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I Don’t Want to Hear Another Word About Climate Change (Unless You’re Going to Tell Us What We’re Going To Do About It)

I am not and have never been a climate change denier. I do not dispute that there is an ongoing, anthropogenic and rapidly progressing process of climate change, driven mainly by emissions of GreenHouse Gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide and methane, taking a large rising toll on the natural environment, and in human life and property (already in 2009 one report estimated 300,000 lives a year — and, given the likelihood of the figure rising rather than falling, implies deaths in the many millions to date). Indeed, I would go further than most in saying that the damage we are seeing indicates that the process has already advanced to an unacceptable degree — that the world is already too hot — and that even were we go to carbon-neutral today the GHGs already in the atmosphere will mean decades more heating, which would very likely have such second-order effects as thawing permafrost likely to intensify the heating that much further, so that even if we did far, far more than we have done to date the survival of human civilization, and perhaps even the human species itself as vast portions of the planet become literally uninhabitable, may be in doubt . . .

Of course, if one recognizes that all this is real then no reasonable person can expect the media to stop talking about it, can they?

I do not disagree. But it is also undeniable that what the mainstream media has done is inflict an incessant hard rain of bad news on an already terrified public, while being relentlessly negative about any and every possible way of seriously redressing the problem. It has treated renewable energy (like solar) with disdain, and even as those technologies win victory after victory in the marketplace it still never misses a chance to badmouth them (to the delight of the pro-nuclear trolls, whose activity seems to be way, way up these days — just in case you thought that you’d heard the last of them). It sneers at any talk of a Green New Deal. It falls all over itself trying to criticize even the idea of cellular agriculture, and “Transportation-as-a-Service.” It scarcely acknowledges the existence of ideas to save the world’s glaciers. And of course, its hostility to geoengineering of any type has been relentless.

In short, after a long period of drawing a false equivalence between acknowledgment of climate change and climate denial it can seem to have shifted (intentionally or unintentionally) to a narrative of climate defeatism, utterly determined to beat down any hope of useful action whatsoever — which leaves us in the same place in the end as that denial to which it was so much an accessory (while, one might add, saddling the powerless with enormous guilt, because somehow not the politicians, not the CEOs, but they, are responsible for it all, especially if they ever ate a burger in their life).

In response I offer a modest proposal. Ordinarily I do not think that it is reasonable to demand that someone pointing out a problem also have a detailed solution in hand. In fact I tend to think of this as a way of suppressing the dialogue over an issue, and thus also the efforts to deal with the problem. However, as we already know how bad things are — are already literally becoming sick over the knowledge of how bad things are as the depressingly, cripplingly, overfamiliar news is pounded into our heads over and over and over again; and as it seems to me that there are a multitude of ideas that could help (and I don’t mean the “hairshirt,” agonize-over-your-personal-carbon footprint stuff, or even just decarbonizing our electric grid, but also ameliorative stuff like glacier preservation and kelp farming and direct air capture) that ought to be getting far more discussion, and at least some of which seems to me to be worthy of the genuine, massive backing that alone can speed its development and implementation — it is time for the coverage, any coverage we are to take seriously as anything but a promotion of climate defeatism, to start emphasizing what can be done, at length and in detail and as soon as possible, and show the greatest possible rigor in thinking through and explaining those solutions.

This is, of course, not what the media does. It trafficks in fear. And intelligent explanation of problems, never mind solutions, has never been its forte. Yet it is the climate coverage we need to see because we have already long, long passed the point where merely getting people frightened becomes counterproductive.

Originally published at https://naderelhefnawy.blogspot.com.

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Nader Elhefnawy

Nader Elhefnawy

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Nader Elhefnawy is the author of the thriller The Shadows of Olympus. Besides Medium, you can find him online at his personal blog, Raritania.