The four mistakes we make when thinking about climate change

By Kent R. Kroeger (August 13, 2018)

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Nathanial Rich’s epic New York Times Magazine essay on the world’s missed opportunity to adequately address climate change in the 1980s is a masterwork of advocacy journalism. Rich’s readable storytelling through a labyrinthine of mathematical models, greenhouse gases, satellites, ice cores, congressional hearings, oil company executives and powerful K-Street lobbyists is a must-read for every politician, environmental lawyer, climate scientist, political scientist, and concerned citizen.

Rich believes humankind could have avoided the global warming mess it is in now if it had seized the opportunity in the 1980s, when conditions were at their apex for the large industrial countries to sign a binding agreement that would put them on the path to zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?” he writes in the article’s prologue. “Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions.”

For Rich, human nature is to blame for our failure to address global warming in the 1980s. Our tendency to focus on our short-term interests to the detriment of the long-term is the critical flaw keeping us from meaningful collective action.

The Intercept’s Naomi Klein offers a pointed critique of Rich’s thesis: “One could scarcely imagine a more inopportune moment in human evolution for our species to come face to face with the hard truth that the conveniences of modern consumer capitalism were steadily eroding the habitability of the planet. Why? Because the late ’80s was the absolute zenith of the neoliberal crusade, a moment of peak ideological ascendancy for the economic and social project that deliberately set out to vilify collective action in the name of liberating “free markets” in every aspect of life.”

Klein’s uses Rich’s reductionist approach, only she points the finger at the economic system — which is equally unsatisfying if the goal is to find a way to combat global warming. I have a hard time taking seriously a plan whose first step is: Replace capitalism.

Along with Klein, others have also offered tough judgments on Rich’s article. I won’t rehash all of the criticisms here, but I highly recommend Joe Romm’s article for where he cites climate scientists who say Rich over-idealized the history in those early years of the global warming debate. (You can find Romm’s article here).

Instead, my focus here is on the four common mistakes we all make in our discourse regarding climate change. Mistakes that I believe hold us back from making more rapid progress on the issue.

Those mistakes are: (1) A belief that elites producing abrupt, tectonic policy shifts will solve global warming; when, in fact, the most substantive progress is occurring incrementally at more mundane levels, (2) a failure to acknowledge the genuine and profound progress the world is making on clean energy, (3) an emphasis on partisan politics which poisons the public discourse and stunts our progress on global warming, (4) and failing to understand the practical implications of the monetary costs associated with mitigating and adapting to global warming.

We need fewer show ponies and more work horses

I like former Vice President Al Gore. He would have made a good president (certainly better than the guy who beat him). However, his second documentary, “An Inconvenient Sequel,” released last year, underscores the weaknesses in our public discourse on climate change, particularly with respect to the importance of politicians, diplomats, and other elites.

It was sad watching Gore scurrying around the 2015 Paris Climate Conference trying to “save the deal” by keeping India committed to the final agreement. After some intense negotiations with unknown people and phone calls to some other unknown people (who somehow possessed the power to make India change its mind on some aspect of the Paris agreement), the deal was saved…roll credits.

Apparently, the Indian government didn’t appreciate being portrayed as the ‘bad guy’ prepared to scuttle the 2015 Paris Agreement if they didn’t get some last minute concessions. In a review of the documentary by The Guardian, the reviewer writes: “While the movie never quite gets into the specifics of the (Paris) agreement, it positions India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, as a villain whose economic impulses stand in direct threat to the progress the summit represents…This film suggests that Gore’s back channel networking saves the day, and maybe the world.”

Piyush Goyal, the Indian minister of state for coal, mines, power and new and renewable energy, cut to he chase during his speech at the 2015 Paris summit: “The base load in India is coal. It cannot be anything else as we don’t have gas and without a base load we can’t even do renewable energy. We are a developing nation. We are rapidly creating infrastructure, setting up manufacturing, creating jobs for our people, setting up homes, all of which the United States and the European nations did in the last 150 years on the back of low carbon base or coal-based energy.”

Gore’s preening and dancing for the cameras at the 2015 Paris Conference didn’t change India’s economic reality or its stance at the Paris Conference, as evidenced by both India and China agreeing to considerably easier greenhouse gas emissions goals than those adopted by the more advanced economies.

Gore is right on this point. It was important to get India and China as signatories to the final Paris Agreement, even if it meant the practical impact of would be minimal.

Which is the problem with the inordinate amount of media coverage (continuing to this day) dedicated to the 2015 Paris Agreement. Diplomats and politicians are not the change-agents needed to address climate change. Global warming is not that kind of policy problem. The progress, instead, is occurring right now in more incremental steps by more mundane social actors. The Paris Agreement was for show ponies, while the real work is being done by millions of microeconomic decisions transpiring every day, independent of (or despite) national or international policy efforts.

And why is this? Climate change is too complex of a problem for bureaucrats and politicians to fully understand, much less effectively and comprehensively address through discrete policy changes.

Even the climate scientists don’t understand the full dynamics behind climate change. It requires one of the world’s most powerful computers to handle the mathematics used to model the earth’s climate system. Operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, their current supercomputer (named Cheyenne) is capable of computing at 5.34 petaflops, carrying out 5.34 quadrillion calculations per second. That’s a lot of computing juice dedicated to just one problem.

If we want to understand how humanity will ultimately address climate change, we should reacquaint ourselves with the policy research work of Charles Lindblom. Had Nathaniel Rich done so, he might have written a different article.

Lindblom’s contribution to policy science started with his 1959 article, “The Science of ‘Muddling Through,’” where he distinguished between two methods for creating constructive public policies. The first approach he called the “Root Method” which followed a highly-structured methodology in which a total understanding of a social issue was achieved and then addressed appropriately by an equally rigorous process for testing and finding solutions.

Here is the “Root Method” as described by Lindblom:

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Source: Charles Lindblom

According to Lindblom, the “Root Method” works fine with simple social problems (e.g., reducing traffic accidents a specific types of intersections), but is not practical for larger, more intricate problems. Instead, Lindblom’s research found that policymakers tend to use a more ad hoc methodology for the most complex social problems. He called this policymaking approach the “Branch Method” which he described as such:

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Source: Charles Lindblom

This type of policymaking became known as incrementalism and still explains a large percentage of public policies, particularly at the national level (e.g., Obamacare).

Rising from Lindblom’s theoretical perspective is an understanding that the policymaking process requires going beyond national policy elites and looking more at local and state actors, both public and private. Lindblom and the incrementalist school seek out the work horses — those people in the smallest corners of America implementing small, but substantive policy decisions, not necessarily because of a federal mandate, but because they think its the right thing to do for their family and community. Individually, their contributions are too small to register, but in the aggregate their actions are doing the actual heavy lifting.

Sexy events like the Paris Conference garner the airtime and most lines of print, while few who notice when the Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines invests in windmills and solar cells in an effort for their religious community to be 100-percent renewable. One church’s specific contribution to the nation’s renewable energy reformation is minimal. Yet, when added to the thousands of other organizations, churches, schools and businesses doing something similar, it can change an entire country’s energy profile.

And it is…

A clean energy transformation is happening all across the U.S. right now — with or without the Paris Agreement. My 12-year-old is so well indoctrinated by his public school on the environment, global warming and renewable energy, he lectures me when I make recycling mistakes or buy the wrong light bulbs.

Again, one 12-year-old doesn’t change much. But hundreds of thousands of 12-year-olds undergoing a similar indoctrination will in ten to fifteen years be filling up the lower and middle management of American companies, and in another 10 years becoming the CEOs or COOs of those same companies. I can’t imagine an America without Exxon-Mobil or Shell Oil — I’m certain my son and his generation can.

The world is on a rapid trajectory towards near 100% clean energy

This may be the most heretical statement in this essay: Humanity in winning the war on global warming. The clean energy transformation is in its earliest stages and one must look hard to see the indicators and signals, but the evidence is everywhere that we are winning. And I don’t mean Donald Trump-like false assertions of winning. I mean real evidence that the adoption of clean energy is well underway across the globe (except maybe Russia where people are probably embracing the idea of a warmer planet).

Our clean energy progress was too slow for the those that tragically died recently in the California fires, or those in Puerto Rico still recovering from a hurricane that struck their island almost one year ago. Sadly, ending the use of fossil fuels will occur too late for far too many people who will die due to the higher-order effects of global warming (e.g., floods, droughts, fires, etc.). To paraphrase The Godfather II’s Hyman Roth, this is the world we’ve chosen. We don’t always make the right decisions fast enough, and some people will get hurt more than others, but we will successfully mitigate and adapt to climate change.

If I could collect the proceeds, I would gladly bet anyone $1 million that the world in 2100 will have more people (approximately 11 billion according to United Nations demographers), living longer, safer and more prosperous lives, on average. Likewise, the year 2200, will exceed 2100 on those same measures. My evidence? Human history up to now. And see the forecasts of the World Health Organization and Brookings Institute forecasts that support this view.

But back to the issue at hand.

Optimism on clean energy’s growth is tempered by the reality of the global warming we’ve already experienced. The current warming of our planet (by human activities) is as plain as the sun at noon. The following chart forecasts current land and sea surface temperature anomalies (as compiled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) up to the year 2100:

Figure 1. Global Land and Ocean Temperature Anomalies (Actual and Forecast)

The above forecast (which is mine, not NOAA’s) simply takes the current curvilinear trend and extends it forward on the assumption the world does not dramatically change its consumption of fossil fuels. On the current trajectory, the planet will pass 3°C above the pre-industrial average around 2100 and go 4°C above before 2150. This assumes we, as a planet, burn all of the cheap fossil fuel available to us.

If one focuses on the blue dots in Figure 1, the curvilinear trend is unmistakable. It is not a statistical slight of hand or an optical illusion caused by ‘natural variation’.The planet has been getting warmer since at least the 1950s and is doing so at an increasing rate. If we do nothing, our great-grandchildren and all kin thereafter will suffer the worst consequences of the global warming (assuming we haven’t permanently colonized a terra-formed Mars by then).

Now the good news.

As I detailed in a previous article — “The renewable energy revolution is progressing faster than we realize” — the world is generally on a path at current trends to reach near 100-percent clean energy electricity generation around 2050 (the U.S. comes in a few years after that). The blue line in Figure 2 below shows the S-curve for renewables (as a percent of total electricity generation). The world is only at the beginning of a new technology adoption S-curve for renewable energy, but if the initial year-to-year increases continue to grow at their current rate, by 2025, almost 20 percent of the world’s electricity generation will be from renewables and by 2040 it will pass the 50 percent mark.

Figure 2. World Forecast for Renewables Share of Total Electricity Generation

Source: BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy (Forecasts are by Kent Kroeger)

The recent small, but significant, rise in coal’s energy contribution (due to Trump administration policies) are worrisome and, if continued, could slow down the growth of clean energy in the U.S. — but it won’t stop it because renewable energy sources are fast becoming cheaper than coal (in the case of solar) or is already cheaper (in the case of wind) (see Figure 3 for a recent Bloomberg analysis on this trend).

Figure 3. Renewable versus Coal Cost Comparisons

Source: Bloomberg

Adding to this optimism are recent scientific advances in energy storage and transport technologies which could significantly bend the renewable energy adoption curve upward even more. If the solar and wind’s intermittency problem is solved sooner rather than later, it is possible the U.S. could reach near-100-percent renewable electricity by 2040.

And while my previous article doesn’t address forecasts on the phasing out of gasoline-powered combustion engines for transportation, once the momentum starts (though it hasn’t yet) the transition should be swifter than for electricity generation since cars and trucks are smaller investments with much shorter lifespans than coal electricity plants. Nonetheless, it would be nice to see more worldwide sustained progress in eliminating dirty combustion engines.

The irony of Klein’s article on capitalism’s culpability in our delay in addressing global warming (a premise I agree with) is that it is free market capitalism and the profit motive that will ultimately drive the world to 100-percent clean energy by 2050.

Partisanship is holding back our ability to fight climate change

Nothing has harmed how the U.S. has addressed global warming more than partisan politics and nowhere greater is the current divide between Americans than on the issue of climate change.

In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, the issue on which Democrats and Republicans differ most is climate change (see Figure 4). On climate change, 68 percent of Democrats and those that lean Democrat consider the issue a priority. Only 18 percent of Republicans and those that lean Republican consider climate change a priority.

Figure 4. The Partisan Divide on the Priorities of Selected Issues (2018)

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The impact of this partisan divide harms climate change efforts in two ways:(1) It has hindered the use of two viable bridging solutions — natural gas and nuclear —that would have accelerated the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the U.S., and, (2) has made it difficult for the U.S. to sustain any climate change policy from one presidential administration to the next.

Partisanship distorts and shuts down constructive debate. And it is true for both sides of the political divide. Too many Republicans and independent conservatives continue to deny the most basic scientific fact — the earth is warming by approximately 0.15°C every 10 years and, if the climate models are reliable, that rate will increase over successive decadal periods. The Democrats, however, are not blameless in explaining Republican stubbornness as they have misused climate science as a political cudgel against the GOP, never resisting to exaggerate and misrepresent climate science when it is convenient.

Even climate scientists have a hard time laying off the hyperbole when it comes to climate change. Prominent CIA and Nixon administration geophysicist, Gordon MacDonald was referenced by Rich as saying people could see “a snowless New England, the swamping of major coastal cities, as much as a 40 percent decline in national wheat production, and the forced migration of about one-quarter of the world’s population, not within centuries — (but) within their own lifetimes.”

MacDonald said that in the 1980s. None of those predictions have come even close to being true. One could fill multiple book volumes with examples of where climate change predictions are far off the mark.

The most serious partisan abuse of science has been in the debate over whether to allow the gas and oil industry a substantive role in the solutions to climate change, particularly in the role of natural gas and nuclear energy as transitional energy sources until renewable energy can reliably cover base load electricity requirements (i.e., solve clean energy’s intermittency problem).

Writing in 2012, environmental journalist Fred Pearce lamented that “many environmentalists who argue, as I do, that climate change is probably the big overarching issue facing humanity in the 21st century, nonetheless often refuse to recognize that nuclear power could have a role in saving us from the worst. Nuclear power is the only large-scale source of low-carbon electricity that is fully developed and ready for major expansion.”

Anti-nuclear environmental activists will argue that nuclear energy is too dangerous and not as clean as its advocates assume. Unfortunately, that argument is not based on science, it is based on unwarranted fear.

“To abandon our primary current source of low carbon energy during a climate change emergency is madness,” argues George Monbiot, the UK’s most prominent environment columnist. Monbiot specifically cites a widely quoted but entirely discredited scientific study on the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident which concluded that up to a million people died. In truth, only the 28 plant workers that put out the reactor fire are known to have directly died and indirect deaths — due to higher cancer rates — don’t come close to one million.

One of the most respected studies on the issue, conducted in 2006 by Elisabeth Cardis of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, predicated that by 2065 Chernobyl will have caused around 41,000 additional cases of cancer.

That is still a big number, but Chernobyl is not representative of the risks associated with today’s nuclear power industry. In a 2013 United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) report on Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, the most serious accident since Chernobyl in terms of radiation released, researchers found no increase in spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, perinatal mortality, birth defects, or cognitive impairment; and no discernible or expected increase in radiation-related cancers.

In the case of the U.S.’s Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979, two separate studies, one by the World Nuclear Association and the other by Columbia University, have confirmed there were no immediate deaths or indirect deaths associated with that accident.

Between 2008 and 2017, an average of 8.6 people per year die in the U.S. due to accidents related to the building and operating of windmills, according to the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum. In that same period, the number of deaths in the U.S. related to the operation of nuclear power plants was one — in Russellville, Arkansas when a worker was killed and two others injured as they were moving part of a generator.

While the risks of nuclear energy have been misrepresented by environmental activists, not to the degree the risks related to ‘fracking’ and shale gas extraction are exaggerated.

The rapid decline in coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation during Barack Obama’s administration was aided by a significant increase in domestic natural gas production, which included the expansion of gas extraction through ‘fracking’ methods (see Figure 5).

Figure 5.

“A switch from coal to shale gas is the main reason why, in 2011, U.S. CO2 emissions fell by almost 2 percent,” says Pearce. Yet, too many Democrats and environmental activists dismiss natural gas out of hand as an interim solution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, was driven out of his position by environmental activists for just suggesting natural gas could be a “bridge fuel” on the path to a clean energy world.

And what is wrong with natural gas? Well, for one, it is a fossil fuel — far cleaner than coal, but still a carbon-based fuel.

Fair enough. If a purist view of clean energy is more important than reducing greenhouse gas emissions now, than rule out natural gas.

And then there are the dangers associated with ‘fracking,’ which is a a well stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by a pressurized liquid, creating cracks through which natural gas is more easily extracted. The primary risks are the (1) release of methane gas (a potent greenhouse gas), (2) the contamination of ground water, and (3) and the exposure to harmful chemicals by workers involved in the ‘fracking’ process.

All legitimate concerns. But a wide range of U.S. and European studies have concluded that those risks can minimized through well-regulated operational standards (see a 2014 UK study here).

Again, the choice is between making a rapid and substantial impact on greenhouse emissions today through the expanded use of natural gas, or delaying those emission reductions by many years as we wait for solar, wind and other clean energy sources to come online.

“There is a good environmental case to be made that shale gas, like nuclear energy, can be part of the solution to climate change,” argues Pearce. “That case should be heard and not shouted down.”

But that is what partisan politics does best — shut down honest debate and eliminate valid solutions.

The other way partisanship hurts our attempt to address climate change is that it forces administrations, such as Obama’s, to almost exclusively use policy tools that do not require a congressional vote. Executive orders and bureaucratic rulemaking procedures have become the primary tool for dealing with climate change. The problem is, such an approach is relatively easy to reverse once a new administration from the opposite party takes over.

The pattern goes like this: The Obama administration issues a series of climate change related executive orders (EOs), EPA rules and Energy/Commerce Department policies, only to have the Trump administration reverses them within a few months of taking office. And when the Kamala Harris administration takes over, the Trump-era EOs, policies and rules will themselves be reversed, until the Nikki Haley administrations steps in an undoes those rules and policies, and the pattern repeats over and over again.

That partisan-induced cycle is not an effective way of addressing a serious problem. It is only good at maintaining the status quo.

If you want gov’t to spend money on climate change, tell me what you want gov’t to stop doing…

This is where the conversation gets difficult. How much will mitigating and adapting to climate change cost humankind?

But throwing out big, overly-aggregated financial costs related to climate change only numbs the American people and inhibits collective action. Average people can’t react to $535 trillion in any meaningful or constructive way. The cost estimates (or, rather, guesses ) bandied about need to be brought down to a household level and disaggregated so that Americans can make informed choices. How much money will climate change cost the average American household and where is this money most likely to be effective? Should we focus on mitigation or adaptation?

So, lets give it a try here…

Almost any number currently in circulation is speculative at best, and dishonest at worst. In the service of continuity, let us work off of a number quoted in Rich’s New York Times Magazine article.

Rich writes: “(Climate scientist James Hansen) and his team have concluded that the only way to avoid dangerous levels of warming is to bend the emissions arc below the x-axis.We must, in other words, find our way to “negative emissions,” extracting more carbon dioxide from the air than we contribute to it. If emissions, by miracle, do rapidly decline, most of the necessary carbon absorption could be handled by replanting forests and improving agricultural practices. If not, “massive technological CO₂ extraction,” using some combination of technologies as yet unperfected or uninvented, will be required. Hansen estimates that this will incur costs of $89 trillion to $535 trillion this century, and may even be impossible at the necessary scale. He is not optimistic.”

For climate realists like myself, a price tag upwards to $535 trillion this century makes me genuinely wonder if we should just take our chances and embrace a planet that is 5°C warmer.

Borrowing from nautical lore, the most cost effective way to address climate change may be to yell, “Every man, woman and child for themselves!” Don’t expect the government to help you and don’t buy ocean front property.

But, of course, a civilized world can’t do that. We need to have a collective plan and that will require governments directing vast sums of (someone’s) money to a fund dedicated to combating climate change.

Here is my back-of-the-envelope estimate of what many of us will need to pay every year to help address the climate change problem in the 21st century:

A quick walk-through on how we get to an estimate:

(1) Take the midpoint of Dr. Hansen’s cost estimate ($323 trillion)

(2) Use the population in 2050 as an estimate of the total number of people potentially expected to contribute money to address climate change (10 billion)

(3) Divide $323 trillion by 10 billion people to get an estimate of $32,300 as the lifetime contribution potentially required by every human being

(4) Divide $32,300 by 40 (the avg. number of working years for each person) to get the yearly contribution potentially required by every human being

(5) Subtract the 3.1 billion people expected to be living below the poverty line from the 10 billion people on earth

(6) Subtract another 3.1 billion people living just above the poverty line from the 10 billion people on earth

(7) Which leaves us with 3.8 billion people comfortably above the poverty line that will be expected to contribute to the climate change fund

(8) Which means they will be expected to pay $85,000 in their lifetime to the climate change fund

(9) Or, if we divide $85,000 by their 40 working years, we get $2,125 as the amount everyone will need to pay during their productive years to mitigate and adapt to climate change

(10) For a family of four, that translates to $8,500 every year during your productive work years.

That is $8,500 every year sent to the government by a family of four.

Good luck selling that additional tax burden to the average voter at election time.

I don’t blame Tucker Carlson for thinking climate change is nothing but a cynical money grab by the East and West Coast literati to control Americans’ lives more than they already do now.

Equally plausible, climate change is the perfect ruse to punish the oil and gas industry barons for the 100 years they profited enormously for our collective addiction to cheap (but dirty) fossil fuels.

You don’t have to agree with those theories to understand their logic and seductive power. Republicans (and more than a few establishment Democrats) will gladly turn the costs to address climate change against progressive Democrats and their social spending ideas.

“How can we implement ‘Medicare-for-all’ or ‘tuition-free public college” given the expected costs of climate change?” Republicans will ask. It is a fair question, independent of your partisan inclinations.

But narrow, partisan thinking may be one of the first casualties of climate change. It is quite possible that one of the most cost-effective ways to protect Americans from the consequences of global warming is to make sure all Americans have quality health insurance and are in good relative health.

And education will be even critical as individuals start facing the real challenges of rising sea levels, more powerful storms, longer droughts, more frequent flooding, and more arid living environments.

Everything is interrelated and partisan political rhetoric, ad hoc theorizing and lazy assumptions will not be as tolerable when the earth is 3°C warmer. Trust me, there’s going to be a lot more bar fights.

So what will most likely happen?

We will muddle through is what Lindblom would predict. Incrementalists will expect to see small year-to-year policy changes that, over time, may pay dividends. But will it be soon enough?

What I would ask climate change alarmists who expect a ransom’s sum from the average American, what are you willing to give up to fund such a project? What are we doing now as a society that we will have to stop funding in order to afford the costs of climate change?

It is easy to say, “Cut the defense budget.” If you cut it in half, you save $300 billion every year. Great. We just need about $125 billion more from the current discretionary U.S. budget to cover our nation’s share of the climate change fund.

These are not easy decisions.

[Side Note: I hope partisans from both sides of the political spectrum will agree that the money the U.S. currently spends helping the Saudis kill Yemeni children needs to stop ASAP.]

Fundamentally, global warming is easy to address. On the mitigation side of the ledger, stop using coal power plants to generate electricity and replace gasoline-powered combustion engines with something far cleaner. Where the damage is already done we will need to adapt to our slightly warmer world by, for example, limiting the building of homes on ocean shorelines or in thick alpine forests. How we use water will have to fundamentally change.

How we think will also need to change.

Rich writes : “If human beings really were able to take the long view — to consider seriously the fate of civilization decades or centuries after our deaths — we would be forced to grapple with the transience of all we know and love in the great sweep of time. So we have trained ourselves, whether culturally or evolutionarily, to obsess over the present, worry about the medium term and cast the long term out of our minds, as we might spit out a poison…

…Like most human questions, the carbon-dioxide question will come down to fear. At some point, the fears of young people will overwhelm the fears of the old. Some time after that, the young will amass enough power to act. It will be too late to avoid some catastrophes, but perhaps not others. Humankind is nothing if not optimistic, even to the point of blindness. We are also an adaptable species. That will help.”

Adaptation, says German physicist-philosopher KlausMeyer-Abich, “seems to be the most rational political option.” It is the option that we have pursued, consciously or not,t all along, concludes Rich.

On that important point, Rich and I completely agree.

  • K.R.K.

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I am a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion (You can contact me at:

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