An article (“Burning Down the House;” August 15, 2019), by Alan Wiseman, in The New York Review of Books, repeats and reaffirms the bad news that all climate change believers (including me) already know and agree as true:
Climate scientists’ worst-case scenarios back in 2007, the first year the Northwest Passage became navigable without an icebreaker (today, you can book a cruise through it), have all been overtaken by the unforeseen acceleration of events. No one imagined that twelve years later the United Nations would report that we have just twelve years left to avert global catastrophe, which would involve cutting fossil-fuel use nearly by half. Since 2007, the UN now says, we’ve done everything wrong. New coal plants built since the 2015 Paris climate agreement have already doubled the equivalent coal-energy output of Russia and Japan, and 260 more are underway.Climate deniers or skeptics, however, are unlikely to be convinced or persuaded one whit by this article or any other published, whether today or in the last 20 years, when the evidence started to become increasingly overwhelming—to the point that one would have to close his or her eyes to any and all scientific evidence to believe otherwise and carry on as nothing is wrong.
I am not really surprised that many can do this, because the evidence does not project a pretty picture of what we humans have done to the planet, particularly in the last 200 years of our fossil-fuel economy, coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. Our collective records of stewardship is quite frankly dismal. I am not pointing any fingers at any particular individuals, although the fossil fuel industry and its advocates are not looking good. It would be smarter if they dedicated more resources to the green energy revolution, and thus be a part of the solution.
But short-term thinking and greed predominates, with expected results, most not good for us. If we continue as we have been, our planet will eventually become uninhabitable. Money, and its acquisition and accumulation, will be an exercise in futility, which seems counter-intuitive now. You can’t eat money, which is certainly true with Canada’s plastic-based bills, which itself feeds the fossil-fuel economy. The beginning of the end might start in 2030, it might start in 2040, or it might start later. It is only a matter of time. Given the age of the Earth, a few decades is not much time in the grand scheme of things.
Yet, there is a kind of necessity to denying the evidence; and I can understand its appeal, which includes not making any changes to one’s way of life and not worrying about any dreadful consequences. I get it; there is already so much to worry about. Everyday stuff like paying the bills, which always pile up. Why add to the pile? Why make unnecessary changes, when we have been through so many disruptive changes? Yet, as much as I understand this, much of it, I also think that such an approach is neither prudent nor wise. Sure, it is appealing and beguiling.
After all, this is one of those arguments that if we avoid the catastrophe ahead that deniers will say, “you see; it was all a hoax and we were right all along.” Yet, if the events transpire as believers say they will, which includes the great majority of the world's scientists, well, it won't really matter, because we won't be around to say that we were right all along. Or if somehow some of us manage to survive, it will not really be much of a victory.