Monday, April 18, 2016
The Climate Change Hiatus and the Weird Presentism of Political Debate
The climate change debate is a good example of a big problem with human thinking in general, a problem that makes it very difficult for us to deal with problems like global warming. Our thinking is far too short term. Both people terrified of climate change and people who dismiss the whole thing as a hoax spend way too much time and effort arguing over whether the world was warmer in 2010 than in 2000, when the only serious answer is, who cares? What matters is the trend since 1850 when we really began pumping CO2 from fossil fuels into the atmosphere, and that trend is up.
2 level has soared in recent decades while the plant has warmed only a little. Is that because some other mechanism cancels out the effect of all that greenhouse gas? Or is it because the change is just taking some time to work its way through the system? Most scientists are betting on the latter, and if they are right we are in for terrible trouble.
And one thing we know about the climate is that it does not generally warm or cool in smooth curves, but like a flight of stairs, with periods of rapid change separated by periods of stasis. So even if we are in a pause, that in no way implies that we won't start warming rapidly in a year or two.