Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Ugliest Thing- Doing Nothing About Climate Change

I love this wet, muddy weather. There's fog coming from the woods and the lakes and water dripping from every branch of the maples surrounding the house and the eave of the wood shed as I gather logs to stoke the two wood stoves. The thermometer is hovering right at the freezing mark, but what's coming down from the upper atmosphere is distinctly unfrozen. This is a maritime climate day in what should be the continental cold belt of North America's east coast. It's beautiful, but unsettling, a marker of the changes sweeping the globe that herald grave dangers in the years ahead. The damage has been done already, not just 200 years of industrial output in the developed world based on burning the planet's cheap, plentiful millennial stores of sun energy in the form of oil, coal and natural gas, but the seeds of social confusion and mistrust as the oil industry and its allies have managed to stalemate any possible consensus on what to do about global warming caused in large measure by the thickened belt of insulating carbon accumulating in the upper atmosphere, a result of our profligate, promiscuous and prodigal burning spree. International conventions called for the last 25 years have gotten us nowhere, and the latest round of Doha talks seem about to break up without an agreement once again on how to proceed other than continue to talk about talking about the problem. The absurdity of the bureaucratic pace of negotiations is evident to anybody paying attention. It seems that the human race is hopelessly mired in egotistical one-upsmanship, unable to summon the collective will to save itself. Where does the blame lie? Despite bleating from the political class that the Chinese or the Indians, or whoever, is making an agreement impossible, I believe that future generations will have little difficulty seeing that Americans, overfed, bloated, dysfunctional victims of our own prosperity, failed in our self-appointed role of world leaders at this most crucial juncture. The funny thing is how beautiful failure can look and how comfortable it can feel. That could just be a temporary illusion, however as the economic pain from climate change begins to sink in to the collective nervous system. Here in my town, dependent on the ski industry for a large chunk of our revenues, how many responsible adults are looking out at the landscape and seeing another disastrous year for the ski, snowboard, and ice-fishing aficionados that fund our town's essential services? More than a few,  I'm guessing. Not much further afield, acidification of the oceans caused by carbon deposition is creating havoc in the shellfish industry of neighboring states. It looks increasingly like doing nothing about global warming and its consequent climate change will be the ugliest thing we never did.
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