Facts and Feelings

A recent article in the New York magazine is being termed as fear mongering even by respected (and hardline) climate scientists.  At the same time, we know that people tend to vote with their emotions rather than facts - and I am not going to quote a fact to support that feeling. Is fear a good thing? Is it going to leave us petrified and unable to act or help us pool enough collective adrenalin to do something about a danger that will soon be a catastrophe?


Curt Newton's picture

More nuanced treatments of

More nuanced treatments of this article and our responses....This one really resonates for me, a close fit with the sort of community conversation we want to have on ClimateX.

"How Can We Talk About Global Warming? It’s time for the climate story to go beyond hope and fear"
By Renee Lertzmann, Sierra Magazine http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/how-can-we-talk-about-global-warming

Here's a favorite segment:

"The preoccupation with how exactly to talk about global warming can lead to the environmental movement getting stalled out between two poles: Good news! Bad news! Corals are dying! Wind energy is accelerating! The temperatures are rising! Pet a turtle, watch a nature documentary, feel awe. On it goes.

But humans aren’t binary. Ricochet too much, and you end up going in circles, a victim of emotional whiplash.

The way out of this endless cycle of hope-versus-fear is to blow up the dichotomy altogether.

If I’ve learned anything from my research in social psychology, it’s this: A more nuanced—that is to say, a more authentic and more human—mode of communication can actually enhance people’s capacities for response. It’s not about hope or despair or solutions versus warnings. It’s about openly acknowledging that climate change is a classic both-and situation. Yes, things are very bad, and yes, things are likely to get worse; and yes, many people are working on mind-blowing innovative solutions; and yes, humans have tremendous capacities; and yes, it’s also really hard and frustrating; and yes, you yourself as a citizen and an individual have a vital role to play in this unfolding mess. And yes, you may feel pretty bummed out at times. If climate change feels hopeless, that’s a natural feeling to have. All the more reason to come join us. You matter."

Curt Newton's picture

It's been fascinating to

It's been fascinating to witness people's reaction to the piece. I happen to side with David Roberts (Vox) in this discussion, see https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/7/11/15950966/climate-ch...

I get that doomsday scenarios without alternatives are a problem, drives us to hunkered down inaction and despair. But the thing is, we DO have plenty of solutions ready and waiting. I believe part of the reason we're not turning the corner quickly enough as a society is precisely because too many people are lulled by the probabilistic mid-points of climate effects. As bad as those effects are, it's the tail risks that should be driving us.

I would frame the article as "these scenarios are highly highly unlikely IF the world gets in gear with the solutions in hand. AND...if the Trump climate worldview is not resoundingly rejected, the scenarios become much more possible."

I'm all ears for other ways to build the proper degree of urgency. But 'til then, all gratitude to David Wallace-Wells for the long overdue lapel-grab.

Rick Shankman's picture

For those of us that have

For those of us that have lived in South Florida for over 20 years, no fear mongering is necessary for us to realize that something has already drastically changed and something truly dreadfull with the climate is afoot.

That said, for me, it's not a matter of swaying public opinion in anticipation of "voting" a solution into existence. This problem is not going to be solved by the masses.

This problem is going to be solved by the responsible members of the scientific community refusing (at their own economic peril) to partake in, contribute directly or indirectly to, or tacitly excuse climate-denying/global warming behaviors. All global polluters engage the services of academics and scientists/engineers who do (or should) know better than to cooperate with the environmentally reckless behaviors their employers engage in. On the academic side, this includes institutions accepting endowment money and grants from polluters.

This problem must be solved by a global scientific/academic community that simply says "no more" and won't participate in any activity that contributes to the problem. This position may appear impractical and harsh at first glance, but think of it in terms of the harshness of projected environmental cataclysm to come if this type of commitment is not realized.