Monday, June 8, 2009

Does it seem warm to you, or is it just Climate Change?

Our son, Evan, wrote about an interesting event in Wellington, New Zealand this weekend. The "Wellington Freeze" was an event to focus attention on the need for action in response to global climate change. You can see a video about the event HERE. Evan appears briefly on the left of the screen at 1:30. Yes, he has a fantastic haircut.

Given the sheer scale and complexity of the issue, climate change is a difficult issue to address, even by those best educated and equipped to respond. Most of us have to trust the experts who have access to historical weather records from around the world, and also to the climate modeling programs used to predict climate change. Even with these tools, the predictions vary. A recent MIT climate change study  published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate doubled the extent of estimated warming by the end of the century that had been predicted in a similar, 2003 study. At the same time, the crack, long-range forecaster whose columns run in the crack, Spokane newspaper continues to argue that the climate is cooling. He also argues that mere human activity could never impact global climate anyway.

There are many reasons for the confusion around this issue, including the huge effects of small changes in global temperature, the failure to understand the distinction between weather and climate, the dumbing down of society in general, and the resulting failure to appreciate the impact of human activity on natural systems. In this latter regard, until relatively recently the idea that fishing could impact the future availability of fish was routinely dismissed. Too late we seem to be realizing that human actions matter. And yet, those who continue to disregard the evidence are all around us.

As you might expect, I believe that an important factor in this equation is a misunderstanding of the nature of time. The western world has developed within the context of a static concept of time. Folk wisdom embodied in sayings like the more things change, the more they stay the same, and, those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it give credence to the notion that nothing really changes. In this view the divine-human drama is played out again and again with the natural world little more than a backdrop. Some within religious traditions have attempted to address environmental issues, but generally without altering the context of supernatural theism and a view of time that leaves the future in "God's hands" [sic].

We are actually in the grips of the insanity of continuing to believe and do what we've always believed and done, while expecting the results to change. As an antidote, or at least a poultice, we might further explore the concept of the time cone, of which I introduced in a previous post, When Dad Changed the Future. The time cone helps us understand that the past comes to bear, and that the future springs into possibility, in the present moment. Tune in next time for another thrilling exploration of this concept.

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