Finally, the climate crisis is getting the public attention it deserves. However, we cannot guarantee that the public will be paying attention forever. I would like to propose five guidelines for promoting public awareness about the crisis.
1. Better Choice of Venue. The UN bureaucrat who planned to hold the summit in Copenhagen in December should be fired. Too many people still associate the climate crisis with “global warming”, and the result is that when it is not hot outside, no one worries about the climate crisis. If we want to convince people that the climate crisis is a bad thing, we should not try to do it by inviting them to a cold, dark, and damp city. If there was any place on earth that could use some global warming it is Denmark in winter. French President Sarkozy’s idea of resuming negotiations in Bonn this May is a step in the right direction, but I have a better idea: New Orleans in August.
2. Less Suits, More Lab Coats. Lawyers, politicians, used car salesmen, and other compulsive liars, wear suits. When someone in a suit proposes spending huge sums of money in order to avert imminent disaster, most people smell scam. If in all future climate summits the participants were to don white lab coats, it would give them a “sciency” aura that would go a long way towards reducing suspicions.
3. Concrete Goals: Setting them is more important than achieving them. Concrete goals set up a win-win situation. A politician who says he wants to use billions of dollars to reduce emissions by 4% by 2015 and achieves it can pat himself on the back and claim to be one of the great statesmen of the new millennium. If he does not achieve it, he can make angry, vague references to lobbyists and the oil industry, and have a handy excuse to spend billions more.
4. “Concrete Goals” Does Not Mean “Concrete Results”. By no means, under any circumstances should concrete results be promised as a result of meeting these goals. So far, this principle has been respected in all debates about the climate crisis, but it cannot be insisted upon enough. For example, no one should ever say something like “cutting emission by 4% will result in an average global temperature of 68F° by 2020” or any similar nonsense. Predictions about the specific, observable results of our actions belong only to the realm of hard science where theories can be tested by experimentation in a process that philosopher-physicist Karl Popper called “falsification.” The climate crisis is much too important to be falsified.
5. Change the Name. Global Warming has stuck us with the legacy of having to show that the earth is really getting warmer thanks to human interference, which has introduced needless scientific complications. Climate Change has simplified matters, since the earth’s climate is always, in fact, changing. The word “change” however, has taken on a new meaning since the last presidential elections, and may carry good connotations for some people. The contemporary Climate Crisis has been used to great effect, much in the way TV commercials use phrases like Limited time offer! and, Act now while supplies last! Hysteria however tends to be short lived, and the word “Crisis” should be used sparingly. Therefore I humbly propose Climate Happens as a new title for all meteorological events which can in some way be interpreted as bad and blamed on humanity. It has a nice ring.
See you in New Orleans!