A mix of headlines—some “alarmist,” some hokey—marked the release of recent scientific data suggesting that the Earth’s atmosphere will remain in the 400+ parts-per-million range at least for the duration of our lifetimes: “Earth’s CO2 Passes the 400 PPM Threshold—Maybe Permanently.” According to said article:
The carbon dioxide we’ve already committed to the atmosphere has warmed the world about 1.8°F since the start of the industrial revolution. This year, in addition to marking the start of our new 400 ppm world, is also set to be the hottest year on record. The planet has edged right up against the 1.5°C (2.7°F) warming threshold, a key metric in last year’s Paris climate agreement.
As with the headlines, a mix of responses followed, mostly providing us with the same trite appeals for world leaders to “get tough” about climate change, for the citizens to recycle and carpool, and for the media to stop sensationalizing this non-problem (as maybe people view it). (How will 350.org reply, I wonder?)
But since the science is so easily muddied, and since, even with a clear consensus people will not recognize the nature of the problem—let alone do anything about it, the intent of this study and the resulting articles to “wake people up” so that they “take action” is surely a fool’s errand. Climate change is simply the worst motivator, because: A. it’s too big and too complex of a problem for humans to grasp quickly enough, B. its effects are gradual and not easily correlated, and C. at this point, there’s nothing the average citizen can do about it.
Even if the average citizen did “wake up,” it wouldn’t make but a drop in the bucket, since the real culprits are corporations and their governmental/military partners. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if any one person uses less fossil fuels (if that were possible, since everything, even solar power, is driven by oil/resource extraction), because companies are producing more every year—by definition. You can recycle your plastic bottles, but companies are producing more plastic bottles this year than they did last year, and they’ll produce more next year than this year, and so on.
I could say one real start to addressing the climate change problem would be to dissolve energy and chemical corporations, and enact a moratorium on creating new ones. But you’d think that’s crazy, right? No, better to blame the victims, making them feel guilty for taking ten-minute showers, than to face the real enemy.