It appears the dialectic over global warming increasingly is boiling down to a battle of the tipping points. On the one hand we have the argument that awareness of the issue will soon reach a critical mass that pushes us past the current political stalemate. On the other hand, we have handwringing over a coming environmental catastrophe from which there will be no return.
In an interesting example of the former, the Washington Monthly reports on the “The Emerging Environmental Majority,” a conjectured alliance between greens and hunters that could form the basis for a renewed popular environmental movement.
In its highly partisan take, the article provides an interesting social history of environmentalism in the United States, and argues that the current political rift between self-identified environmentalists and the hunting community is a historical anomaly overdue for a mending. Obligatory tipping point reference:
Sportsmen are gathering data on shifting habitat and changing stream flows. “I think we’ve reached a tipping point in public awareness,” says Steven Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute, adding, “Sportsmen want a seat at the table.” In a poll of hunters and anglers commissioned last year by the National Wildlife Federation, 75 percent agreed with the statement “the U.S. should reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming and threaten fish and wildlife habitat.”
In the opposite corner, we have Times columnist (and 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner) Nicholas Kristof putting forth a new Day After Tomorrow scenario involving giant methane bubbles rising from the ocean’s floor. (If you want to keep yourself up at night, read RealClimate’s detailed discussion of the “disaster-movie potential of the methane hydrates.”) Kristof concedes the difficulty of accurately predicting the future of climate change, and then sums up:
For all the uncertainty, there is an important point here: The history of climate shows that it does not evolve slowly and gracefully, it lurches. There are tipping points, and if we trigger certain chain reactions, then our leaders cannot claim a mulligan. They could set back our planet for, say, 10 million years.
So there you have it, folks. You know which tipping point to root for. And remember to tell your neighbors.