Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The latest IPCC Climate change report is so depressing, greens are wondering on social media if they should just give up the struggle. But the Guardian offers a dangerous solution to the hopelessness and despair some of their readers may be experiencing.
Don’t despair: the climate fight is only over if you think it is
Sun 14 Oct 2018 18.10 AEDT
After the panicky IPCC report on climate change, it’s easy for pessimism to set in – but that would be conceding defeat
In response to Monday’s release of the IPCC report on the climate crisis – which warned that “unprecedented” changes were needed if global warming increases 1.5C beyond the pre-industrial period – a standup comic I know posted this plaintive request on her Facebook: “Damn this latest report about climate change is just terrifying. People that know a lot about this stuff, is there anything to be potentially optimistic about? I think this week I feel even worse than Nov 2016 and I’m really trying to find some hope here.”
A bunch of her friends posted variations on “we’re doomed” and “it’s hopeless,” which perhaps made them feel that they were in charge of one thing in this overwhelming situation, the facts. They weren’t, of course. They were letting understandable grief at the news morph into an assumption that they know just how the future is going to turn out. They don’t.
Taking action is the best way to live in conditions of crisis and violation, for your spirit and your conscience as well as for society. It’s entirely compatible with grief and horror; you can work to elect climate heroes while being sad. There are no guarantees – but just as Sakharov and Sharansky probably didn’t imagine that the Soviet Union would dissolve itself in the early 1990s, so we can anticipate that we don’t exactly know what will happen and how our actions will help shape the future.
We also need to shut down production directly, with a just transition for workers in those sectors. Five countries – Belize, Ireland, New Zealand, France and Costa Rica – are already working on bans on new exploration and extraction, and the World Bank sent shockwaves around the world last December when it announced that after 2019 it would no longer finance oil and gas extraction.
Given that the clean energy comes with lots of jobs – and jobs that don’t give people black lung and don’t poison surrounding communities – there’s a lot of ancillary benefit. Fossil fuel is, even aside from the carbon it pumps into the atmosphere, literally poison, from the mercury that contaminates the air when coal is burned and the mountains of coal ash residue to the toxic emissions and water contamination of fracking and the sinister chemicals emitted by refineries to the smog from cars. “Giving up” is often how fossil fuel is talked about, as though it’s pure loss, but renouncing poison doesn’t have to be framed as sacrifice.
On one level the IPCC has overplayed their hand – their predictions of imminent doom are so ridiculous the IPCC are straining credibility with their claims, even amongst their believers. Jumping the shark with ever more ridiculous claims will eventually lead to the total downfall of the IPCC’s credibility.
But there is an inner core of fanatics – people who truly believe the world is about to end, unless they personally act to shut down fossil fuel production and consumption.
In my opinion these are the people who think it is acceptable to physically attack oil infrastructure, chase government figures out of restaurants and target political opponents in their homes. Until their belief system finally collapses, I believe this inner core of fanatics will become increasingly dangerous and violent in their pursuit of their impossible goal.
In my opinion outlets like the Guardian are fanning the flames of this dangerous fanaticism. Although the Guardian stops short of openly inciting violence, they are repeatedly promoting the message that the only relief committed greens will find from the pain and despair they are suffering is direct action.