Can Climate Hyperbole Eat Us All For Breakfast?

The Atlantic’s article is titled ‘Can The Planet Be Saved?’ And although two of the experts consulted wrote about water resources and biodiversity, the rest were all in for gloom and doom because of climate change.

For those who say that climate activists don’t really preach catastrophe, this article should serve as an awakening.

Margo Oge, former director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality of the Environmental Protection Agency

“Reason for despair: Climate change is the biggest challenge our planet faces. The science is clear, the risks are real, and the phenomenon’s impact on every part of our planet is increasingly visible. …”I despair that time will have run out for future generations. I fear that killing, or endlessly delaying, the nation’s serious efforts to mitigate this threat will be catastrophic: rising seas swallowing island nations, floods wiping out towns and villages, unprecedented heat waves and drought destroying crops and lives, and even global instability that provokes wars.”

Elizabeth Marino, assistant professor of anthropology​ at Oregon State Unviersity

“Reason for despair: As an anthropologist working alongside indigenous communities in the United States, it’s hard not to see climate change as another wave of violence inherent in the colonial ideal. …”These burdens are all part of climate injustice. …”But even aside from this new form of colonial violence, I despair because, more than any other crisis, climate change needs alternative cultural models for framing problems and non-Western solutions.”

Juliet B. Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College​

“But how can one not despair at the certain destruction we’ve already ensured with the warming and chaos that is now built in to the climate system? …” It is 60 degrees in Boston, in  December, in what’s likely the world’s warmest recorded year, a distinction which may be eclipsed 12 months from now. All the while, the politics of hatred are rising, like the sea levels.”

Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice and a senior research scientist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks​

Reason for despair: Living in Alaska, the only Arctic state in the United States, I am witnessing the fast-forward of geologic time. My despair increases as I watch Arctic ecosystems collapse. The recently negotiated Paris Climate Agreement includes aspirational language to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But in Alaska, winter temperatures have already increased 3.5 degrees Celsius since 1975. Ice and snow, iconic elements of the land and sea in the Arctic, are disappearing.” And referring to three Alaskan communities that are relocating we read …”we are completely unprepared to respond to the humanitarian crisis which will be caused by rising seas forcing millions of people from their homes, their heritage, and the places they love.”

Gernot Wagner, senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund

“Reason for despair: Climate change. It’s the perfect problem: more global, more long-term, more irreversible, and more uncertain that virtually any other public-policy problem facing us. Climate change is a lot worse than most of us realize. Almost regardless of what we do on the mitigation front, we are in for a whole lot of hurt.”

All of the experts cited also offer reasons for hope, but it’s thin gruel. ‘Solidarity.’ ‘The Paris Climate Accord builds an important foundation.’ ‘COP21, the UN talks in Paris, ended with a degree of hope that is unprecedented in the world of climate.’ That sort of thing. If you were to believe their reasons for despair, you would not be comforted by their reasons for hope.

But their fears are largely unfounded, at least for the present. One of the Alaskan communities relocating has only been in existence for 50 years and was sited near land subject to melt from human heat, not climate change. As for climate change being a form of colonial violence, I have to wonder if the author has watched too many episodes of Portlandia–she is in Oregon, after all. Dr. Marino is undoubtedly aware that the largest emitter is China, not famous for its colonial exploits, while the big worry about emissions centers on India, which was a colony not a colonizer.

As for Ms. Oge of the EPA, someone should really inform her that island nations are growing, not shrinking. Floods have been wreaking violence on villages and towns for millenia, but they are no longer killing 3 million people in one flood. Damage is great, but loss of life is smaller than ever and decreasing rapidly. Someone should tell Ms. Oge that for the past century global drought has decreased slightly, not increased in unprecedented fashion and that her own organization has said there is no trend in U.S. heatwaves.

So the question that forms the title of the article needs to be turned on its head. We should not ask ‘Can the planet be saved?’ We need to ask ‘Is the planet threatened?’ And if so, by what? Certainly the impacts of climate change, costed out at a measly 5% of GDP, will pose a problem for this and future generations. But catastrophe?

Give it a rest.

the end is near


8 responses to “Can Climate Hyperbole Eat Us All For Breakfast?

  1. I once subscribed to The Atlantic…[Sigh] I once supported NPR too [Sigh]

  2. ‘We should not ask ‘Can the planet be saved?’ We need to ask ‘Is the planet threatened?’ And if so, by what? Certainly the impacts of climate change, costed out at a measly 5% of GDP, will pose a problem for this and future generations. But catastrophe?
    Give it a rest.’

    2 points to make here: 1. Can the planet be saved? You have correctly identified a common misconception about the whole issue of climate change – it is not the planet, per se, which is under threat. What is under threat is the survival of the species and ecosystems which live on the planet. Just to take one simple illustration – millions of years ago the planet was nothing more than a seething mass of gas and liquid, a form which could only support the simplest and most basic of organisms (eg bacteria, single cell organisms). In millions of years time it is quite possible, especially if the current threat of climate change is not dealt with properly, that it may return to a similar state. The point is this – no matter what Mankind (or Nature) does to the planet, it is highly likely to survive in some form – but will that form be one which can support the level of human and animal life which we recognise today? Most unlikely. This is the real risk of climate change – not that it will somehow destroy the planet (it won’t) but that it will destroy the kind of physical environment (eg well balanced atmosphere) which current ecosystems – and, most importantly, those which the continued survival of the human race depend on – need for their survival.

    2. The ‘measly’ cost of current climate impacts for current and future generations – currently, the economy of a major developed nation such as the UK is measured in units totalling £hundreds of billions. Get your calculator out & work out what 5% of say, £100billion is – the answer is, an absolute shedload of money! If this astronomical figure is the likely cost of climate impacts, I would not describe this using a word like ‘measly’ – I would replace this with the far more accurate term ‘catastrophe’. Get a grip (and a calculator) and stop putting out such an ill informed diatribe as this article. It might also help if you were to get out into the real world occasionally or, failing this, just turn on the TV news once in a while, and look at what is facing the human race.

    • leedsjon1,
      Wow, just wow.
      So-called “climate change” is, you claim, causing a catastrophe. Bunk.
      The projections of so-called costs of “climate change” are as bogus and meaningless as the climate models themselves.
      The justification for the costs you quote is as circular as they are empty.
      The fact that rain, storm, drought, fire, sea level rise, ocean pH, are doing nothing out of the ordinary is lost on the climate obsessed. Look for the magic CO2 demon’s work all you want, and you will find it only exists in one place: your mind.
      And your cure for the lack of the author’s belief in your climate voodoo is classic:
      Watch more TV news.
      How pathetic

    • Glad you posted here. Maybe we can have an intelligent discussion yet.

  3. Paul-Étienne Harvey

    Just looked at your profile. Calm down. Grow older.

  4. This is a common strategy used by activists of all stripes to bamboozle people into spending money on the activist’s cause. AIDS activists shouted that “everyone is at risk” without pointing out that most people had a vanishingly small risk. But they succeeded in diverting huge medical investment to an easily preventable disease. Cancer is and always was by far a bigger threat to human happiness. Trendy leftists of course were on the bandwagon with their ideas that AIDS impacted disproportionately a fashionable but hardly downtrodden “minority.” It’s a tired script that is highly refined and so discredited by history that one would have expected those paying the bill to have gotten the idea. Thus, the need for ever increasingly dire consequences if we don’t “act”, i.e., spend huge sums of money. We live in an age of propaganda and constantly shouted messages from those who spent a lot of time strategizing about how to “get the message out.” Often the message becomes more important than truth, an ordinary artifice of those who seek not the truth but their own advantage.

  5. Tom,
    When I heard a softball NPR interview with some climate rep from Polynesia talking about the billions they need to relocate from the crisis, it was clear to the careful listener that he knew he was conning the public. The climate con was never actually giving any numbers or examples. He was only talking about token villages being moved based on futuer fears. No evidence was offered at all that anything is deteriorating in Polynesia.
    And of course the truth is there is no inundation crisis in Polynesia. Atolls are growing on all but the islands that pollute their reefs with agricultural and sewage runoffs.
    It is astounding how less than 200 years after Darwin discovered that Atolls are living islands that grow with the ocean we see a generation of allegedly educated people who are too stupid to ask for proof from people claiming Darwin was wrong.

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