I kept hearing that word come out of the mouth of the host of a show I was watching on the History channel (one I won't name) with my son yesterday. The show was one of those filler shows as I call them. Not quite history, more like "fun facts I bet you don't know" infotainment things. We watched the first one about the wonders of the Hoover Dam, and it seemed that the only adjective that came out of the host's mouth whether describing the miracle that it was made in the 1930's or the amount of water that passes through the concrete spillways was always the same word: "Unimaginable." He used it practically every other sentence, usually to describe something the TV cameras were showing us was indeed very much imaginable.
Then the show moved on to a new segment about the marvels of modern day Las Vegas. It covered almost everything about Las Vegas, from the intensive casino security systems in place, to the money the Casinos made, to the water cannons used to give us those dazzling fountain shots so beloved by the fans of the movie Oceans 11. And it all was, of course unimaginable. It became a kind of joke. I told my son if we had a drinking game every time this low rent TV host on this low rent TV show used that word we'd pass out in less than thirty minutes, which at the time seemed like an excellent idea.
And then came the one time the host didn't use that word. He was describing the dangers of flash flooding in Vegas. Vegas it sits in a slight valley, and because the ground (and of course all the concrete and asphalt) don't absorb much water when they do get a heavy rainfall there flooding in the streets can become quite severe. I was just about to nod off when he stated that the dangers of flash flooding in Vegas were only going to get worse in the future because of climate change.
And he never once used the adjective "unimaginable" when he stated climate change would pose a threat to Las Vegas. It was a given. I almost fell off the sofa. But I didn't. Because truth be told, everybody knows that climate change is not unimaginable. Even the oil companies. Even the coal companies. Even the professional shills hired by the fossil fuel industry to deny that climate change is real. Even a TV host for some low budget History Channel show.
Now for those of you who don't know, here's a fun fact: The History Channel is owned 50/50 by a joint venture comprised of The Hearst Corporation and The Walt Disney Company, not exactly the most liberal or progressive corporations in the world. Disney, among its vast media holding, also owns many news outlets, the most prominent of which is ABC News. ABC News rarely discusses climate change on air. In 2012, the combined number of segments on climate change among ABC, CBS and ABC was a total of twelve all year, a year that was the hottest on record. Last year, should you need reminding, was a year of devastating climate related weather events such as the wildfires in Colorado and Hurricane Sandy, in addition to being the new record holder.
And when ABC and its competitors in the TV News biz do deign to take climate change seriously on their premier, hoity-toity Sunday News talk shows, guess who's not invited to the conversation. That's right, people who actually know what the hell they are talking about, i.e., climate scientists:
In Four Years, Sunday Shows Have Not Quoted A Single Scientist On Climate Change. Of those who were asked about climate change on the Sunday shows, 54 percent were media figures, 31 percent were politicians and not one was a scientist or climate expert. This is consistent with a previous Media Matters analysis which found that none of the Sunday shows quoted any scientists on climate change between 2009 and 2011.
By the way, of those politicians who were quoted by the Sunday news talk shows, 100% of them were REPUBLICANS. Forgive me the all caps, but I find it almost unimaginable that not one Democratic politician and not one climate scientist has been quoted by NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week" or CBS's "Face the Nation." The Fox News Sunday morning show I understand. When they mention climate change it is for the express purpose of giving climate change liars and deniers a platform to spout their nonsense.
Which leads me to the one thing I do find unimaginable. That the History Channel can broadcast a TV show is which climate change is taken as a given, and not only that, but also that its effects will increase and become more dangerous to human civilization over time, but our major media companies rarely discuss the fact - and it is a fact - that there is an overwhelming consensus within the scientific community that climate change is real, that it is accelerating and that it is primarily the result of human activity.
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics 'global climate change' or 'global warming'. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors' self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
But then, as I said, everybody knows this to be true. Everyone can see the wild variations in local weather conditions from year to year. We all see the same news reports about extensive droughts, here in the United States and around the world. We all watch the TV coverage of "heavier than anyone ever expected" precipitation events - most recently the "1000 year" Colorado flood, but also Hurricane Sandy just last Fall - and the coverage of massive heat wave and cold waves, the extensive loss of the Arctic's sea ice, wildfires on steroids, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Everybody knows, at least everybody who isn't praying that these severe weather events are portents of the Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus. I imagine, however, that even their numbers are shrinking as day after day, not one of the faithful are vacuumed up into the sky to join with their creator in watching Armageddon from the safety of Heaven. Yet, our politicians do next to nothing to prevent this onrushing train of disaster, and have done next to nothing for decades, even after James Hansen of NASA told Congress way, way back in the 80's that we were in for a world of hurt if we didn't stop burning so much coal, oil and gas to generate energy.
Come to think about it, with all the warnings we have been given, with all the evidence that has been collected, with the proof of climate change punching us all in the nose every week, I'd find it unimaginable that people finally haven't gotten the message. The folks at that low budget hokey show on the History Channel sure have. Too bad climate change has become the new third rail of American politics. It used to be that one could not speak about changing Social Security, but that is no longer the case. It used to be that no one dare cross the NRA on gun violence, but that is also no longer the case. But serious discussions about the actions needed to slow the acceleration of climate change in the media or Congress? Well God forbid we do that, even when we had a Democratically controlled Congress and the Presidency.
And please, the actions the Obama administration has taken on renewable energy and carbon emissions, for all the good intentions of some of its members, are grossly inadequate to the nature of the crisis. Indeed, progressives have had to fight tooth and nail just to keep the the administration from approving a pipeline to transport dirty Canadian tar sands, while the wasteful, dangerous practice of hydrofracking by the oil and gas industry continues to increase across the United States at an alarming rate. All while our forests and wild lands burn, dangerous storms multiply and heavy flooding that no one could have foreseen is a yearly occurrence.
I wish I could say I find that unimaginable. But, sadly no, I do not.