Nothing will happen with Climate Change until we have a Climate Pearl Harbor

In response to the article today from Joëlle Gergis:

After reading the 2018 IPCC report for policymakers [1] the major thing I took from it was this:

The stated impacts of further warming aren't grave enough or so causally linked to climate change to justify nations taking the steps needed to mitigate the impacts.

For example, the more immediate and impactful conclusions from the report are these:

In urban areas climate change is projected to increase risks for people, assets, economies and ecosystems, including risks from heat stress, storms and extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, water scarcity, sea level rise and storm surges (very high confidence).

Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks (medium confidence)

Most readers shrug and move on because these events are not tangible and it remains unclear that those events couldn't be mitigated or absorbed at the time of event.

Namely, “to restrict global warming to 1.5°C, global ambition needs to increase fivefold.” That implies that the current state of the global economy would effectively ground to a halt.

Said another way, it would take a MASSIVE and unprecedented shift to the average, and an increasing portion of the global populations way of living, to slow warming significantly.

So what people hear is: We must completely change our lifestyles to prevent some chaos somewhere unknown down the line. I think all of social science tells us that humans are bad at this kind of long term planning.

The challenge here is that there is a huge gap between what is meant by climate scientists with statements such as “the very foundation of human civilisation is at stake” and what people can “touch and feel” making the sense urgency seem overblown.

Even things like “Cyclone Tracy is a warning” fall flat because “there have always been storms” and the causal relationship isn't direct – it's statistical and that's not something that politicians and the public generally can grok.

Contrast that with something like WWII which the US was staying largely removed from, until Pearl Harbor happened. That was a direct, causally linked, explicit and objective event that pushed an entire nation to change their behavior – but it was also time limited.

I'm not sure what needs to happen, but my guess is that until there is a “Pearl Harbor” for climate change, which I don't think is really possible, very little substantial will be done.