Atmospheric cancer

Seth Godin is a fan of finding the right words to make people think and feel certain way. It is inevitable, he is a marketer and brand manager at heart. But he teaches, that it is important to do that in a way to serve the people. This is an important lesson for corporates, or political campaigning machinery of the world today because they have powerful marketing tools, and the dollars to sway public opinions one way or another. Well perhaps more powerful within the US than elsewhere in the world but still, money does talk. What message it needs to send, is decided by each one of us.

In 1912, we are not only aware of the greenhouse effect already; but recognising the impact of human activities on it. We tend to call it global warming because greenhouse effect is generally warming by nature. And we described it in simple but non-alarmist ways:

The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and to raise its temperature. The effect may be considerable in a few centuries.

14 August 1912 edition of the Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette

The writers in 1912 would not have realised that we would later develop cleaner ways of burning coal, and also cleaner fuels; but he probably wouldn’t be able to imagine the scale of this burning in 1912 would be multiplied so many times that the simple statement he made in 1912 would have seemed alarmist by today’s standards.

Today, it’s not just having the blanket covering us and making us warmer. Climate scientist have discovered that there are feedback loops that worsen the situation because the blanket is causing ice caps to melt, reducing the reflection of radiation and increasing the heat. We are fostering a tumour, as it were – a malignant, cancerous. Getting people to accept it can be difficult, just as a cancer patient in denial, or the family that is trying to refuse treatment for the patient because they cannot accept the diagnosis.

And so we get second opinions, third opinions; and people keep looking for opinions until there is one that agrees with them. One that has a less severe diagnosis, or recommends milder treatment methods. Many government have given up on trying to arrive at a consensus; and others have decided to take on leadership roles in this. The IPCC report this year have continue the same theme of us making things worse and putting ourselves on a bad scenario. Things will be worse if we continue. This sort of salami warning approach does not reflect the manner climate catastrophes descend on us. And it really does not work.

When it comes, it’ll be fast and furious, and that is why we need to take more leadership and ownership to move forward.