Clamoring for Change: in Climate Conversations
Early in my career “Cranberries” (The National Cranberry Magazine) requested an article on climate change and the greenhouse effect. It was to give growers an explanation of “what does it mean (if anything)” whether in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nova Scotia, Oregon, Washington or Wisconsin. To offer the science, uncertainties, dangers, limitations and their connection with crops and production. To be clear as to what ‘it’ was (climate change) and wasn’t, just why it was worth their time (or action) and the cost of acting (or not). With heat records being set simultaneously around the globe, it’s fair to review these again.
Comprehensive answers 30 years ago focused on what is known about the atmosphere, how it works and what is well-known and/or poorly observed or understood in climate science. An honest consideration of the reality of incomplete data and inherent errors found in any scientific investigation. The article looked at both ‘natural’ and ‘human-induced’ aspects of climate. All critical in identifying the level of confidence—or certainty—when making statements about why climate changes and how we know. That includes the ‘what and who’ of fundamental causes, how much each contributes and the bottom-line as to when, where and how much change occurs. It includes an understanding that the distribution of impacts will be unequally experienced and of varying intensity, frequency and duration.
Now 30 years later amidst greater rancor, deep political divides and socio-economic reactions; it would seem that climate change is an ongoing Earth Apocalypse for many. Yet for some, it looks like a meaningless blip or something hyped in media for ad revenue or political gain. A minor change in average values without impact. But these perspectives are limited viewpoints across a wide spectrum. They do not provide a practical approach in response to the same basic questions of three decades ago.
How to reconcile such divergent views? Not the same tired arguments, shouting, investments, endorsements and policy shifts. Why not clamor for change in climate conversations? A discourse that shares a common purpose and significance: people as individuals in local, regional and global society.
What could be more important than you and me, as individuals? Our ability to flourish, grow and manifest are vital and even sacred to the human condition. The quality of living can be measured by our access to, or denial of, resources and opportunities. By avoiding screaming headlines of doom and gloom, and acknowledging that the term ‘climate change’ does not need to be banned in public service jobs by a state’s elected and appointed officials, can put the focus of analysis squarely on us, the people, without pointing fingers.
It is our collective infrastructures, sources of energy and food, economic vitality, environmental awareness and natural hazards that matter. None of these are evenly distributed around the world as evidenced by the global economy. Neither are climate and climate change.
In the framework of sustainability science environmental, social and economic lenses are important. They connect people with resources and impacts to determine responses. It’s not simply a balance of three parts but an equitable relational awareness that cannot be examined in isolation. That is the real and necessary focus and a different sensibility about the type of common ground needed for the common good. That means it truly is ‘all about us’ and every single one of us. Yes, climate is global but manifests itself locally and individually. Those living in Florida don’t worry about shoveling snow nor those in Oregon about tornadoes. Their needs vary and that means resources and risks are very different, yet intricately interconnected. That is the conversation, how climate change decisions at the local and regional level connect with national and global responses.
Not convinced? Look at the totality and escalation of impacts. Interconnected supply chains of goods and services, operating upon shared energy grids and needing reliable transportation systems. A major weather system leads to cancellation of flights at airport hubs, heatwaves or storms knock-out electrical grids with ripple effects and water use is compromised. These critical junctures show why national responses must connect with local and regional needs and resources. To suggest that impacts are equivalent or not cascading? Misleading.
Suggesting that individual connections to climate change do not exist locally, nationally or globally is a misperception.
Climate change is very personal for everyone, even when impacts are unequally distributed or experienced.
Dr. Paul J. Croft is a consulting atmospheric scientist and educator. A retired college professor, Croft and his wife have resided in Hammonton since April 2023.