Frozen Pipes and Global Warming – and the Need for Local Climate Talks

It has been very cold in Asheville recently – and all over the East Coast.   Today it is a balmy 45 degrees; but on Monday we woke up and our pipes were frozen.   10 degrees is rare for Asheville!

Our friend Mike, who does home repairs, came to help.  Afterwards I mentioned that “Global Warming” should really be called “Climate Disruption.”

He said, “Yes, ‘Global Warming’ is wrong.  Have you heard about the conspiracy?”  He then told me how he had been listening to Jesse Ventura’s frequent reports about how the government and rich people are making a bundle by convincing people that global warming is a big threat and then getting fat contracts to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist.   He said, “It opens your eyes.  You should listen on TV, on the True TV channel.”  I said that most scientists believe that global warming is real and a very big danger.  He said that there is evidence that the scientists are getting paid off.

I didn’t have time then – or a handy list of points to make – to have a serious discussion, so I’m sorry to say that I didn’t follow-up.  But my overall thought is that Mike is a very good guy.  I honestly believe he would listen to real experts if he truly believed they were real and not speaking out of narrow interests.  But he is currently plugged into only one channel.

Asheville is very cool, because you can find all points of view well represented here.  There are many people like Mike who listen to only the ‘conservative’ side of the story.   And there is also an extremely large and committed progressive community that cares passionately about sustainability, the environment, and the dangers of climate change.  And, there are many people who haven’t made up their minds yet about climate disruption, and who probably haven’t really thought a lot about it.

The community includes many, many people who are very knowledgeable about these issues, and also many people who are expert in facilitating group dialogue and deliberations.    I also believe that Asheville includes both progressives and conservatives who are not only knowledgeable, but who are also open enough to engage in a fair dialogue.  (Note:  dialogue does not equal debate.  It is not about winning, but about listening and reaching a truth that all sides can get behind.)

I haven’t done the due-diligence yet (mea culpa) but I strongly suspect that these groups aren’t really talking to each other.   Like everywhere else, the progressives seem to mainly interact with progressives, and the conservatives mainly interact with conservatives.  And when people from the two groups do interact, it’s very hard to talk about this issue without getting frustrated or mad or giving up.

I happen to believe that climate disruption is happening and is a grave danger.  But in order to really prevent the catastrophe that we see coming, don’t we need to talk to people like Mike, and to others who currently don’t agree, as well as to people who don’t know what to think?   Yes, that includes me.  I need to talk to Mike.  But how many Mikes can I talk to?

We need help.  In order to really break through the frustrations and make progress, we need a structure, skilled facilitators, and a group of honest people that both sides can relate to.

I can easily envision local climate talks, involving real people – citizens and neighbors – of all persuasions, and all over our country.   Each side sharing opinions, sharing evidence, and, most importantly, honestly discussing how to make collective decisions about the evidence, and how to evaluate and respond to crucial issues where there will always be unknowns and unprovables – and yet, in the place of absolute certainties, where there will still be scientifically valid levels of certainty.  (As one person said recently, “Would you put your child on a plane if 90% of industry engineers said there was 75% chance that the engines could fail anytime in the next year?  Or even a 1% chance?”)

I can easily envision these local climate talks.  But how to actually make it happen?

I can’t think of a better place to start than Asheville.


8 Responses to “Frozen Pipes and Global Warming – and the Need for Local Climate Talks”

  1. 1 sanityinjection January 13, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Here’s the problem. Al Gore and the IPCC don’t want you having reasonable discussions about climate change. They want you to open your mouth like a good baby bird, swallow what they have regurgitated for you and do exactly as you’re told.

    Think about it for a minute. Why would a conservative who doesn’t believe that global warming is occurring, mind if you have an opposite view? They wouldn’t – unless your belief includes forcing everyone in the world to undergo a massive economic disruption in order to fight the terrible threat of “ManBearPig”.

    I don’t know anyone on either side of the issue who opposes the concept of transitioning to cleaner and more renewable sources of energy. The question is whether you make that transition based on a thoughtful understanding of the issues involved, or because you’re being held at metaphorical gunpoint by a very well-financed, experienced panic-generating organization (remember the heterosexual AIDS crisis that was going to kill us all?) with definite ulterior motives.

    If you’re honest with yourself, you should acknowledge that you personally do not “see a catastrophe” coming. You have chosen to believe other people who tell you it’s going to be a catastrophe. I choose not to believe those same people. We both believe we have scientific evidence to support our views. The difference is, I am not demanding immediate and far-reaching global action based on the assumption that my view is 100% correct.

  2. 2 duncanwork January 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    You raise some good points. And I agree – in local climate talks we should definitely not invite Al Gore, or other national/global celebrities We should mostly involve local people. And if external experts are involved, they should not be famous, and they should be involved only to give and explain the evidence, pro and con, so that local people can be well informed and make good decisions.

    Obviously, it will be in the interest of each side to choose experts and exponents who are most likely to be respected by all sides as honest, informed, and objective.

    The point of local talks is not to debate, and not just to listen respectfully to the other sides’ points (though that’s essential). The point is to see how much consensus can be reached, by at least *most* of the people in the community, about whether the threats are credible (which does not mean 100% certain), and what, if anything, should be done.

    For example main questions would likely include:

    Is there reasonable and credible evidence that there is a threat?


    Which would be worse: To hope that the threat isn’t severe and do nothing? Or to do something that has a good chance of significantly reducing the threat?

    Another question: What solutions can reduce the threat in the least disruptive and most overall positive ways?

    A related question: Whatever we do, how do we make sure that solutions that are supposed to benefit society as a whole don’t end up unfairly enriching a few, and unfairly harming many?

  3. 3 sanityinjection January 14, 2010 at 4:04 am

    I’m not convinced that such a consensus could be reached at this point. But, I respect your thoughtful approach – if there were more like you we’d be in better shape to tackle this question.

  4. 4 mcates January 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Is there reasonable and credible evidence that there is a threat?”

    There is reasonable and credible evidence that driving a car is a threat. There is reasonable and credible evidence that earthquakes are a threat. There is reasonable and credible evidence that poverty is a threat. There is reasonable and credible evidence that a meteor striking the earth is a threat.

    There are many threats that we face as a species on a daily basis. The real issue is how we prioritize those threats, not do they exist.

    If one was going to ask such a question I think it should be clarified as to make it more meaningful to everyone.

    “Is there reasonable and serious evidence that man-made Co2 is such a severe threat to life on earth, that we should stop burning coal and oil in the next 50 years or 100 years.”

    Personally, I don’t know anyone who would debate that climate change (warming or cooling) is a threat and that warming or cooling is eventually going to happen (and that cooling is by far the greater threat.)

    We have seen this proven throughout man’s existence.

    Which is more likely to destroy life on earth, man-made global warming, climate change or a meteor?

    I don’t think we have any historical records that indicate Co2 has threatened life on this planet. However there is good evidence that driving a car is quite a threat to life. Meteors are a threat to all life on the planet.

    “Afterwards I mentioned that “Global Warming” should really be called “Climate Disruption.”

    I am confused by this statement. Are you of the belief that man-made Co2 causes both warming and cooling? If so,then perhaps they will balance each other out?

    Are you of the belief that Climate Disruption is something new?

    As far as I can tell Climate Disruption occurs every night. The global temperature changes between 20 to 40 degrees every single day. Climate Disruption occurs every 4 months with the seasons. Climate Disruption occurs every 11 years, 30 – 40 years, 500 year, 10,000 years, 100,000 years. This is all well documented.

    Heck, the North Star wasn’t even the north start 2000 years ago and we know that the tilt of the earth is what causes the seasons.

    Just about the entire planet is in a constant state of Climate Disruption. Isn’t the real issue whether or not man-made Co2 is having a relevant impact on the temperature of the planet? I would suggest the name Man-made Co2 Interference (MMCI).

    “I said that most scientists believe that global warming is real and a very big danger.”

    Who cares what scientits think? Shouldn’t we care more about what the scientists who specialize in the climate sciences and paleoecology?

    Your statement doesn’t hold true, when we eleminate the economists and non-climate scientists.

    “I can easily envision local climate talks, involving real people – citizens and neighbors – of all persuasions, and all over our country.”

    Many of the most premiere climate scientists in the world have not been able to understand the science behind this issue. Even those that are strong believers. If the recent release of the emails from the CRU scientists haven’t taught us this, then nothing will. I am not opposed to discussing, but I think this exercise may not be that meaningful other than to feel good, which may be a good asking for alot.

    “Would you put your child on a plane if 90% of industry engineers said there was 75% chance that the engines could fail anytime in the next year? Or even a 1% chance”

    In the real world there is a much greater chance your child, grand children and great grand-children will die in a car accident. Are you planning on not driving anymore?

  5. 5 mcates January 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I would second sanityinjections 2nd comment also…

    “To hope that the threat isn’t severe and do nothing? Or to do something that has a good chance of significantly reducing the threat?”

    But this is all about perspective. The people that might have benefited by using our resources to fight poverty, instead of climate change might see it differently. Much like the Asian countries right now.

    The statement that the threat might be signficantly reduced is not supported by pro Man-made global warming climate scientists. The IPCC and Climate Scientists admit proposed changes won’t make much difference. That’s why Jim Hansen from NASA rejected Copenhagen.

    Jim Hansen proposed a 350 ppm limit for Co2. If we are to believe the models that means we will get a reduction of around 0.4 degrees while accomplishing the impossible.

    We would have to cut our emissions to zero today to get there. We wouldn’t even know if it was working until 20 or so years from now. Note that I said “working” and not worked. It could take well over 50 to 100 years to reach any conclusion at all about our efforts.

    We also wouldn’t know if the plants and oceans will behave the way they do today regarding absorption if there is less Co2. They might actually absorp less as Co2 is reduced.

    I haven’t read any analysis of what human life will be like if we reduced Co2 to 350 ppm. How many people will starve of hunger?

    The greenhouse effect of Co2 diminishes as you add more Co2. This is well documented. Think of it like window tinting. For example, if you tint your windows it might block 50% of the rays. But the next layer will block less because the first layer is already blocking. The more you add tinting the less effective it becomes. This similar behavior is well documented regarding Co2.

    We do know that Antarctica glaciated at 1300 ppm and that Greenland glaciated at 250 ppm. What can we conclude about Co2 from that?

    And from Susan Soloman, an IPCC member and Nobel prize winner:

    The severity of damaging human-induced climate change depends not only on the magnitude of the change but also on the potential for irreversibility. This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years.

  6. 6 mcates January 15, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    I always say… we can have an intelligent and productive conversation about pollution, but man-made climate change… not really.

    Man-made Climate Change is a distraction. The issue is that is worthwhile to everyone is pollution.

  7. 7 duncanwork January 20, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    MCate – thanks very much for your comments. Would you mind introducing yourself and your background? You seem to have a lot of info on the subject.

    I’m personally not equipped to debate you. I’m not a climate scientist. I recognize very clearly that I often accept one sides’ statements without fully understanding their basis.

    For example, I indicated that I believe that most scientists – and I actually meant “climate scientists” — believe that global warming is a serious threat, and that the threat is largely caused by and controllable by human activity (including industry and agriculture). Yet you say that that’s not true. Can you clarify and give me some references?

    You also raise some other points that I can’t really respond to myself, such as “The greenhouse effect of CO2 diminishes as you add more CO2.” Your explanation seems to makes sense, but as you say, the actual situation may be muchmore complex than your analogy.

    Most importantly you raised the point that “I haven’t read any analysis of what human life will be like if we reduced Co2 to 350 ppm. How many people will starve of hunger?”

    That’s a crucial question that needs to be addressed. It’s a good example of the kind of question that I (as an ordinary citizen and not a climate scientist) would like to have answers for from different perspectives on the issue. So far in this post I’ve only gotten comments (both thoughtful) from one side of the issue – however, I didn’t expect to have a serious debate or discussion of the issues in this blog post.

    My main point for this post was that I would like to hear a serious discussion of the issues, involving both sides, using good rules of evidence and hopefully a spirit of working together to reach a higher level of consensus than what we have now. What we have now is simply fragmentation and a lot of positioning. We’re obviously faced with a *number* of crises – not just global warming (if it is indeed a crisis) but many others. If all we can do is *oppose* each other, then I’m afraid we’re sunk.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  8. 8 duncanwork February 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    For a more complete explanation of how global warming can cause serious disruptions in both global and local climate patterns, see my 2/15/2010 post:

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