The most important issue humanity has ever faced isn’t even a part of the political conversation. On that front the politicians have failed. All of them. The traditional media haven’t just failed, they are complicit in the deliberate cause of that failure. Which means it’s up to us. Just as the Occupy movement has changed the nature of the economic conversation in this country, we the people must change the nature of the political conversation in this country, and thus force the issue of climate change into public consciousness as not only urgent but of primary importance. It sounds like hyperbole, but on this task the future of life as we know it does in fact depend.
President Obama and the Democrats are paradigmatically better than the Republicans on the issue of climate change, yet they to a dangerous degree understate and undervalue the criticality of the moment. But the Republicans deny the science of climate change altogether. Even worse, in their feign of acting reasonable the Republicans go so far as to pretend to care about the science of climate change, with the flatly false assertion that the science is controversial and unproven. The usually compliant and enabling traditional media usually support them in this lie. And worse.
This past week, one of the most insidious conspiracies to undermine public understanding of the facts about climate change finally was revealed. Some traditional media outlets responsibly reported the story, beginning with the British newspaper The Guardian; but it certainly hasn’t received the same attention given to the earlier false claim that the science of climate change has been fabricated— a story that itself received far more attention when it initially broke than when it was completely and thoroughly (pdf) and beyond all doubt debunked as not only systemic lies, but lies promoted through what appears to have been criminal activity.
None of this would be possible if people knew the scientific truth. The earlier concocted scandal would not have been taken seriously if people knew the scientific truth. The newly revealed legitimate scandal— which includes attempts to disinform children, and payments to scientists and bloggers who will deny the scientific consensus— was a direct assault on the scientific truth. And that is where we the people must start: the scientific truth. We must so embed in public consciousness the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change that even such a well-funded disinformation industry, such incompetence and complicity from traditional media outlets, and what now has become boilerplate lunacy from Republicans cannot dissipate it. When people fully understand the scientific truth they will insist that politicians act. Republicans and other climate deniers will be dismissed with the disdain they deserve, and Democrats will, as they do often do, follow where the people lead. That is the great advantage of the Democrats. As with the Occupy movement, when the people are resolved and their message is clear, the Democrats do listen.
Most of what follows is well more than a year old. None of this is breaking news, although new reports about the impacts of climate change pour in almost daily. The scientific consensus has been well established, and that many in the traditional media and pretty much all prominent Republicans continue to deny it speaks not only to their blatant dishonesty, but given the strong terms used by the scientists, their reckless irresponsibility as well. What follows is a brief but scientifically comprehensive overview. Read it. Bookmark it. Send it to anyone who ever questions whether climate change really is happening, or whether there isn’t legitimate scientific debate about what really is happening. You don’t need to go into the details about carbon emissions or chemical processes or quantities of global ice loss or sea level elevations or ocean acidification or the potential feedback loop of tundra methane releases, although there is plenty of available information on all of them. But most people want to keep it clean and clear, and they just want to start by understanding whether or not this really is happening. What do the scientists say? Start with that. Let that sink in. Climate change is happening. The consequences are and will be devastating. Maybe we should do something about it.