A heavy article at MotherJones.com investigates a dozen "tipping points" for global warming, any of which could cause sudden and catastrophic climate change - and asks about the thirteenth tipping point, for our perception of it all:
IN 2004, JOHN SCHELLNHUBER, distinguished science adviser at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the United Kingdom, identified 12 global-warming tipping points, any one of which, if triggered, will likely initiate sudden, catastrophic changes across the planet. Odds are you've never heard of most of these tipping points, even though your entire genetic legacy—your children, your grandchildren, and beyond—may survive or not depending on their status.
Why is this? Is it likely that 12 asteroids on known collision courses with earth would garner such meager attention? Remarkably, we appear to be doing what even the simplest of corals does not: haphazardly tossing our metaphorical spawn into a ruthless current and hoping for a fertile future. We do this when we refuse to address global environmental issues with urgency; when we resist partnering for solutions; and when we continue with accelerating momentum, and with what amounts to malice aforethought, to behave in ways that threaten our future.
A 2005 study by Anthony Leiserowitz, published in Risk Analysis, found that while most Americans are moderately concerned about global warming, the majority—68 percent—believe the greatest threats are to people far away or to nonhuman nature. Only 13 percent perceive any real risk to themselves, their families, or their communities. As Leiserowitz points out, this perception is critical, since Americans constitute only 5 percent of the global population yet produce nearly 25 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions. As long as this dangerous and delusional misconception prevails, the chances of preventing Schellnhuber's 12 points from tipping are virtually nil.
So what will it take to trigger what we might call the 13th tipping point: the shift in human perception from personal denial to personal responsibility?
Heavy and not cheerful reading, but very important stuff.