There are two money quotes in Amanda Leigh Mascarelli’s excellent Nature piece. The first is from Jimmie Powell, a policy expert at The Nature Conservancy:
If we are to prevent serious, damaging climate change, it will require one of the largest land-use changes in the history of the country.
The second is from conservation biologist Martha Groom:
I’m someone who believes that habitat change is as big a threat to our world today and our society as is climate change.
This is a seductive analogy:
If astronomers spotted a huge asteroid with a 99.9 probability of hitting the Earth in 100 years, should we ignore it until we’re 100.0% certain of its trajectory?
The only problem is that scientists can’t predict what the worst impacts of global warming will be in 2109. I think the “Fire insurance” analogy is a better fit. But that doesn’t seem to be in the climate activist playbook. Not dramatic enough, I suppose.
And here I thought all along that Romm was leading by example with those endless Memos to the Media, nasty hominem attacks, and repetitive self-referencing to his own previous blog posts.
There was a recent deceptively simple comment on Climate Progress that captures just how hard it will for climate advocates to rely on “messaging” as their secret weapon:
Tackling climate change means mobilizing the country (and the world) much like efforts involved in WWII. That will involve motivating substantially more people and institutions than are involved now. The usual partisan lenses are not helpful in this context.
That sounds about right to me. Yet how do you motivate a country or world when the enemy is a complex, amorphous, slow moving event like human-induced climate change? Hitler and Mussolini and Pearl Harbor were strong motivating forces. Global warming, despite its potentially catastrophic impacts, presents no such clear and present danger. There’s no way around that. So how do you “message” that?
For good measure, consider that we’re still fighting two wars that, as Bob Herbert recently observed, are now virtually ignored by most Americans:
There’s an economy to worry about and snappy little messages to tweet. Nobody wants to think about young people getting their faces or their limbs blown off. Or the parents, loaded with antidepressants, giving their children and spouses a final hug before heading off in a haze of anxiety to their third or fourth tour in the war zones.
Herbert has written often and eloquently about the lack of shared sacrifice with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding the latter, he writes in his latest column that
if this war, now approaching its ninth year, is so fundamental, we should all be pitching in. We shouldn’t be leaving the entire monumental burden to a tiny portion of the population, sending them into combat again, and again, and again, and again …
The same goes for stopping the buildup of greenhouse gases. If it’s that monumental, then it should be something most citizens buy into. But if Americans have little shared purpose regarding two wars being fought in their names, imagine how difficult it will be motivating them to tackle climate change?
So yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing how Romm plans to “message” the war on climate change.
Kudos to Curtis Brainard over at The Observatory for his criticism of the media’s latest round of “overly alarming” swine flu coverage, which was driven by the recent White House report. As Brainard notes,
The worst offender was perhaps USA Today. The White House report clearly states””many times, and at one point in big, capital letters””that the scenario it lays out is “a possibility, not a prediction.” Yet, on Monday, the nation’s mostly widely distributed newspaper decided to run the headline, “U.S. report predicts 30,000 to 90,000 deaths from H1N1 deaths.“(The italics are mine.)
A few days ago I woke up to that USA Today story somewhere in Indiana, numb from my cross-country drive back to NY. But that headline sure did jolt me to attention. I fretted about Swine Flu the rest of the way home. Maybe if the Hampton Inn coffee was stronger I would have been more discerning.
Ah, the nostalgia of those summertime DDT showers:
My friends and I would dash along behind the jeep, running in and out of the gassy cloud, breathing in the strong odor of the insecticide as droplets condensed on our clothes and skin.
This is an indelible memory for many baby boomer Americans. I once heard John Opie, an environmental historian I studied with, recall a similar boyhood experience–he and his friends running under a lowlying crop-duster as it delivered its DDT payola.