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Just-released National Climate Assessment ain’t no foolin’ around

The point about Climate Change that we should have understood long ago is that we need to stop Climate Change before we can actually feel the effects.
The point about Climate Change that we should have understood long ago is that we need to stop Climate Change before we can actually feel the effects.
Photo by Frank J. Regan

The most ominous part of the just-released National Climate Assessment (NCA) is that while proving Climate Change has moved firmly into the present, which finally gets the attention of many who thought this issue only involved the distant future, it also portends an awful truth: By the time you can feel the effects of Climate Change, it’s probably too late to stop them. Sea rise, extreme weather, longer-hotter summers with dangerous heat waves, and more disease-carrying, crop-eating bugs are not changes you can stop or reverse. Nor is this new normal, bad as it is, a static state. More than likely, it’s a spiral into a cascading collapse of some critical environmental service we need—like breathable air, drinkable water, and arable land.

The point about Climate Change that we should have understood long ago is that we need to stop Climate Change before we can actually feel the effects. Climate Change is about planning, and because we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into inaction for so long, much that we thought we could avoid becomes inevitable. Much that we thought we could fix becomes impossible. More delay in action, means more consequences of Climate Change that cannot be stopped. Read Overview: “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.” National Climate Assessment

In order to accomplish climate messaging so that everyone hears, much needs to be done quickly. A relatively few onboard won’t do. We must break through the political Surreal Zone so we can message warming without triggering a knee-jerk denial reaction where environmentalists have to come up with talking points for science. [That last link is a shameless ploy to highlight an interview I had with Time Warner Cable News Service on the NCA this week.]

Actually, given the GOP’s reluctance to even admit warming is occurring, what is even more startling about the United States Global Change Research Program’s release of the NCA, is that President Reagan began our country’s response to the then-consensus that global change, including Climate Change, was going to seriously challenge our country’s ability to prepare for the future.

“President Ronald Reagan created—and Congress in 1990 codified—the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP or Program), charged with providing a “comprehensive and integrated United States research program to assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” THE NATIONAL GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PLAN 2012–2021

The designers of the NCA focused on messaging because they hoped many folks would actually view the study, instead of allowing their favorite pundits to frame this issue. That is critical because much of the misinformation, and denial, which is to say, much of the delay that has kept us doing something significant, is a result of those trying to thwart the rest of us from doing something. Really, check out the actual website of the National Climate Assessment and spend some time there. Many have spent a lot of time trying to make it as information-accessible and friendly as possible. Climate Change is complicated and can only be dumbed down so much.

Can We Talk About the New NCA Website? This week’s release of the National Climate Assessment, which chronicles in painstaking detail how climate change is affecting the U.S., is a far cry from what most expect when they hear the words “government report.” The NCA represents the first major digital release of a federal report, one that could be a prototype for all future reports. The new assessment reflects the immersive digital experience most people expect in 2014. The site is beautifully designed, easy to navigate, and dare we say,modern. A silent looping video of palm trees whipping in the wind introduces a chapter on extreme weather, and interactive graphics abound, allowing users to delve into key climate change indicators in as much detail as they want. And you can actually look at it on a cell phone without squinting or wanting to smash your screen in frustration. It’s a far cry from slogging through static pages or links to PDFs. For lovers of print, yes, you can still download a hard copy of the entire 840-plus page report, But for the vast majority of Americans, that holds about as much appeal as standing in line at the DMV. (May 8, 2014) Climate Central

Why is Obama putting so much effort into getting the word out about this study? Why are the Democrats freaked out about this? Why are Republicans so dismissive of the study? Why hasn’t your media changed its climate-denial frame of mind when 97% of the climate scientists agree that manmade Climate Change is happening because of too much fossil-fuel use? Why is so much being made in the media of this one climate study when there are so many? Maybe Obama decided that giving into the loony GOP attitude on Climate Change any more was nuts. Maybe President Obama has seen the light and finally realized his bully pulpit is the bulliest pulpit there is, given US power and influence.

I don’t know. These are not the questions we should be asking. What we should be asking is how are we going to get greenhouse gases down to a sustainable level? Anything else is just prevaricating.

It took forty years for us to ‘see’ Climate Change and ‘get’ that we are the culprit. We don’t have the luxury of wasting another forty years trying to figure out why we’re not doing what it takes to fix this. If you’re a parent, there’s a time in the life of your child where your child asks “why” each time you ask her to do something. Eventually, parents learn to ignore the “why’s and move ahead.

The Paris Climate Change talks are coming up in 2015. This twenty-first attempt to have a meaningful world-wide conversation about this crisis could be a make or break situation for planet Earth. That’s where we (humanity) will try to adopt a legally binding agreement to keep global temperature increase below 2°C. And many climate scientists believe even 2°C is too high.

Like the Talking Heads put it: “This Ain't No Party... This Ain't No Disco... This Ain't No Foolin' Around."

BTW: One of the best Climate Change adaptation strategies for the City of Rochester is also one of the best kept secrets (so where is the local media n this?). In a recent study from the Genesee Transportation Council released in March 2014 “Planning for Transportation and Climate Change: Model Ordinances, Incentives, and Other Resources” Rochester’s urban active transportation efforts have been heralded as a model for addressing Climate Change. You can find it starting on page 223.