Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doing their best to prove me wrong

I've argued at times that climate adaptation will be easier to push through denialist resistance than climate mitigation, because:

1. It's not asking denialists to give up the bad things they do.
2. It doesn't blame the denialists for bad things that are happening, except in an indirect way.  At least it doesn't focus primarily on whether their/our lifestyle is causing problems for other people.
3. It's saving their own bacon (or maybe their community's bacon) rather than helping/not harming other people far away.  Folks that would confidently deny climate change might be much less confident in arguing against preparing for climate change.

I've also argued that preparing for the possibility of climate change will encourage people to accept its reality, a kind of backwards way of reasoning but one that still gets to the best policy outcome.  Hopefully people will then realize that mitigation reduces the need for adaptation.  None of this works though unless climate adaptation is an easier sell than climate reality overall.

North Carolina and Virginia legislatures are testing my hope that adaptation is an easier sell.  People in both states have noticed that coastlines sure seem flooded a lot, and both states have lots of low-elevation land.  Legislatures want to plan how to respond to this but have come down with hives at the mention of, or express adaptation for, climate change.

Still, North Carolina has backed away somewhat from its widely-mocked effort to limit projecting sea level rise to no more than the historical record.  Now they say accelerated sea level rise could be considered if derived from good science, kind of.  It has problems but it doesn't stop planning for some level of climate adaptation.

Virginia also has problems, with the city of Norfolk spending $6m annually to keep roads and homes clear of coastal flooding.  Their bill dances around the issue of climate change, dropping the words entirely in favor of "recurrent flooding".

On one level this is equal parts laughable and sad.  It reminds me of the controversy over BBC America's Frozen Planet series and the initial effort to drop the discussion of climate change that was shown in the original British version (they did show it in the end).  No surprise that Americans are in climate denial when their leaders and media hide the truth from them.

But even if they're not using the "CC" words in Virginia and North Carolina, it's not that hard to read between the lines.  Someday people will ask why taxpayers should be paying for this out of income and sales taxes, instead of polluters paying for it along with the emissions that cause the problem.

UPDATE:  Anonymous has a great art project idea in the comments.  I'd put it at 7 meters above sea level though instead of 20 - we still have time to save the Antarctic ice sheets.