What if Adolf Hitler had taken 75 years to gain power and invade most of Europe instead of 30? What if he had been even more sneaky and secret and patient? Little by little he would have gotten power, and his hateful, violent predilections would have had even more potential for realization, but been even less on the world's radar. The way it is Hitler got pretty damn far and caused horrific damage before he was ultimately stopped. What if he had creeped along in the background more?
I imagine there are probably some political scientists and other leaders who still would have seen what was up. They probably would have brought pleas to the public and the governments saying, "we need to act!". Would they have been listened to? After all, life in almost every country would have been going on as usual. People would be waking up, going to work, hanging with friends and living their lives. The public at large wouldn't really see that things were changing, they wouldn't have statistical data to see any significant change in the political landscape of the world, especially a world a continent away.
Meanwhile as the experts grew louder in their warnings, maybe the public would begin to be annoyed, and even mistrust them. After all, some of the people who flaunted those opinions were tied to the defense infrastructure. They did have some power and money to gain if we went to war. After a while, wouldn't it seem like these supposed "experts" were just ringing alarm bells to feed their military cash cow? This Hitler guy had been around for nearly a century and things seemed pretty much the same, didn't they? Weren't the alarmists just trying to get Americans to pay billions of their hard earned dollars and give these generals and their defense hawks in congress clout and power never dreamed of?
"These experts can't control us with lies"
Could that really happen?
If the evidence of Hitler's potential for extremist destruction was kept a little quieter, would experts have struggled to convince the public of that reality and the needed action? Interestingly, Hitler didn't even get America in to the war, Japan did, only when they did something outrageous specifically to America. Nazi Germany is a more interesting example because of it's sneaky origins. It still did take America a pretty long time to put it's nose in that conflict. But once the dam broke it broke hard. We spent 40% of our GDP, made huge sacrifices at home and abroad. And we came out of it having achieved what was right. Germany is now a progressive country that openly acknowledges regret for it's past. Japan has come well around from it's Divine Wind philosophy and is an important partner in the global economy. Achieving that was an immense, but necessary and ultimately successful venture.
Climate change mitigation and adaptation are going to be hard...and expensive, but essential. A really cool podcast episode I heard recently talks about how mythic stories can get people on board with this idea, as opposed to ineffective messaging such as "Just use better light bulbs and bike one day a week, it will work if everybody does it" or "your poor grandchildren will have horrible lives if you don't do anything". This whole thread of values-narrative communication is huge right now, and really cool. It also begs the question (for me at least), does favoring this kind of communication promote or at least do nothing to resolve science illiteracy?
That's definitely a "more on that later", but with all of these questions rolling around, I started to seek an analogy for other difficult, expensive and essential efforts. I turned to history for this one, I am by no means a historical scholar or political scientist, it's just a narrative I formed, but I think we're eventually going to need some outrageous personal affront to American well-being for the dam of mitigation to break. Ultimately we can do it, but I hope we don't mistrust the experts and wait too long!