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Climate-change denialism and reality

February 17, 2011

Both the Vancouver Sun and the NewYork Times, no doubt among thousands of other papers, covered the ground-breaking work by Canadian climatologists in an international team who determined “an increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere.”

No doubt the denialists will be out in force.  I’ve noticed that even on this blog, simply tagging a post with ‘climate change’ will get a rejoinder from those who, I presume, respond to any coverage anywhere.  

But here’s the thing: even if there wasn’t a denialist lobby, even if there was universal acceptance of climate change theory, it wouldn’t matter much - if there was no manifestation of change in the actual environment.    If reality could not be matched up with theory, there would be no incentive to change, particularly if it required a change in the comfortable status quo.  

Likewise, it won’t matter much in the long run if the denialist lobby is triumphant in the short term if they dismiss extraordinary events as the become the new norm.   If they’re obliged to dismiss storms, droughts, floods, heat waves and every manifestation of extreme weather that becomes a consistent pattern – not to mention the incremental rise in global temperature – then they become irrelevant.

The problem, of course, is the timing.  If adaptation and mitigation are delayed because of denialism – and the consequences are severe – then I wonder what the reaction will be, simply as a matter of justice.

UPDATE: Some places aren’t waiting.  Here’s what New York is doing to prepare for sea-level rise and storm surges, under the leadership of ex-Metro Portland Chair David Bragdon, now Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability.

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