Friday, December 08, 2006

Climate Truth in Chaos?

Photos from the I Count - Stop Climate Chaos event where 25,000 packed into an unseasonably sunny Trafalgar Square.

I was reading today Mike Hulme’s article on BBC Online, where he talks about how the rhetoric of climate change catastrophe is in danger of tipping society onto a negative, depressive and reactionary trajectory.

He argues, on the occasion of the massive Stop Climate Chaos event last month in London, and I quote, that the increasing use of the word “catastrophic”, "chaotic", "irreversible", "rapid" - has altered the public discourse around climate change and that it is not is not the language of science. Its not just campaigners anymore, but politicians and scientists too, that are actively ignoring the careful hedging which surrounds science's predictions? Catastrophic language will not be visible in the next assessment by the IPCC and the current scenarios of future climate change are significant enough without having to invoke society into behavioral change.

But isn’t that what we scientists should try to invoke?

I mean, shouldn’t we try and convince people, by publicly presenting scientific evidence (because most people today, that have no climate scientific background for example will never read the IPCC report or visit the CRU or Tyndall Center’s websites), that they have to alter some of their daily behaviors? To try sustainable living, in order to contribute less to climate change from a household point of view – because everything starts from there.

For example, we can conserve energy at home via energy efficient appliances, or seek alternative means of transport (public transport, carpooling etc) - to go to work, or try recycling; composting; use of renewable electricity and so many other simple measures one can take and turn them into a habit for them and their kids.

Now the industrial sector is a whole different ballgame, simple arguments are not enough because there is serious money involved. They need either massive incentives or penalties in order to comply with emissions reductions legislation etc.

So don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the utmost respect for Mike Hulme and his work ever since I started studying climate change, but I think we do have to be militant to some degree about climate change, now the line where it turns into a soap-opera is thin, but maybe we shouldn’t be so judgmental of the climate campaigners or NGOs and join them instead.

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