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

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

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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