It’s all-too-often what happens to the powerful when they are confronted with the consequences of their own bad actions. It can best be said that denial is blindness — the willful inability to open one’s eyes to the tough reality of the world. In literature, we can see denial in the tragic sin of hubris and in the metaphor of Oedipus the King gouging his own eyes out as a result of his failure to come to terms with the warnings of prophecy.
In the psychological sense, denial involves the inability to cope with reality such that a person will act in an irrational fashion to the point of generating fantasies that the object of said denial does not exist. Behaviorally, this results in an increasing degradation of a person’s ability to confront or cope with the object of denial — to the point of ardent, irrational, and possibly destructive outbursts when faced with it.
Arctic sea ice loss.
Ever since 1979 an array of satellite sensors has allowed our scientists to directly observe the sea ice in the Arctic. Since that time, and as a human-forced warming of the world ramped up, the area which that ice covers has dramatically shrunken. So much so that by this year, 2016, there’s a risk that not only will a new all-time record low be reached, but that by the end of this summer almost all the ice in the Arctic Ocean will be melted out entirely. A risk that a new climate change related event will start to take shape in the Arctic. The blue ocean events.
(Arctic sea ice area as measured by observational satellites and most recently by F17. The bottom line of the graph measures days of the year. The left side of the graph measures sea ice area. The corresponding intersections determine sea ice area on any given day of a year in the record. The up and downward swoop of each line on the graph shows the seasonal variation of sea ice area for that given year. The blue line on the graph represents 1980 sea ice area. The dark gray line represents the 1979 to 2000 average. The red line represents the 2012 record low year. 2016, in black, shows a squiggle as F17 begins to fail in early March of this year — a year that could significantly beat 2012 as the worst melt year on record. The sensor is failing because it is old and needs replacement. A replacement that is now sitting in a warehouse due to republican-led satellite research funding cuts. Data source: NSIDC. Image source: Pogoda i Klimat.)
We will know whether or not such an event took place because there are satellites giving us an accurate picture of this critical and sensitive part of our world in real-time. In effect, these satellites grant us the gifts of sight, of foresight, and of forewarning too. They give us the ability to catch a glimpse of what waits over the horizon and affords us with the opportunity to act to avoid an ever-worsening catastrophe — should we have the wisdom to choose to do so.
Where does denial meet with Arctic sea ice loss? In the form of climate change denying republicans attempting again and again to cut and with-hold funding to NASA and NSIDC instruments that track what is an unprecedented and historic melt now ongoing. For ever since their coming to power in Congress in 2010, republicans have done everything they can to remove funding for the devices that provide a direct observation of the changes coming as a result of a human-forced warming of our world.
You can read about the recent history of republican attempts to blind the satellite eyes of science here in this comprehensive article by The Atlantic. Attempts that have finally played out in the increasing degradation of the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s ability to track sea ice area and extent during this crucial year. For as the critical Arctic sea ice observation sensor called F 17 begins to fail, a sensor that could replace it sits grounded — lacking funding to operate or launch it during a year in which the Arctic is likely to experience historic and wrenching changes. A year that has already experienced both record Arctic heat and record low sea ice coverage throughout both Winter and Spring with more records likely on the way.
What’s happened now, due to republican ties to fossil fuel industry and a related push to obliviate climate science that observes changes in the Earth, the atmosphere, the world’s ice and the oceans, is a degradation of climate and weather disaster preparedness. For the fossil fuel industry — which has come to completely dominate republican policy-making since at least the years of the Bush administration and which is the cause of pretty much all the harmful changes we now see in the world due to human-forced warming — the degradation of these sensors may help confuse the science and perhaps allow these dirty and dangerous interests to dump carbon into the atmosphere for a few more years or decades. Extending dirty industry profits and what has been a deleterious and corrupting political influence for a little while longer.
(Beaufort sea ice in the Arctic is now melting and breaking up at least one month faster than it does during a typical year. Republicans and their fossil fuel allies may not want to hear or see this happening as it’s direct observational proof that the policies they’ve been pushing — drilling, fracking, coal burning, and suppression of renewable energy — are resulting in increasingly dramatic and dangerous changes to the Earth system and environment. So much so that they want to shut off the satellites that provide us with such critical observational data of what’s happening to our Earth and oceans in real time. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)
For the rest of us, the loss of these sensors means the loss of a key piece of infrastructure — one that is critical to our climate resiliency. For if we cannot observe and predict trends in the Arctic, then we will come to be more and more at the mercy of dangerous changes now going on there. We will be increasingly caught by surprise by the changes that are now almost certainly bound to happen. And a growing number of us will fall into risk of being caught off guard. Of suffering from loss of property and, perhaps, injury or loss of life.
Willful and destructive blindness. That’s what happens when hubris rules in Washington. And for too long now we’ve suffered this republican climate change denial and its all-too-related fossil fuel based hubris. A plague that is now not only wrecking the world’s climate, but is degrading our ability to observe and respond to the dangerous and Earth-altering changes that are now taking place.
Hat Tip to Redsky