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.