The Consequences of Climate Blinkers
Climate change is just one of many serious environmental problems, but it is by far the most visible and dominant. In my view, this is a problem for two reasons. First, it takes away from other serious issues. Second, it encourages us to view problems through the lens of climate change, when there may be better approaches.
This is a problem for science policy as well. Some of the researchers I have interviewed note that they prefer to think of adaptation as a response to many kinds of interacting change (population growth, technological advance, globalization, land use, etc.). But they recognize that their work will be more successful if it appears to be focused primarily on climate change. That is where the research dollars are. And that is where the high profile research results are.
In light of this, I’m lovin’ this op-ed by climate scientist Mike Wallace in the Seattle Times. He’s is examining some consequences of a narrow-minded focus on climate. But he is also handing out blame, and he puts a healthy share of it at the feet of the climate science community:
Over the past 20 years we have stood by and watched as governmental and nongovernmental organizations that deal with environmental issues became more and more narrowly focused on the long-term impacts of global warming.
Meanwhile, more imminent issues relating to the sustainability of our planet’s life-support system under the pressures of growing human population and the widening gap between rich and poor are not getting the attention they deserve….
Scientists still write papers and speak to the media about environmental concerns outside of the purview of the IPCC, but with so much of the world’s attention riveted on climate change there is a lack of institutional infrastructure for calling attention to other issues.
Wallace is talking about scientific, institutional, and policy myopia. They are all related, and mutually reinforcing. It is wrong to just blame the media for creating hype. This stuff is all interconnected.
Wallace also calls out the bloggers and other activists wage (and perpetuate) the endless battle with skeptics:
Climate scientists and their detractors are slugging it out every day in blogs and editorial pages while legislative initiatives to get governments to address environmental and resource issues remain stalled, despite broad public support for them.
Couldn’t agree more, Mike. It is definitely worth reading the whole article.