Parents Need to Act Against Climate Change for Their Kids’ Sake

Mark Hertsgaard says most parents are in soft denial about Climate Change. His fears for his daughter's future manifest in a nightmare, " 7-year-old daughter, Chiara, and I who were crossing the street, frozen in place, as the climate train bore down upon us."

[The nightmare illustration I made doesn't show his daughter.]

Today’s parents don’t vote as if the climate matters.

...I think there are three main reasons for parents’ surprising passivity.

First, many parents don’t know, or choose not to believe, what science says about the climate threat.  Most people get their information about such matters from the news media, and media in the U.S. report climate change through political rather than scientific lenses.

Second, if parents do face the facts, they understandably find them depressing. Who wants to think about their kids inheriting such a perilous future? It’s easier to pretend it isn’t happening.

This is especially true given the third reason: a widespread belief that there is nothing one can do to change the situation. The problem is too big, the political system too broken, the polluters too powerful.

As a result, many parents end up practicing what I call “soft denial.” Not to be confused with the denial purveyed by right-wing ideologues, soft denial does not reject climate science per se. No, a soft denier accepts the science, at least intellectually. But because climate science’s implications are so disturbing, the soft denier acts as if the science does not exist. In psychological terms, such a parent is in denial.

...nothing is more urgent than changing the strongest drivers of climate change: the government policies and corporate practices that push greenhouse-gas emissions ever higher. Under current rules, polluters can emit greenhouse gases for free; worse, they’re subsidized with billions of tax dollars. Until that stops, individual lifestyle choices won’t make much difference.

We’re launching a group that aims to mobilize parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who cares about young people.

For now, we’re calling our group Climate Parents, because we believe that taking action on climate change has become part of every parent’s job description, just like providing proper food, clothing, and shelter. [emphasis mine]

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Replies to This Discussion

Good article Ruth. We need to start thinking ahead.

How old will your kids be in 2030? Take a look at the second chart from The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), showing how the US will be. Worse than the Dust Bowl. And it won't be a temporary condition, but a stage toward even more horrible conditions.

Climate Change and Your Kids

...your kids like to eat ...! As climate change worsens, droughts and extreme weather like we’ve seen recently will put even greater strain on our agriculture system– impacting the price, quality, and quantity of food.

Every parent has to make sense of what's happening in their own way, and protect their family as best they can. It's true there's an element of Armageddon thinking involved as we try to grasp what the data are telling us. If you don't respect scientific projections, John, on what better source than climate science do you rely to predict what's in store for your family as earth warms?

A comment by CHUCK GASPAROVIC re: "The earth is warming... I agree.  but... their projections and computer models are shit."

...political groups on the right, and the media they control... are right about the limitations of models. No model can predict with certainty the future of something as complex as the global climate and ecosystem, and climate models are particularly problematic to test. But it turns out all of science is based on models, including the science that led to smartphones or cancer drugs. The important thing is that the models themselves are based on real data and any inherent assumptions are supportable. The acceptance of one model or another – whether quantum mechanics, evolution, or climate change – is a matter of consensus by the specialists in the field about which best accounts for the data. [emphasis mine]

Climate Change Complacency


Robert, you say

What this issue really is, is a large scale scam by political leftists that desire government money.  The scientists that work on weather are often overlooked in importance and their funding was always on the chopping block due to people understanding that weather must take a back seat in funding due to more pressing science issues.  So how do climatologists and their institutes guarantee they get funding and stay a top priority?  Change the numbers just a bit and say the world is going to end like the religious nutters always do.

Were that true, the predictions made by climate scientists years ago would by now be proved wrong. What's happening is that things are even worse than they predicted.

Human-driven climate change is to blame for a series of increasingly hot summers and the situation is already worse than was expected just two decades ago, a top Nasa scientist said on Saturday.

James Hansen, who directs the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in the Washington Post that even his “grim” predictions of a warming future, delivered before the US Senate in 1988, were too weak.

“I have a confession to make: I was too optimistic,” Hansen wrote. [emphasis mine]


Climate change scientist: I was too optimistic

Since you claimed 99% of Climate Scientists are not doing real science, I checked the scientific credentials of your source.

Godfather Politics doesn't speak for the scientific community, Robert. I couldn't find any mission statement for them, or institution of origin, or address. It just seems to be a conservative political site without public affiliation. This lack of accountability does not impress me. If you want something you can get your hands on, that doesn't evaporate when you look closely,

try the National Academy of Sciences, where you will find

... America's Climate Choices, a series of studies requested by Congress. The committee that authored the report included renowned scientists and engineers, economists, business leaders, an ex-governor, a former congressman, and other policy experts.

Did you look at the scientific credentials of your author, Gary DeMar? His website

has this mission statement:

American Vision’s (AV’s) mission has been to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation since 1978. We realize that this task requires a strategy to “Make disciples (not just converts) of all nations and teach them to obey and apply the Bible to all of life”

So basically you accept the claims of Christians who want to make a disciple of you, so you will obey and apply the Bible to all of life, on their say-so, no evidence required. But at the same time you cast out the consensus of thousands of credentialed scientists doing actual data collection, under the critical scrutiny of their peers.

Who do you trust, Robert Brown, with your children's future? When science and religion-based politics disagree, why do you so easily trust religion-based climate denial? You wouldn't be here if you couldn't question. You cast out religion once. But you didn't notice it pulling the strings behind this curtain.

Thanks for your appreciation of my other posts here. I really mean that. When so few discussions receive any response I sometimes feel as if my interest is unwelcome.

Robert D. Stolorow at Huffington Post attributes widespread indifference to the threat climate change poses to our children to narcissism. His condemnation of our generation is more severe than Mark Hertsgaard.

Climate Change, Narcissism, Denial, Apocalyptic Anxiety

On October 5, 2012, on the front page of The Huffington Post, appeared a terrifying image of melting arctic ice, accompanied by the chilling headline, "Arctic Ice Melt and Sea Level Rise May Be 'Decades Ahead Of Schedule.'" Why have the majority of Americans and American politicians been largely oblivious to this extreme threat? I believe there are two principal reasons.

The first is unbridled narcissism. Psychoanalytic developmental theorist Erik Erikson famously characterized an essential aim of adulthood as generativity -- the caring for the well being of future generations. Climate change most likely will not be a threat for most of us, but it will leave our children, grandchildren, and future descendants with catastrophes of unimaginable proportions. In the deplorable obliviousness and indifference to the problem of climate change, any concern for the well being of future generations is being blatantly trumped by narrow self-interest and greed. [emphasis mine]

In short, Stolorow says we're failing an essential part of adulthood.

Climate Change is bumpy over the short term, but that doesn't mean the long term average isn't rising. Sulfur particles from China's coal burning create a haze that temporarily cools, and two natural cycles are in their cooling phases. But sulfur falls out fairly quickly while the C02 from coal burning stays in the air a very long time. Don't count on this to turn into a long term trend and save us from Climate Change.

When you step back to see longer term temperature change, the ten year flat period doesn't seem as significant.

Why global temperatures held steady for 10 years

A major reason for this is the rise in coal use in China. This produces a lot of sulphur particles, which cool the global climate. This more-or-less cancelled out the warming effect of the greenhouse gas emissions.

That shouldn't come as a surprise. It's well-established that aerosol particles can have a major impact on the climate. In south-east Asia, particularly China and India, there is often a "brown haze" of pollution that has an overall cooling effect on the planet.

With the two human-produced effects cancelling each other out, natural variation in the climate took hold. As it happened, two of the natural trends were towards cooling.

The first was the El Niño Southern Oscillation(ENSO), a cyclic change in the behaviour of the Pacific Ocean. 1998 saw the system in an extreme state, so the Pacific dumped a lot of heat into the atmosphere and surface temperatures spiked as a result. Since then ENSO has gone in the other direction, so the Pacific has taken heat from the atmosphere.

And the second shift came from the sun, which goes through a regular 11-year cycle of changing activity. From a peak in 2000, solar activity fell steadily to a low in 2007, so it sent less radiation our way.

Consider us lucky, for the past decade, what with extreme weather and Arctic ice melting. When the temperature starts rising again extreme weather and ice melting will accelerate. Meanwhile, rising ocean acidity, which is just as important a Climate Change problem as global temperature, has been steadily getting worse.
Keep in mind that pH going down (the light aqua line) means getting more acidic.

image from

Ocean acidity increasing at unprecedented rate not seen in last 300...

This article will probably be more helpful to understand what's misleading about the article you cited, Robert. Ten Charts That Make Clear The Planet Just Keeps Warming

In particular this chart.

As you're concerned about the missing data from 2012, Robert, here's a chart showing  the year to date temperature percentiles.

With the transition of La Niña early in the year to ENSO-neutral conditions, the average 2012 year-to-date global temperature for land and oceans combined has increased each month since February. For the year-to-date (January-August), the temperature was 0.56°C (1.01°F) above the 20th century average, marking the ninth warmest such period on record. [from AccuWeather] [emphasis mine]

I didn't respond to all of the questions you raised in my last reply.

There was no scientific consensus in the 1970's that an ice age was coming.

In the thirty years leading up to the 1970s, available temperature recordings suggested that there was a cooling trend. As a result some scientists suggested that the current inter-glacial period could rapidly draw to a close, which might result in the Earth plunging into a new ice age over the next few centuries.

In fact, as temperature recording has improved in coverage, it’s become apparent that the cooling trend was most pronounced in northern land areas and that global temperature trends were in fact relatively steady during the period prior to 1970.

By 1980 the predictions about ice ages had ceased, due to the overwhelming evidence contained in an increasing number of reports that warned of global warming. Unfortunately, the small number of predictions of an ice age appeared to be much more interesting than those of global warming, so it was those sensational 'Ice Age' stories in the press that so many people tend to remember. [emphasis mine]

What were climate scientists predicting in the 1970s?


I wouldn’t make too much about a discrepancy of 5 years when someone is giving a ballpark figure of when he’d worry their predicted trend had disappeared in an email to a colleague rather than published data. When you're just chatting about how you feel with a colleague via email, do you always use exactly the same numbers from one year to the next?


You say

How can you have an accurate model for weather without taking into account the sun and oceans?

Solar cycles aren't ignored in models. But, since 1985 the influence of greenhouse gases has been more powerful in influencing Earth's temperature than solar input. While the sun was at a minimum temperatures were rising rather than falling.

Solar Cycle Length/Global Warming Link Broken Since 1985

We're in solar cycle 24, which is weaker than usual.

As far as I know science can't yet predict the strength or timing of a solar cycle until it's started. Solar Cycle Prediction

I think we can only approximate cycle 25 or 26, our knowledge of the sun is too limited to quantitatively predict solar input many years in advance for climate models. A climate change denier can always insist climate models must be biased unless they're more precise, and even more precise, etc. Please keep in mind that the deniers aren't providing fact based evidence with greater quantitative validity than the climate scientist community, they're just attacking the science any way they can. Charges of bias based on profit motive, that climate scientists "make billions on green energy or get millions in funding sent to their departments", are ad hominum attacks. The real money trail goes from climate deniers to fossil fuel industries.

I also failed to address the lack of data for 2011.

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

NASA Finds 2011 Ninth-Warmest Year on Record




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