Saturday, June 14, 2014

An American quirk.

There is a turn of phrase that appears in American dialogue on climate change.  "Tipping Point".  It occurs most in the publications which are just coming to terms with the reality of climate change but are not yet ready to accept the full ramifications of it.  It masks a denialism, accepting the cause but not the effects.  

The phrase is nearly always used in the context of, we're OK as long as our carbon burning slows down before we hit X tipping point.  The tipping point is seldom defined, and without a doubt shifted since editorials have started employing that term.  It exists in the writers' assumptions that said tipping point is a discrete moment in time, a discrete carbon dioxide concentration.  A situation before which things are alright after which things have hit the fan.  To give your society permission not to change because an undefined milestone on the road to chaos has not been reached yet is immoral.  

Yet that is what is done.  Those authors declare we are on the brink, standing on a cliffs edge, but as long as we have one foot on solid ground we can walk back to safety.  NO.  The effects of climate change are already here, they are heterogeneous and long term.  For the low lands the tipping point for sea level rise has been crossed, in a thousand years, Holland, Florida, and Bangladesh will be footnotes.  So I don't know what you define as a meaningful tipping point. 

The irony is, that in the book Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell dissects various things that from a distance appeared to be tipping points.  The truth that came out that it was an appearance not the reality.  The reality was the phenomenon had been around, and documented for some time, by the time it reached the tipping point in the public perception it was a massive thing.  So Mr. opinion writer, how many Australia's do we have to light on fire, and how many Maldives* worth of people do we have to displace before you declare a tipping point crossed.  

So to those who advocate delaying action till we cross some hypothetical tipping point you shall be cursed as follows.  
      May your descendants live in poverty on a flood plain.

*Maldive. the author's informal unit of sea level rise drive population displacement. When the lowest lying island is abandoned permanently due to rising oceans, that displaced population constitutes one Maldive.  It had the unfortunate problem that the unit will increase over time.  As the oceans continue to rise larger areas will be ill suited for habitation and more people will move.      
End Rant

No comments:

Post a Comment