“Reality Will Come Crashing Home”

Last night’s (October 23, 2013) Frontline program, on PBS—“The Pension Gamble”—featured David Sirota (author of the 2013 article, “The Plot Against Pensions”).1 The program focused on the bad shape that many pension programs for public employees specifically are in, with Kentucky’s case being the worst example.  Toward the end of the program, Kentucky Governor Matthew Bevin was quoted thusly:

The next governor, regardless of who they are or what ideology they represent, it won’t matter what lie they give. Reality will come crashing home.

From what I had learned, while watching the program, I had to agree with him.  However, it occurred to me that while many public employees are rightfully concerned about their pensions, there’s a problem that’s far more important than pensions—a problem that’s faced not only by public employees in the United States, but all humans.

A problem, though, regarding which few in our society are fully aware, because of “media silence” about it, and even “global warming denialism” in our media!   That article begins this way:

Emperor Nero may (or may not) have fiddled while Rome burned, but commercial U.S. TV networks definitely fiddled last year [2016] on climate coverage while the Earth grew dangerously hot.

An annual climate report issued this month by the World Meteorological Organization confirms that average global temperatures and global sea levels continued their inexorable rise in 2016, setting new records. Global sea ice dropped to an “unprecedented” extent.  Extreme weather conditions, probably aggravated by climate disruption, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, left millions hungry, and caused “severe economic damage.”

Yet in the midst of such frightening changes, and a national presidential campaign with enormous consequences for U.S. climate policy, the four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News Sunday — significantly decreased their coverage of climate issues on evening and Sunday news programs, according to a new analysis by Media Matters. Television programs like these are the major source of news for 57 percent of adult Americans.

It’s probably partially because of that lack of media coverage that many in our society fail to discuss it.  That failure has been noted by scholars at Yale University, which has established a Program on Climate Change Communication, and this article, posted in 2016, asks this question:  “Is There a Climate ‘Spiral of Silence’ in America?”  The article begins this way:

Our surveys have repeatedly shown that most Americans are interested in the issue of global warming and consider it personally important. Our studies, however, have also shown that for most Americans, climate change is not a common topic of conversation or something they hear about much in their daily lives. This suggests that there is a climate change “spiral of silence”, in which even people who care about the issue, shy away from discussing it because they so infrequently hear other people talking about it – reinforcing the spiral.

It’s been suggested that people don’t discuss global warming not only (a) because of a lack of knowledge (resulting from “media silence” about it), and (b) the fact that “they so infrequently hear other people talking about it,” but that (c) there are psychological reasons as well.  As Dr. John Fraser has said:

I think there’s been a lot of conversation about how people understand the facts of climate change, but very little about how we process it in our minds and that is really going to be key to any kind of future change and that’s where psychologists can be really useful.

The problem that I see, however, is corporate control of the media.  This report by the Union of Concerned Scientists states; e.g., that (p. 2):

Some companies, as shown in this study, have created confusion in the conversation on climate change by taking contradictory actions across different venues.  Even while cultivating a climate-concerned image in more public settings, these corporations have sown doubt about climate science both directly (such as by challenging climate science in government filings) and indirectly (e.g., by supporting politicians, trade groups, and think tanks that misrepresent the scientific consensus on climate change and oppose action to address it). This powerful subset of companies has been tremendously influential in dictating how the public understands (or misunderstands) climate science and how the national discussion on climate policy has progressed—or not progressed.

Given that those who manage/own corporations will be affected by global warming, like the rest of us, it is utterly irrational of these individuals to be “deniers”!  And someone probably has a sound explanation for their denialism.  If that’s the case, it’s of no value, however, given this recent statement by António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general who told global leaders this week that the world has less than two years to avoid “runaway climate change.”

If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change,” Guterres said during a speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment,” he said.  “Scientists have been telling us for decades.  Over and over again.  Far too many leaders have refused to listen.

“Runaway” is something to be taken seriously!  As this article states:

Runaway climate change or runaway global warming is hypothesized to follow a tipping point in the climate system, after accumulated climate change initiates a reinforcing positive feedback. This rapid acceleration in climate change may lead to potentially irreversible damage to the climate system, making timely mitigation efforts unfeasible. This is thought to cause the climate to rapidly change until it reaches a new stable condition.

In other words, “reality will come crashing home”!  For:

(a) The “road” to the “new stable condition” is likely to be a rough one!

(b) It’s entirely conceivable that that “new stable condition” will be one that is such that Earth System will no longer be able to support human life! May, in fact, not be able to support life, per se!

Is there still time to prevent this?  That seems highly doubtful!

  1. Here’s a transcript of the program. []
Al Thompson retired almost six years ago from an engineering (avionics) firm in Milwaukee. His e-mail address is: sven3475@gmail.com. Read other articles by Alton.