburgh Gardens I and my fellow prophets of doom, sat contemplating the climate disaster that we are unable to avert.

The seemingly blissfully unaware, frolicked in full view, in the October sunshine. Some were kicking a ball around an oval with exuberant energy, or walking with their dogs, whose tails are optimistically erect, jogging, and emptying bottles and cans into the non recycle bin within our gaze.

We inside are sharing our rage and sorrow and feelings of utter helplessness Outside, life goes on in a boastful cliché, while we in our enclosure, know it won't just go on.

A blond muscled oiled man in glossy shorts, looking as though he belongs on Bondi South surf beach, stood outside the windows shading his eyes against the reflected glare of glass. He peered at us, the participants, seated in rows. He shook his head, then sprinted off into the sunshine.

We also shook our heads, locked inside, interrogating the question: How can psychology and the social sciences help us face the reality of climate change?

The speakers and participants came with the perspectives of psychology, anthropology, sociology, activism, behavioral research and yes an actual climate scientist.

All of us confirmed that we need to talk about climate change. Not in the way that we have till now. Not by arguing for and against the existence of climate change, or hiding behind political agendas that denounce attempts and measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Not by making the economy the cornerstone of all our deliberations, as though the economy is a living entity that can survive ecological collapse.

We need to talk about the hard stuff in order to reduce the worst stuff. While we deny and avoid, stupid maladaptive decisions are enacted. Such as the NSW Premier O'Farrell's $70 million cuts to fire stations at the start of an early and predictably dangerous fire season.

Nor is it congruent to cut clean energy grants or to cut or to remove any credible pathway to the necessary reductions of emissions.

The Abbott Direct Action "plan' to reduce emissions, while ditching a carbon price has been widely criticised as a costly vaguely enunciated sham, or less charitably as a dud.

At that the conference, I didn't find clear answers, except for in this.There can be little effective action, until when we face the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, about climate change.
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