Ohio State’s Respected Lonnie Thompson: Adapt, Mitigate … ‘Suffer’ — Choose Your Poison?

Mitigation, adaptation … and suffering. And climate change as a “clear and present danger to civilization.”

Sometimes, it’s not the WHAT of the message that is most important, but rather the WHO.

That may be the case with a new posting from one of America’s, and the world’s, most highly respected climatologists, Ohio State University’s Lonnie G. Thompson. The same words, the same underlying message, from virtually any other climate scientist — and certainly from any activist — could not have carried the import that the normally and admittedly “stolid” Thompson delivered in a recent social sciences journal. For Thompson, it literally amounted to taking off the gloves, stepping beyond the strict field and lab work, going where he, and many other top scientists, previously had been loath to venture.

Thompson acknowledged in his “Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options” paper in The Behavior Analyst that his “bold statement may seem like hyperbole, but there is now a very clear pattern in the scientific evidence” indicating that “rapid and potentially catastrophic changes in the near future are very possible.” His methodical run-through of the scientific evidence he finds so concerning outlines the basis for his worries not only that Earth’s temperature is rising but that computer models actually are underestimating those accelerating increases in global temperatures.

His piece provides a series of highly readable examples of how positive feedbacks — events producing more and more of the original warming event — play out in the climate change field. At one point talking about a boulder rolling down a hill and steadily picking up speed, he writes that “global warming is a very, very large boulder.”

“We don’t know if there is a tipping point for global warming,” he writes, “but the possibility cannot be dismissed, and it has ominous implications.”

So much for the lone two options for those wanting to better manage our warming climate … mitigate or adapt, writes Thompson. Now add in “suffer.” His piece reveals his growing pessimism that societies will move in a timely way on the mitigation option, and somewhat dismisses adaptation as essential … but “reactive … reducing the potential adverse impacts.” The third option, suffering, will affect everyone, but most hurt those with the fewest resources for adapting … and, ironically, in some of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the globe.

He decries the fossil fuel industry’s “disinformation campaign” but recognizes it as “amazingly successful.”

In the end, Thompson writes, the handwriting is on the proverbial wall: “The only question is how much we will mitigate, adapt, and suffer.” He doesn’t sound very optimistic.

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