The Cassandra problem

I get no joy from warning people about what global warming is doing to the planet. I think I’m getting into what might be called the Elizabeth Kübler-Ross trap. Kübler-Ross admitted in her writing that the caregiver who must speak to the patient and the family when the condition is terminal will never be able to maintain a relationship of trust with the family again. I know that when I was in the hospital room when the bad news was delivered to my mom about her condition, the doctor who delivered it was someone my Mother never saw again. He went about his speech in a friendly but perfunctory way and then skedaddled out of the room like his pubic hair was on fire.  

But somebody has to deliver the bad news. Here we are in the summer of 2017 when we just might run out of Arctic Ice, and it wasn’t on the news very much. I was feeling lonely until This cover story from New York Magazine popped up on my screen a week ago Monday, out of the blue (screen dump only, link below)

NY Mag screen

Screen Dump from NY Mag article on NTHE published last week. from the annotated article published a week later: “…the response since has been extraordinary — both in volume (it is already the most-read article in New York Magazine’s history) and in kind. Within hours, the article spawned a fleet of commentary across newspapers, magazines, blogs, and Twitter, much of which came from climate scientists and the journalists who cover them”.

To me, the article went over familiar ground so often my lips moved as I read it. Much of the content was cribbed from Dr. Guy McPherson, who was not mentioned in the article. He addressed this discrepancy here (he also links to other articles responding to the NY article). Apparently, author David Wallace-Wells had interviewed McPherson last month but did not see fit to mention his participation in the writing of the piece. Meanwhile, NY Magazine’s Annotated article came out and still managed to leave his name out. However, the many articles written in response to the original piece did single out Dr. McPherson and his theories.

Here’s an interesting refutation to the refutations. 

There’s a lot of different stories that (as a result of the NY Mag article) are now seeing widespread circulation. My more skeptical FB friends are now sharing pieces like this:

DES MOINES, IowaThe U.S. corn and soybean crop conditions continue to weaken, as the hot and dry weather threatens corn pollination and soybean pod-setting stages… In its weekly Crop Progress Report, the USDA dropped both crops’ good-to-excellent ratings, for the fourth week in a row, while the spring wheat crop continues to deteriorate…

Governments may be seriously underestimating the risks of crop disasters occurring in major farming regions around the world, a study by British researchers has found… The newly published research, by Met Office scientists, used advanced climate modelling to show that extreme weather events could devastate food production if they occurred in several key areas at the same time. Such an outcome could trigger widespread famine.

And this: 2015,2016 and 2017 have been the three warmest years in recorded weather.

And (in case you were wondering when I was going to come back to Cassandra), here’s my Cassandra moment, one I first noted back in May. It’s echoed in this article about our predicamenta political response to what should be a scientific question. The people who are convinced that doom is inevitable in a few years and the people who don’t think doom is inevitable (or think we have more than a few years’ time) have something in common. And it’s something I mentioned in my interview with Steven Grumbine a few weeks ago. What everyone who’s serious about climate would agree on is that TIME IS AN ISSUE. We have a Presidency and both houses of Congress peopled by individuals who don’t believe global warming is even happening–this even as a recent poll indicated that 39% of Americans think we’re facing human extinction. The Constitution provides scant relief for a government full of obstructionists, especially when the clock is ticking. Perhaps we can’t save ourselves from extinction, even if we throw all our resources at global warming in a Genuine Manhattan project mobilization. But to do this, we’d need to have a government in place that would accept the science. The current leadership is willing to put the pedal to the metal . What would Cassandra do? Would she call for revolution in order to get the obstructionists out of office? because waiting until 2021 (which is the earliest a new, non Trump acolyte American president could be inaugurated) is a planetary death sentence. If you think there’s a way to save the planet that doesn’t involve revolution, you need to explain how.




  1. Paul Anderson · · Reply

    You link to an article about possible heat stressing the 2017 United States corn and soybean crops. And yet corn set a new yield record in the US that year. Both corn and soybeans are estimated to have set new yield records in 2018. (the 2018 finals aren’t out yet due to the federal govt. shutdown)
    The reason people tend to “underestimate” the risk of crop disasters due to global warming is that those crop disasters just keep failing to show up.

    1. An adjusted crop list from November indicates that we did not have US yields that were expected in August.
      Corn Production Down 1 Percent from October Forecast
      Soybean Production Down 2 Percent
      Cotton Production Down 7 Percent
      Orange Production Down 2 Percent

      Click to access crop1118.pdf

      The US finished out pretty well, but there were crop problems in other parts of the world–DeutscheBank saw inflation in prices for staple crops as a result of worldwide growing problems.

      1. Paul Anderson · ·

        For corn, that’s still a new record high yield, soybeans virtually tied with the previous record high. Neither is any indication that the US is having any trouble producing grain.

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