Ars Technica reported today on a survey showing that Americans, essentially, are more persuaded of the idea of global warming when it’s warm out and less persuaded when it’s cold.

The knee-jerk reaction is to mock the public’s grasp of global warming, but that misses a more fundamental truth: that in any contest between the “tyranny of the urgent” and gradual, imperceptible change, the urgent wins. Every time. Even if the most strident of alarmists are completely right, it’s a vain hope that you could ever get a world of very busy humans to work together against such a slow, creeping, inconspicuous phenomenon. They can’t see it.

Rather than go on about global warming, concerned people should make their case based only on immediately observable consequences. The argument should be: Air pollution is observable (just visit L.A.) — so let’s reduce emissions. Trash overload is observable — so let’s reduce and recycle. High gas prices and Middle East volatility are observable — so let’s keep going with hybrid engines, wind farms and other technologies.

Global warming will always be a chimaera for most people. That chimaera may even exist. It doesn’t matter. Find another approach or stop wasting your time.

Or don’t. Really, I have more important things to worry about.


March 1, 2012