Upcoming IPCC Report: Who Will Listen?

By David L. Brown

My co-author Val Germann in a posting here yesterday discusses possibilities concerning the upcoming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We await the new report with great interest. The last one was serious enough to raise the hairs on the back of our necks, and with all that has come to light in the past couple of years the new predictions are sure to be even more alarming.

But most ordinary people and certainly our political leaders and media paid little attention the last time, so it will be interesting to watch the reaction in 2007.

Some seem to think that the more scary the message, the less it will be heeded. This counter-intuitive idea may have some merit, since predictions that seem to defy credibility are easily discounted. The masses have become inoculated against the idea that global warming is a real threat. For one thing, they have been assured by their governments and ExxonMobil-financed “experts” that there is no reason for concern. Furthermore, they imagine that if the warnings are real they should see something truly dramatic happening, such as portrayed in the stupid movie The Day After Tomorrow (and they remain ignorant of the fact that dramatic things ARE taking place around them because they spend most of their time watching stupid movies, playing video games, or sharing ideas with other ignorant people instead of keeping up with events).

Most ordinary folks when they mention climate change seem to take it as a kind of joke, like Elvis sightings or the latest headlines on National Enquirer. They often seem to be either A) convinced that global warming would be a good thing, because they will be able to enjoy a Florida-like climate without having to move there; or B) declaring that because it was (fill in weather condition) at (fill in specific location) during (fill in specific time period), there is obviously no global warming (“it was really cold today, so there is no global warming”), OR, confoundingly, they might conclude the opposite (“it was really hot today, so global warming is real.”) Never do they seem to have the slightest inkling that climate change is far more complicated a question than whether they experienced a cool day or a warm one.

Well, if they wanted to understand what is happening, they should ask the polar bears. The bears can’t survive in a Florida-like climate, and they have surely noticed that the conditions in their Arctic home are changing fast and for the worse. Bears aside, one might even consider the reactions of residents of New York City, where yesterday, January 6, 2007 it was 70 degrees F. Those toasty-warm New Yorkers are delighted, no doubt, to already be enjoying a Florida-like climate in Gotham.

Predictions of the possible effects of global warming are rapidly becoming more serious, as we learn more about the operation of feedback effects. Now some scientists are saying that the planet may already be doomed and could quite quickly spiral into a heating event that could destroy civilization and even make humans and most advanced life on Earth extinct.

There is a chance the new IPCC report will warn us of something along those lines — and if they do, it is exactly the kind of thing to which Joe Sixpack cannot give any credence. Like most people, Joe makes the mistake of looking at the past and expecting that the future will be pretty much the same (except possibly better). Through most of human history that has been a fairly reasonable expectation, but it ill prepares us to confront sudden and exponential change which could come like a roller coaster ride to Hell.

Hmmm, a Hell-like climate? Interesting thought. No doubt THAT would get people’s attention.

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