Climate Reality Check: 98 vs. 2

Al Gore’s latest initiative to galvanize the masses on the dangers and realities of climate change kicked off today with  24 Hours of Reality; an online educational event that will bring 24 people, from 24 places, in the span of 24 hours to discuss how changing climates are already impacting them. CISC Director Bill Solecki will be participating in a portion of the New York City event on a panel later this afternoon.  Vice President Al Gore will be presenting at 7PM here in New York as well.

Although the event seems to be well received and extremely well produced, full with celebrities of both the Holly Wood kind and the academic, and includes an exceptionally well made and disturbing video clip linking the methods of big tobacco lawyers and scientists to the practices of our contemporary contrarians, I still wonder whether this event can be the game changer it wants to be. Gore made a statement to NPR that got me thinking that before I even tuned into the live broadcast for a little while. Going off the statistic that 98% of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change (which prompted the title of this post), he says, “If 98 doctors told you you had a heart condition that required you to make some changes and two doctors say, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ … hopefully you’d go with the 98.”

But what if those 2 doctors were paid by people who continuously invaded your frequently viewed television, print media, and blogosphere outlets and kept saying, there’s more than 2 of us who believe this? What if they were employed to keep selling you products that would ensure their salaries and their ability to provide for their families, even if it meant, you as an individual would keep suffering? What if those 2 doctors managed to make you think that the stuff that the 98 doctors said and believed was still not entirely confirmed? What if you are just pretty comfortable with your lifestyle and fear that making lots of changes is going to be too hard–because the 2 doctors told you it would be or because you actually really enjoy those foods and no exercise. And finally, what if you decided to actually make those changes, to heed the warning of the 98 doctors, but it seemed that every thing you did paled in comparison to the larger changes (in your environment, your job, etc) that needed to be made in order to see results?

While of course an analogy is not meant to be taken entirely literally, I believe this one is a particularly good example of how we still may be failing in our communication and ultimately in our mitigation tactics. Coming off of a summer of extreme weather events, we may have more peoples attention on the issue. But ultimately the lack of regulation from a federal and international level (the external factors that you can’t control, unless in you’re in the government) suppresses the efforts, actions, and political will of believers.  Don’t get me wrong. I am still all about creating an informed populous who can remind their political constituents that they want to see action on climate change. But without a lobby as powerful as that of the 2%–that 2% that has effectively altered reality–we are still on a constant defensive to reclaim it.


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