Catastrophe or Just a Big Problem?
GR: On Tuesday (July 11, 2017) I introduced an article by David Wallace-Wells that describes the climate change events that will happen and the events that might happen. Some prominent climate scientists have responded with criticism because of the article’s strong message of disaster and doom. These scientists believe that gentle persuasion instead of doomsday warning is the correct way to deliver the climate-emergency message. It is true that gentle persuasion is resistant to ridicule by oil-company sponsored climate-change deniers (whew). Moreover, gentle persuasion isn’t criticized by other scientists (who learned at their mentors’ knee true science is never certain). However, I disagree with these scientists’ stated reason for gentle persuasion. They say:
Such rhetoric [doomsday warnings] is in many ways as pernicious as outright climate change denial, for it leads us down the same path of inaction. Whether climate change is a hoax (as President Trump has asserted) or beyond our control (as McPherson insists), there would obviously be no reason to cut carbon emissions.
I do not believe that gentle persuasion by climate scientists is changing people’s attitudes. It’s certainly not leading to action. Sure, renewable energy production is climbing, electric automobiles are coming on, and most people believe global warming is a genuine problem. However, almost no one in academia, government, or society is responding as if they believe there is a GLOBAL CLIMATE EMERGENCY (please pardon the shouting). If gentle warnings do not work, it seems reasonable to try severe warnings (If you keep patting the beehive, the bees will definitely sting you.)
Here’s a bit of the article by Mann, Hassol, and Toles:
Doomsday Scenarios Are as Harmful as Climate Change Denial
“It is easy to understand why advocates for climate action have become somewhat dispirited in recent months. In the space of less than a year, we’ve seen the U.S. go from playing a leading role in international climate negotiations to now being the only nation in the world to renege on its commitment to the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“It is in this environment of defeat and despair that we’ve witnessed a dramatic rise in the prominence of climate doomism—commentary that portrays climate change not just as a threat that requires an urgent response but also as an essentially lost cause, a hopeless fight. Some of the more egregious examples can be found among fringe characters such as ecologist Guy McPherson—a doomist cult hero who insists that exponential climate change likely will render human beings and all other species extinct within 10 years.”
“Such rhetoric is in many ways as pernicious as outright climate change denial, for it leads us down the same path of inaction. Whether climate change is a hoax (as President Trump has asserted) or beyond our control (as McPherson insists), there would obviously be no reason to cut carbon emissions.” –Michael E. Mann, Susan Joy Hassol and Tom Toles (Doomsday Scenarios Are as Harmful as Climate Change Denial).