Do We Really Believe in Climate Change?
It’s been one of the warmest winters I can remember. I live in northern New York, just an hour from the Canadian border. Aside from a cold snap that lasted a week in early December, it’s been humid and raining. The Olympic ski mountain near where I live has only a portion of its trails open. Further evidence of warming is ubiquitous — just a Google search away. Yearly averages are rising. Heatwaves last year scorched not only the Middle East, but the United Kingdom. Further calamities — droughts, floods, storms, wildfires — are also easy to find.
Yet, I keep coming back to something a Medium user recently said to me:
Neither you nor I really believe in climate change. If we did, we would be manning the barricades, we would be part of endless strikes, traffic would be snarled for months. We would be blowing up pipelines, sinking oil tankers, and assassinating our corrupt ineffectual leaders.
This comment has really stuck with me. I’ve made similar observations myself (though not about assassinating anyone), about the dissonance surrounding climate change. We have the data, we have compelling insights about it, but around us, life goes on as usual.
Everybody’s an expert. The internet is full of people sure of their position.
— Climate change is unstoppable and we’re all doomed.
— Climate change is solvable and all we need is some grit and positivity.
I’ve been storing food long-term; one reader called me a hoarder. If I say the situation is unfixable, that only adaptation is left, I’m advised to look into mitigation efforts. If I promulgate those mitigation efforts (usually geoengineering methods) readers balk that more human meddling is only going to make things worse. Yet degrowth proposals are equally met with pushback — degrowth is a non-starter, I’m told, a wholly impractical idea that will never gain traction. Climate solutions need competitive markets to grow.
Meanwhile, in the background, is the uncertainty of the science itself. The way Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it, scientific progress isn’t linear; it’s like a circle that keeps expanding the…