If we accept the worst, or precautionary assessment, then U.S. environmentalists have perhaps a year to avert cataclysm, and nothing we are doing now will work. We are dealing with this terrible situation in a very ordinary and human way: by denying it.
Our denial comes in a variety of forms: we believe that President Obama can and will solve the problem; we ignore Jim Hansen's assessment and timeline; we concentrate on our jobs and organization agendas and pass over the big picture; we focus on the molehill of climate policy rather than tackle the mountain of climate politics; we assess our efforts by looking back on how far we have come and do not measure the distance still to be traveled; we scrupulously avoid criticizing each other, lacking conviction in our own courses of action and not wishing to invite criticism in turn; and we are irrationally committed to antique approaches that are self-evidently inadequate.
In our hearts we know that what we are doing is futile, but we do not know what else we should or could be doing. The constraints within which we work feel so intractable and out of human scale that we cannot imagine how to break them. Despite our best efforts, Americans just don't seem to get it or they don't care, and we are at a loss to explain this. Unable to influence our own nation, we are further dismayed by the far vaster challenge of altering the trajectory of China, India, Brazil, and the rest of the world.
Nothing we now confront should be a surprise. We have known for more than thirty years that the world was bound to reach this state (with twenty years specific warning on climate). The purpose of environmentalism was to alter the self-destructive parabola of growth by introducing new values and sensibilities, which, as has been clear for some time, we have manifestly failed to do.
If we continue down our present road, we will leap from foggy thinking into pure madness, there being no other means of keeping reality at bay.
OK, back to work.