Question: why don’t people talk more about climate change?
It seems to me like something that should be a constant topic of conversation these days, especially given that 2010 was the biggest year ever for global CO2 output, exceeding the worst scenarios scientists had concocted. Yet whenever I bring it up – on Twitter, with friends, on this blog, wherever – I feel almost as though I’m talking about Bigfoot sightings or something.
Actually no: Bigfoot talk goes over much better than mentioning global warming. Bigfoot talk at least gets a flicker interest from people. Global warming is just met with awkward silence, followed by an abrupt shift in conversation to the hilarious things cats do or some such topic. It’s a serious conversational transgression. Like talking about a wart or something.
The question is why?
There are many answers: the global warming issue doesn’t have any human characters so there’s no story to follow, it’s too big and slow moving to pique interest, there’s no sex in it, it feels very vague. And it doesn’t have cats doing hilarious things. All real problems when it comes to capturing and holding people’s attention.
But a big issue I think is with the term: global warming. Anything that’s global is by definition Someone Else’s Problem. Whose, exactly? Not sure. The UN or someone. Bono. I don’t know, but not me.
So if it’s not my problem, I’m not going to think about it, right? And I’m sure as hell not going to talk about it.
But it occurred to me: what if we broke it down, and started referring to it locally? What if we thought and spoke not in terms of “global” warming but New York warming, or San Francisco warming or London warming? What if we were all aware of what our city’s “warming” was for that year? How much CO2 our locale was producing, and the local temperature for the year relative to historical norms?
It seems like that might bring it down to the human level, make it more personal, more social. People might say to each other “Jesus, did you see our warming this year? Fucking outrageous. Off the map.” People might compare their city’s warming to other cities’ warming. Mayors would be forced to get up once a year and talk about how their city’s warming was 7% better than last year, certainly better than when Giuliani was mayor, blah blah blah, just to get re-elected.
People don’t take ownership of anything at the global level. But at the local level they do. They have local pride, they have local interest. They want their city to be the best, better than the city down the road. Global anything is boring. Local is interesting.
I did a search online for graphs or visualizations of CO2 output by city. Didn’t come up with anything. I did come up with this cool/scary video, but it doesn’t really do the whole local idea justice. (Skip to 1:20 for the good stuff.)
Could someone do a visualization of CO2 output by city? In realtime even? Could someone plot the total CO2 output for various cities and post them online, create a “best” and “worst” list, update them annually?
That would be interesting to this local person.