Underselling Climate Change?

Over at Vox.com, David Roberts points out that for over 30 years, climate scientists have been telling the public, “We’re running out of time; we’ve only got five or 10 years to turn things around, but we can do it if we put our minds to it.”

The obvious problem here:  We’ve now passed several five- and 10-year cut-off marks.

Have climate scientists been crying wolf for three decades?

No, says Roberts. Let your mind wander the other direction:

The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit.

Roberts’ (via Oliver Geden) contends that climate scientists have been comforting us with climate models that rely on “increasingly unrealistic assumptions” concerning mankind’s future ability to remove vast amounts of CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere.

PicardFacePalm-SmallerBut why?

It may be that climate scientists feel pressure — somewhat akin to a journalist’s struggle with self-censorship? — to provide the best climate prognosis possible; because they know that politicians, even the ones most sympathetic to the scientific consensus on climate change, want to hear the best news possible.

Roberts drives the point home quite well:

There is not a politician on earth — no, not even Bernie Sanders — who wants to tell his or her constituents, “We’ve probably already blown our chance to avoid substantial suffering, but if we work really hard and devote our lives to the cause, we can somewhat reduce the even worse suffering that awaits our grandchildren.” [crowd roars]

So, while climate deniers are fiddling as Rome burns, the Titanic has left the harbor.

And climate scientists could be banking on its passengers’ ability to build new lifeboats.