The outlook is not good.
This year -- the year of record-setting Arctic sea ice melt, extreme drought, nasty wildfires, and, of course, the presidential election -- has not exactly been a paragon of Enlightenment-envisioned consideration of science, deliberation, and policy making. Any discussion of the climate-change problem was off the table during the presidential debates. The most (and, perhaps, only) notable mention of climate change in the campaigns so far was Mitt Romney's convention-address joke, mocking Obama for promising to "slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet."
For all those lamenting this "climate silence," Hurricane Sandy had a silver lining: Finally, here would be the impetus for a real conversation about climate change and how to slow its ever-accelerating progress. Even if it can be hard to draw a direct line from climate change to any single weather event, surely a major and freakish storm would get people talking.
And while this does seem to be happening -- fleetingly, I'm sure, like our desperate attention to gun violence following each mass shooting -- the phenomenon of it illustrates just one of many reasons why climate change is so tough to tackle. As Beth Gardiner wrote recently in The New York Times, "We have trouble imagining a future drastically different from the present. We block out complex problems that lack simple solutions. We dislike delayed benefits and so are reluctant to sacrifice today for future gains. And we find it harder to confront problems that creep up on us than emergencies that hit quickly." All of these things mean that collectively we have a really hard time grappling with the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions even as the evidence -- both scientific and anecdotal -- piles up.