Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Groundhog Day & The Climate of Fear

Good environmental policy?
Have you noticed that those who want to be our leaders would not mention the global warming induced climate change during the presidential debates (see New Climate Catastrophe Policy: Triage - 9)?

It had been debated in every presidential debate since 1988 (ibid).

This fear on the part of leaders and the media has led to a lack of understanding of the nature of what is happening concerning, for example, Hurricane-Superstorm Sandy.

It has a lot of people asking questions that the people who should be answering those questions want to run from, and regular readers know that Dredd Blog is not afraid to ask those questions, but likewise is not the only source to have wondered or asked why the leaders are now becoming afraid to discuss global warming induced climate change:
This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Dr. Jeffry Sachs was asked "why didn't the presidential candidates discuss climate change in the debates", to which he replied "they are terrified of the oil companies."
(MOMCOM: The Private Parts - 4). Well, fear is not a valid reason to fail to face up to the challenging question, so let's consider the issue of cause, and let's do it without fear:
Yes, global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy -- and the Midwest droughts and the fires in Colorado and Texas, as well as other extreme weather disasters around the world. Let's say it out loud, it was causation, systemic causation.

AGW 'caused' Hurricane Sandy
Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer. HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS. Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents. Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.

There is a difference between systemic and direct causation. Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation. When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.

Systemic causation, because it is less obvious, is more important to understand. A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism. In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled.

Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.
(Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy, Lakoff). The lack of understanding about systemic causation injects a paralysis that takes the solution out of the picture (see also It's Global Warming, Stupid).

Instead of presenting and discussing the solution, fear traps us within a macabre realm of being able only to suffer the consequences of fossil fuel pollution over and over again, like the Groundhog Day movie plot.

The difference between the Groundhog Day movie and our current suffering of environmental catastrophes is that after each repeated catastrophe we are worse off because of the damage.

Thus, soon enough we will not be able to repair the damage because of the crippling costs that we will have to repeatedly bear.

The next post in this series is here.

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