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Opinion: Orange County fire reveals a shocking truth about climate changes
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Opinion: Orange County fire reveals a shocking truth about climate changes


These are the headlines about the warming world we have created.

I have worse news.

These disasters are not enough to convince us to stop fossil fuel pollution.

Let me explain.

First, the available social science does not support the idea that climate catastrophes cause widespread changes in public opinions. A 2021 study in the journalClimate Change Hurricanes are a slight nudge in the right direction for carbon dioxide pollution reduction.

People did not react to floods or wildfires, which were the other disasters studied.

This is what you need to think about for a second. Yes, research shows that hurricanes in the United States are associated with a statistically significant rise in belief that climate change is real and that humans are responsible. OK, sure. However, even this paper points out that “the rate at which feedback occurs… seems slow.”

“For example,” researchers wrote, “our results indicate it would take multiple hurricanes to increase the proportions of individuals supporting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one percent.”

More than 130 Orange County, California, homes are still under evacuation orders as Coastal Fire still burnsMore than 130 Orange County, California, homes are still under evacuation orders as Coastal Fire still burns

Accordingly, Jordan Suter, a professor from Colorado State University, said via e-mail that it seemed unlikely that an increase in natural disasters alone would have a dramatic effect on public support for climate change-related policies.

In non-scientific terms, disasters won’t likely fix this.

Consider second, a bizarre theory called “Shifting baselines

The term was created by Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist, in 1990 to describe the fact humans are terrible at recognizing slow-moving changes in our world.

To capture our attention, fires need to get bigger.

These changes seem to us to be “eh…kinda weird and unexpected.” The full impact of the climate crisis is not felt by us. It can take decades or centuries to reach its peak.

Fran Moore’s researchDavis, University of California, adds to our knowledge of this pernicious phenomenon. She studied thousands on social media about weather and found that the time it takes to determine whether today’s weather is unusually hot is only two to 8 years. It shifts with us throughout time.

These disasters won’t trigger our alarms in this context.

I’m directing a documentary about the topic, “BASELINE: Part 1.” It follows four young people who grew up on the frontlines of this crisis, between now and 2050.

It might be an antidote to our collective memory, I hope.

These problems can be solved, but it is not easy.

What would drive us to take a more aggressive approach to the climate crisis

It is important to know which “us” you are referring to in that question.

The US voting public could be called “Us”. The United States has the following:72% of adultsAccording to surveys by Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, nearly 60% of respondents believe that global warming is occurring. Nearly 60% believe it’s caused humans.

“Us” could refer to the wealthy, as many Orange County homeowners do.

“Us” could also be the Profits from fossil fuel companiesFrom the apocalypse.
Or “us” could mean members of Congress. Cynically, you fail To pass meaningful laws that would set this country on the path to net zero carbon emissions in 2050, we need to do it repeatedly.
Why COP26 leaves me furious -- and searching for hopeWhy COP26 leaves me furious -- and searching for hope
I conclude that convincing legislators and executives is much more important. It remains to be seen what arguments will work with them in the face political divisions, fossil fuel profits, and the war on Ukraine. Nancy Pelosi Recently dispensedCommon rhetoric at the Aspen Ideas: Climate Festival was when she stated that climate action was needed for “the children”.
The issue: Children have been pleading with adults for action to stop environmental collapse since at least the early 1980s. Rio Earth Summit1992. Greta Thunberg Many othersAdded to that chorus.
“The [Democratic]Robinson Meyer wrote in that the party “doesn’t even seem aware that it’s missing a once-in a decade chance to pass meaningful legislation on climate change.” The Atlantic.

I don’t have a solution for us, whoever “us” might be.

For decades, science has been in front of us.

We witness the disasters. They are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable people in the world. Low-income and marginalized people People who are less able to respond to them and rebuild. But they also impact the wealthy. Think of the Orange County mansions and Superstorm Sandy in New York City in 2012, and you will be able to see the wealth. Malibu’s eroding cliffs.

Unfortunately, none of this has been convincing.

At least for those with the potential to change the world economy.

Perhaps ordinary citizens can mobilize to change this.

The point is, the concerned public must not wait for the climate crisis to intensify, or for evidence that fossil fuels must be eliminated.

We have all of the evidence we need.


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