Pete Sinclair, he of the must-see Climate Denial Crock of the Week site, has perfectly summarized the brutal weather the US48 has endured in recent weeks and what it might mean for food production. If you haven’t seen it already, please spend a few minutes to do so now:
Humanity long ago squandered our chance of making a leisurely, comfortable, and cheap transition to a lower carbon economy. Had we begun that conversion in earnest the day James Hansen gave his famous Congressional testimony in 1988 it still would have been a very tough challenge. Instead, we ignored the warnings of scientists, listened to the liars who wanted our votes and our dollars, obeyed the dictates of our ancient programming that became wildly obsolete the moment we kicked off the agricultural revolution, and dashed toward the cliff, accelerating all the way.
We have, to put exactly the rusty, barbed point on it that it deserves, so utterly screwed ourselves that it’s impossible to tell people not already deeply engaged with the topic just how screwed we are. They either refuse to believe the details — the current level and trend of our CO2 emissions, CO2′s long atmospheric lifetime, the utter lack of serious action by any of the major emitters — or they ignore the message and go back to recycling their trash and changing their light bulbs all while muttering something about “doing my part” and “we’ll find a way to fix it in time”.
This includes many people I’ve spoken with online and in person who are exactly the ones we would expect to “get it”, the people who belong to various environmental groups, attend meetings, try to teach others, and generally live the enviro life. The problem is that they don’t grasp the depth, breadth, or inherent nature of climate change. And because they are doing “their part” but are so often hesitant to “get political”, they are the best friends that the fossil fuel companies and the climate change deniers could have imagined. They consume activist energy and produce nowhere near the level of change needed. Even worse, many of them spread the belief, however inadvertently, that those little steps, like recycling their trash and driving a Prius and changing their bloody light bulbs will somehow be enough. They even have a cutesy little slogan — “if we all do a little then together we’ll do a lot”. Well, that’s simply wrong, because within the context of what’s needed, if we all do a little then together we’ll have done far too little.
I am more convinced than ever that our only hope of avoiding truly catastrophic climate change — and I’m talking about many millions, possibly billions of deaths over several decades from starvation, with all the societal turmoil that implies — is for us to get “lucky” enough very soon to be kicked in the teeth by the environment so hard that we’ll do damn near anything to make it stop. But even a single horrible event won’t be enough; we’ve had plenty in the last decade and we continued to trundle on, determined to avoid connecting the flashing neon dots. No, what we will need is for the environment to knock us down and kick us in the ribs and stomach and head repeatedly, until the damage is so painful that we think we’re going to die. And even then it will take a level and nature of response that no one — and I repeat for the benefit of the people who troll this site looking for the non-existent proof of my extreme left-wing tendencies — not one person I know wants the kind of authoritarian, centralized control it will take to curb our emissions once we’ve crossed that line between bad and hideous impacts.
If I’m right, what is left for us to do? We can fight endlessly to nibble around the edges of climate change or more generally sustainability, but until we feel the infinitely cold hand of entropy begin to squeeze humanity’s heart, it’s all an exercise in farce.
 I’ve heard people suggest that hitting an atmospheric CO2 level of 400ppm, highly likely in a couple of years, would be a power wake-up call. This is terribly naive. Hitting that number would likely rate at the very most 15 seconds on the evening news, with no meaningful context.
The big event a lot of people seem to be pinning their hopes on is a Blue Arctic, meaning we get a near-total melting of the Arctic ice cap, even if only for a few days. This would likely get more than the 15 seconds that I predicted for hitting 400ppm, but I can see the faux balancing act from here: “Golly, look at the amazing photos from space! This hasn’t happened in X years! It’s probably climate change, but some wackaloon we found on the Intertubes with a PhD in shoelace design says otherwise! It also means we have lots of new shipping lanes every year, plus we can drill for more oil and natural gas! Breaking news! One of the Kardashians got a parking ticket!!!”