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by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

The negative impacts of climate change are coming on more quickly than anyone expected. According to a new NASA study, ocean waters are creeping steadily upwards, at rates faster than predicted, Maureen Nandini Mitra reports at Earth Island Journal:

“That ice sheets will dominate future sea level rise is not surprising – they hold a lot more ice mass than mountain glaciers,” Eirc Rignot, the report’s lead author said in a statement emailed by NASA yesterday. “What is surprising is this increased contribution by the ice sheets is already happening."

This is just the latest warning sign that climate change is happening and that its negative effects will occur more quickly than anyone has prepared for. This will happen despite Republicans' insistence that there is no hard scientific proof of climate change, and that "just because you might be in the minority doesn't always mean you're wrong," as Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) put it this week at a House subcommittee hearing on climate science.

Dealing with it

This problem is not going to go away. The economist and blogger Tyler Cowen wrote this week that left-wing economists have a "reluctance to admit how hard the climate change problem will be to solve, for fear of wrecking any emerging political consensus on taking action." In response, Mother Jones' Kevin Drum comments, "Actually, liberals spend a ton of time talking about how hard climate change is. Still, there's something to this. As hard as we say it is, it's probably even harder than that."

How hard? On Democracy Now!, Naomi Klein argued this week that progressive environmental groups have been pussy-footing around the scope of the issue entirely. She said:

What I see is that the green groups, a lot of the big green groups, are also in a kind of denial, because they want to pretend that this isn’t about politics and economics, and say, "Well, you can just change your light bulb. And no, it won’t really disrupt. You can have green capitalism." And they’re not really wrestling with the fact that this is about economic growth. This is about an economic model that needs constant and infinite growth on a finite planet. So we really are talking about some deep transformations of our economy if we’re going to deal with climate change. And we need to talk about it.

That's a tall order for green groups, however, when they're having a hard time convincing conservatives that climate change even exists. As Klein says, refusing to believe in climate change has become one way that conservatives define themselves, politically, and the pull of ideological identification outweighs any rational attitude toward the science in question.

The example of agriculture

In many cases, solutions to the problems of climate change are clear. Only habit and political intransigence keep them from being put into action.

Agriculture is a great example of this tangle. Industrial farming pollutes earth, water, and air, while sustainable methods of farming promote global health. What's more, they create as much, if not more, product than industrial farming techniques. This week the United Nations confirmed these benefits in a report on "eco-farming," what Americans generally call sustainable agriculture. Inter Press Service reports:

"An urgent transformation to ‘eco-farming’ is the only way to end hunger and face the challenges of climate change and rural poverty," said Olivier De Schutter, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food. ... Yields went up 214 percent in 44 projects in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa using agro-ecological farming techniques over a period of 3 to 10 years… far more than any GM [genetically modified] crop has ever done.

Despite this sort of success, the argument that agribusiness is necessary to feed the world is still running rampant. At Grist, Tom Philpott has been picking apart a series of articles from The Economist that explains, as Philpott puts it "how industrial agriculture is the true and only way to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the world by 2050."

But as Philpott notes, sustainable farming can feed the global population and is better for the planet as well. The United Nations, he writes, has:

found that 'ecological agriculture' could 'assist farmers in adapting to climate change' by making farm fields more resilient to stress. So why isn't eco-agriculture catching on? The report cites a bevy of obstacles, none of them technological:

"[L]ack of policy support at local, national, regional and international levels, resource and capacity constraints, and a lack of awareness and inadequate information, training and research on ecological agriculture at all levels."

Obvious solutions

Indeed, it can be incredible how simple solutions to seemingly intractable problems can be. For instance, IPS reports, yet another UN report has found one solution to mitigating global hunger: Push back against gender inequality. IPS's Alan Bojanic and Gustavo Anriquez write:

The UN agency’s report estimates that if women had the same access to agricultural assets, inputs, and services as men they could increase yields on their farms, and this increase could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by roughly 2.5 to 4 percent.

Moreover, such a growth in agricultural production could in turn bring 100 to 150 million people out of hunger - that is about 12 to 17 percent of the 925 million undernourished people that exist in the world according to FAO’s latest estimates.

Dealing with the problems of climate change might be harder than liberals often admit. But some of the simplest solutions haven't even been tried yet.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of   The Media  Consortium.   It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of  articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, andThe   Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network  of leading independent media outlets.

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Comment Preferences

  •  DEMOCRATS Remain in Denial. (4+ / 0-)

    Please don't confuse Democrats with liberals.

    And mostly it's only pragmatic denial.

    The conservatives deny science.
    The Democratic Party pragmatists deny there is any foreseeable time we can respond to science.

    What passes for a looney left in the global superpower are those who accept that science is accurate and that we must respond appropriately to it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:48:11 PM PST

  •  The media's decades of complicity... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Voice

    ...in muddling the facts of climate change are making it even more difficult to effect any sort of genuine economic transformation.  

    None of these people will ever admit error, whether on something utterly trivial or absolutely all-encompassing.  

    Market capitalism is doomed, and the only question is whether it's going to take our entire species along with it as it finishes crashing, or whether a few of us will survive and figure out a better way.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:25:50 PM PST

  •  So everyone to the left of (0+ / 0-)

    Newt Gingrich is now a Liberal - Interesting.

    The dairy itself wan't bad at all, pity you decided on the misleading headline presumably to draw people in.

  •  I'd say (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Voice

    I get that you're talking about different phenomena when it comes to the kind of denial you're attributing to liberals, but I do resent equating it to the conservative form of denial.

    And while I do worry about the need for a new kind of economics that can deal with a resource limited world not based on the assumption of unlimited nature, I don't see that model really spelled out anywhere.   The word "sustainability" is fine, but how are we going to order the economy to ensure that things are done that way?  

    So if I or other liberals are in denial, it's not clear what we would embrace if we left denial.  

    And I say that as someone who'd be happy to see that new model.  

    •  We first must deal with our own individual way of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Voice

      thinking and acting as it relates to our planet.  All of us in this country are in denial as far as wanting to maintain our standard of living.  We refuse to accept the fact that we must curtail substantially our consumption.  Americans can be  basically classified as "superconsumers" and regardless of political persuasion this holds true.  Unitil we are willing to have a change of "consciousness" regarding this we are all in denial regarding climate change.  Changing lightbulbs, recycling, growing our own food is just not enough.  

      Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed frequently ... and for the same reason

      by Road Dog on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:21:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  the arrogance is astounding- to think destroying (0+ / 0-)

    nature is okay because somehow humans can fill in the blanks and engineer their way out of it. but those people only represent a small amount-- right?

    as long as the 'left' lets 1000 radio stations do global warming denial all day long, we're fucked.

    Progressives will lose all major messaging battles until they picket the limbaugh/hannity megastations and boycott those stations' local sponsors.

    by certainot on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:06:14 PM PST

  •  Seems to me (0+ / 0-)

    there are different kinds of denial.  Denying climate change is just stupid.  The climate on earth has been changing for as long as there was an earth.  Denying that humans are contributing to making it worse is another kind of denial.  That is a little less stupid, because we don't have any way of knowing what the inevitable changes would be if we weren't here.  We do know the climate would continue to change.

    Then you have denial that we can do anything about it, and this part is actually two different denials.  One is that there is no going back,  we can't undo the damage even if we got everyone on the same page.  Then there is the denial that we can deal with the inevitable changes to our climate and "we're all gonna die".

    Every type of denial has its motivations outside of the complexities of climate change.  Some economic, some political, some just for the thrill of distain.

    Fools are the teachers of the wise. It is foolish to disrespect one's teachers. - Old Man

    by A Voice on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 05:04:00 AM PST

  •  I'm afraid Dr. James Lovelock is right: (0+ / 0-)

    "James Lovelock: 'humans too stupid to stop climate change', says maverick scientist"

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/...

    We just aren't facing the facts that we, as a species, are doing great harm to the one ecosphere we have.

    The overwhelming consensus of 2,000+ scientific experts from the IPCC& 18 US scientific assns: climate change is happening and is a growing threat to our world.

    by Cenobyte on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 06:17:34 AM PST

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