Tremendous damage is being done by media, activists, and some politicians by hyping climate change (global warming).
Such climate exaggeration is damaging the mental state of millions of people and undermining our ability to deal with climate change. It leads to poor adaptation to the moderate impacts of global warming or taking realistic steps that can be highly protective.
The front page of the Seattle Times yesterday contained a story (reprinted from the NY Times) about the rapid growth in climate change anxiety and the burgeoning industry providing therapy to those in desperation and pain.
There are hundreds of articles in major media on the rapid increase of “climate grief.” And a recent article in the medical journal, The Lancet, surveyed 10 000 children and young people (aged 16–25 years) in ten countries, finding that 59% were very or extremely worried and 84% were at least moderately worried. More than 50% reported feeling sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty, and 75% said that they think the future is frightening.
An international climate grief organization is flourishing. And universities, like UW Bothel, are providing climate grief classes.
One of the most frequent refrains of the media and activists is that global warming is an existential threat. Just a reminder, an existential threat is a threat to your VERY EXISTENCE. We are talking about death.
There are literally thousands of media stories stating that climate change (global warming) is an existential threat. President Biden and the U.S. senator from California are saying the same sort of thing:
Check the Seattle Times for the term “existential threat” and climate and you will find hundreds of stories with that connection (see below). The Seattle Times is well known for its unfounded apocalyptic climate headlines and terrorizing cartoons by David Horsey. Totally irresponsible.
I get dozens of emails and calls a year from worried folks, including individuals wondering whether they should have kids, considering the world will end soon.
Just Plain Wrong
The existential threat business is not based on science or facts. Read the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, created by leading scientists: there is no existential threat noted. The same thing with the U.S. National Climate Assessment. Read the peer-reviewed scientific literature. There is no existential threat.
Global warming is a slowly growing, serious issue, but one we can deal with by both reducing our carbon emissions and mitigation/adaptation efforts. There will be impacts, some serious, but nothing that threatens human existence or even the advancement of our species.
We can deal with climate change, and there is great reason for optimism.
For example, the number of climate-related deaths is way down (see below). Richer, more technologically advanced societies can protect themselves from environmental threats. And I am proud that greatly improved weather prediction plays a major role in protecting life and reducing economic impacts.
Worried about forest fires in the western U.S.? By restoring (e.g., thinning, proscribed burns) our overgrown forests (damaged by nearly a century of fire suppression), we can greatly reduce large catastrophic fires. Flooding a concern? We need to move people living near rivers or on historical floodplains–or take the necessary steps for their safety (e.g., better levees, improve warning systems).
Irresponsible media, such as the Seattle Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, National Public Radio (e.g., local KNKX) are pushing a terrifying message unconnected with science or reality. So are a number of politicians. You can imagine why they are doing it–and often it is not for benevolent reasons.
Hyping climate change is simply unethical and wrong.
Folks hyping climate change are harming the mental state of the most vulnerable in society. And their end-of-the-world claims are resulting in poor decisions–like relative inaction on fixing forests, opposition to natural gas to replace dirty bunker fuel in Puget Sound shipping, and opposition to nuclear power.
There is a lot of talk that folks need to “follow the science.” Fine, let’s do so. Science does not suggest that global warming will lead to the end of humanity or even the termination of mankind’s progression towards longer, healthier, and better lives.
Apocalytic predictions calling for immediate action have gotten our nation into trouble many times in the past, resulting in major errors. The world would turn communist unless we went to Vietnam, that Sadam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction demanded we start a war with Iraq, that the communists threat required a McCarthy-led reign of terror in the U.S. That alcoholic beverages were such a threat we needed prohibition.
We are doing it again with climate change. When will we learn?