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A Sea Change?

November 1, 2012

I was convinced that this summer would prove the start of a new era in Americans’ understanding of climate change, that the widespread droughts and heat waves were going to serve as tangible examples more convincing to some than models and arguments, that personal fear and discomfort would shake loose the last of skepticism. It’s bad science to value a handful of events over real research, but at least it would make the problem incontrovertibly clear.

But this autumn is revealing a hole in that prediction. I hadn’t counted on the possibility that we could agree on the problem, but that some of us might refuse to talk about its causes: Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo have acknowledged that there’s been a major and long-term switch in how our weather behaves, but they’ve refused to speak of why this is happening. So we’ll prepare our transportation and utility systems for this new reality, and that’s that. We’ll heal the symptoms, and not trouble ourselves about the disease. Why confront our reliance on fossil fuels when engineering might ameliorate its effects? Which is to say, why disrupt a petroleum economy when we can keep that plus make more money in the new industry of responding to the damages the petroleum economy inflicts?

Or maybe I’m making too much of a few politicians’ silences. On the cover of (Bloomberg) Businessweek: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”


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