Every day, I find myself thinking about the huge risks associated with unchecked climate change, as well as the reality of how little humanity is doing overall to counter them. One odd consequence of this is ambiguous feelings about disasters like the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On the one hand, it is a human and ecological catastrophe. At the same time, part of me hopes that each of these catastrophes gives a bit more of a psychological push to the population as a whole to deal with our major energy and climate problems. We are driving straight towards the edge of a cliff, and perhaps it is bumps like these that will convince the population at large that we would be wise to slow down.
The same goes for things like summer Arctic sea ice minimums. On the one hand, I know that vanishing ice is a positive feedback, and that warming in the Arctic risks causing massive methane release. On the other, every time the decline of sea ice seems to slacken, climate change deniers and delayers make hay from it, and use public confusion to further delay effective climate policies.
The really worrisome thing is that by the time there is massive evidence of just how dangerous climate change is, it will be too late to prevent truly catastrophic outcomes. Having global emissions peak soon is essential, if we are not to pass along an utterly transformed world to those who will come after us. If some moderately sized environmental catastrophes help that outcome to occur, perhaps we should be grateful for them in the final analysis.
I have speculated before that perhaps only perceived crises can generate real change.