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

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.

Ruth,  Those charts are all well and good, but they don't show the whole picture. As referenced in the article, much fanfare was accompanied with the release six months ago of climate data that only went to 2010 which looks like what that chart belongs to.  It goes on to mention that the temperature increases in that time frame have been erased by the current temps and we are at a net zero increase now. The article I posted referenced a chart and data released just last week by a respected climate organization the MET Office that works with one of the main global warming proponants, Professor Phil Jones.  The time frames chosen for data compilation are very important to prevent a skewed result and it is interesting that only six months ago data was released which only went to the end of 2010, when the data for the present is also available.

Another inportant point in the article and a recent response to me by you, you mentioned that a ten year flat line in temperature increases isn't significant and from the article it mentions what Professor Jones said in e-mails:

"Yet he insisted that 15 or 16 years is not a  significant period: pauses of such length had always been expected, he said.

Yet in 2009, when the plateau was already  becoming apparent and being discussed by scientists, he told a colleague in one  of the Climategate emails: ‘Bottom  line: the “no upward trend” has  to  continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.’

But although that point has now been passed,  he said that he hadn’t changed his mind about the  models’ gloomy  predictions:  ‘I still think that the current decade which began in 2010  will be warmer by about 0.17 degrees than the previous one, which was warmer  than the Nineties.’

Only if that did not happen would he  seriously begin to  wonder whether something more profound might be  happening. In other words, though five years ago he seemed to be saying that 15  years without warming would make him ‘worried’, that period has now become 20  years."


So in terms of charts and data, I am referencing the most up to date stuff, and your chart looks like it ends with the 2010 data.

Another extremely important point is this point from the article: Like Prof Curry, Prof Jones also admitted that  the climate models were imperfect: ‘We don’t fully understand how to input  things like changes in the oceans, and because we don’t fully understand it you  could say that natural variability is now working to suppress the warming. We  don’t know what natural variability is doing.’


This is why so many people don't trust or believe the scientists that first claimed coming ice age in the 70's, global warming and polar ice melt in the 90's and just call it climate change today and blame it all on human behavior.  How can you have an accurate model for weather without taking into account the sun and oceans?  I'll tell you how, you can't!  They didn't put it into their models because they couldn't, they still don't understand it, so until I see some non-biased research by people that aren't seeking to make billions on green energy or get millions in funding sent to their departments, I won't believe that human behavior is the sole and worst cause of shifting climates and I refuse to fall into the religious fervor of the green movement in prophecying the end of the world because some people drive SUV's.

Like I said in my last post, If you want to clean the planet for the good of yourself and everyone else, more power to you, but leave the doom and gloom end of the world, we're all going to die in ten years if we don't use florescent bulbs stuff to the religious people. 

I don't like bullies, and that is what climate changers sound like to me.

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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

Here's another source about the climate change denier money trail, from US News.

It’s no secret that for nearly as long as scientists have spoken about climate change, energy companies have been funding conservative think tanks—CTTs in Beltway-speak—to create the impression that there is no scientific consensus on the topic. They have blitzed the airwaves and the bookshelves with pseudo-scientific fact-muddling written by non-specialists. For example, according to a 2008 study, of the 141 books denying the seriousness of environmental problems that have been published since 1972, 130 were published by CTTs or written by authors affiliated with them.

By contrast, 928 peer-reviewed articles were published in scientific journals between 1998 and 2002 adducing evidence proving the existence of human-caused climate change, and zero—zero!—were published contradicting it. If that’s not consensus, I don’t know what is.

Who are these so-called “climate skeptics”? As described in Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt,” they’re not climate scientists; they’re paid political lackeys.

For example, Steven Milloy, who co-authored the American Petroleum Institute’s 1998 plan to sow doubt and confusion about climate change, is also a Fox News commentator, a scholar at the Cato Institute, and a former lobbyist for Exxon, Philip Morris, the Edison Electric Institute, and Monsanto. He holds an undergraduate degree in natural sciences and an MA in health statistics, but no PhD and no climatology credentials. Yet he’s an “expert.”

Or take Dr. Timothy Ball, a former geography professor who’s published just four peer-reviewed journal articles, none of which addressed atmospheric science. Yet CTTs such as the Frontier Centre and the amusingly named Friends of Science say he has an “extensive science background in climatology.”

In short, nearly every climate skeptic been funded by the energy industry. [emphasis mine]

The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy to Lie About Climate Change Has Worked

So Ruth,

Does this mean that you are labeling  the MET Office, the UK's official meteorological weather service as a right wing climate denier service?

The research by the UK weather service, MET Office is scientific research.

As for the issue of "Zero-Zero" articles published proving human caused global warming doesn't exist, I rely on my regular argument and everyones common sense on the matter.  If a department has millions of dollars of grants at stake by proporting a unified point of view, then just like what is done with survey's, information that doesn't agree with the current line (anthropomorphic global warming) will be quashed, changed or hidden.

Humans are humans, and the same individuals that work in business also work in universities.  They will lie and cheat to get the funding that they need. If the researchers themselves are more honest than the department heads, just as lower management may be more honest than the CEO's, the department heads will keep certain articles from being published by researchers to ensure that their schools do not get reduced funding.  While I trust the work of researchers, I also know we do not get all of the research that is done, some is rejected simply because it doesn't tow the line.

If you can show that the MET Office is in the pockets of conservatives then maybe your post has an inkling of relevance to the new research data they released, otherwise it just looks like you are trying to change the subject from "an inconvenient truth." 

This redirecting towards anti-conservative viewpoints seems like some of the redirecting arguments creationists give when faced with scientific facts about evolution. And I reject religious fervor in life weather the god is some human like being, some gaia or the religion of global warming doom and gloom.

If I don't accept jesus I will go to hell and if I don't accept global warming I will burn on earth.

Robert, I cast no aspersions on the MET office. Any data source can be misrepresented. When someone pays attention to just the data they like and ignores everything else it’s propaganda, not science. The technique is called cherry-picking data. That doesn’t reflect on the original data source.

You have a very cynical view of how science is conducted, which doesn’t take into  account the self-correcting mechanisms built into it. Scientists have strong incentives to expose weaknesses in published science studies. If you can prove a colleague made a mistake or cheated, your reputation is guaranteed.

It’s also true that new studies that have positive results, rather than “no correlation found” are preferred by academic journals. Journals are less likely to publish studies that tried to replicate someone else’s research and don’t get the same results as the first study. That’s the bias of journal editors who want exciting findings that will make headlines, it’s NOT the bias of the scientists who got rejected for publication.

As far as I know, the main area in which research doesn’t get reported is studies by big pharma which don’t support claims that their drug works, and that’s not the doing of scientists doing the research (who sign confidentiality agreements). The corporations sponsoring the research quash those studies which might threaten their drug’s approval or profit.

Climate science isn’t sponsored by solar power or green investment companies, with scientists forced to sign confidentiality agreements. There’s a wide range of funding, some private university departments and many government agencies from different countries, and many scientists pay for their research out of their own pocket. Such sources are transparent, open to public scrutiny. Climate science integrates information from a huge variety of scientists, from deep sea monitoring from submersibles, to  satellites, to college professors studying plants and animals on their own time for decades in particular spots on many continents. Climate Denialist accusations of endemic corruption just aren’t plausible. Such accusations are personal attacks on the scientists, a propaganda tactic which comes in handy when the data can’t be refuted. I’ve personally known scientists, and none were getting rich from writing grants and doing studies. It was a living. They worked hard and cared about the truth.

You say

This redirecting towards anti-conservative viewpoints seems like some of the redirecting arguments creationists give when faced with scientific facts about evolution.

But Robert, from here it looks as if you are the one “redirecting arguments” when faced with scientific facts about climate change. Just because climate change predicts doom and gloom, doesn’t make taking it seriously religious fervor.

In fact we are all in the same boat, and those of us who saw it coming will experience the same consequences as those such as yourself who can’t believe climate science’s seemingly outrageous predictions. You're not the only one who finds accusations that thousands of professional scientists harbor malicious intent easier to believe than charts and models forecasting disaster.

Here's an article about this particular article, from a journalism perspective.

Climate change: journalism's never-ending fight for facts

... the art of "manufacturing doubt" has long been in the playbook of those hoping or needing to divert attention away from evidence. We saw it a generation ago with smoking, just as we see it today with climate change. But knowing how this blatant tactic is deployed doesn't make it any easier to nullify or deter. Compounding the problem is the speed at which "facts" can now spread unchallenged across the internet. Rebutting or contextualising inaccuracies takes expertise and, above all, time and energy.

This week has witnessed two text-book examples of this phenomenon in action. First, we had an article in the Mail of Sunday with the arresting headline that "Global warming stopped 16 years ago". Predictably, it was picked up and repeated across the world by news outlets keen to push that line. A day or so later the rebuttals and clarifications from scientists started to land, but the meme had already gained purchase with those seeking such confirmation.

What, for example, can realistically be done about David Rose and his periodic articles in the Mail on Sunday purporting to cast doubt on climate science? The Press Complaints Commission has confirmed to me that it has received complaints about the latest article's accuracy. But it adds that it takes, on average, 35 working days for it to investigate and adjudicate on such cases. How could that ever correct the fact that the story was picked up and repeated all around the world with hours? Will all those outlets publish any adjudication if, indeed, it rules against the Mail on Sunday? I think we already know the answer.

What about "punishing" the journalists who persistently mislead on climate change? Is exposing their mistakes and wilful misinformation enough? Or do they need to face some kind of tougher sanction?

How old will your children be in about 37 years? If we continue business as usual, the latest data say Earth will be "Hell on Earth", because it'll be 4°C hotter. And by the end of the century, during the lifetime of your grandchildren? 6°C hotter than today was the temperature of the Permian Extinction, the worst extinction ever, from which it took Earth 5 million years to recover.

... our current emissions trajectory is leading us: to a world 4 degrees C hotter, perhaps as soon as 2050; and perhaps even 6 degrees C hotter by the end of the century. Four degrees global temperature rise involves so many utterly catastrophic impacts — permanent droughts, large-scale shifts in agriculture, megastorms, rapid sea-level rise, ecosystem collapses, and so on (all triggering social instabilities) — that we can’t expect our global civilization to avoid serious disruptions, and in many places, long-term ruin. A world 4 degrees C hotter is, as some put it, “beyond adaption.” (A world 6 degrees C hotter is almost beyond comprehension: To conceive of a world 6 degrees warmer, imagine alligators in the Arctic.)

Our Climate Is Headed Toward 'Extremely Dangerous' or 'Catastrophic...

If you don't have time for the article, here's my related video less than 3 minutes long.

Global Ponzi Scheme Revisited: How Climate Inaction Betrays Our Chi...

Obama has now framed climate action and inaction in moral terms, as a betrayal of future generations.

... every generation that comes after the Baby Boomers is poised to experience the dramatic changes in lifestyle that inevitably follow the collapse of any Ponzi scheme.

This global Ponzi scheme is not just a metaphor ... but a central organizing narrative of how to think about the fix we have put ourselves in ....

In our case, investors (i.e. current generations) are paying themselves (i.e. you and me) by taking the nonrenewable resources and livable climate from future generations. To perpetuate the high returns the rich countries in particular have been achieving in recent decades, we have been taking an ever greater fraction of nonrenewable energy resources (especially hydrocarbons) and natural capital (fresh water, arable land, forests, fisheries), and, the most important nonrenewable natural capital of all — a livable climate.

We aren’t all Madoffs in the sense of people who have knowingly created a fraudulent Ponzi scheme for humanity. But given all of the warnings from scientists and international governments and independent energy organizations over the past quarter-century (see for instance IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming an...) — it has gotten harder and harder for any of us to pretend that we are innocent victims,...

In short, humanity has made Madoff look like a penny-ante criminal.

... the only way in which the global economy hasn’t become a Ponzi scheme is that everything being done is perfectly legal!

By most enriching those who did the most plundering, we enabled them to fund lobbying and disinformation campaigns to convince substantial fractions of the public and media that there is no Ponzi scheme — that global warming is “too complicated for the public to understand” and nothing to worry about.

And by “paying ourselves” with the wealth from future generations ... we cleverly took advantage of victims not yet born, those not able to even know they were being robbed.

Madoff is reviled as a monster for targeting charities. We are targeting our own children and grandchildren and on and on. What does that make us?




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