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Reblogged:An Environmentalist Pushes Back on Alarmism

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In an article at Forbes, Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress notes that "no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species." More important, he notes that the common practice of tossing apocalyptic predictions around like croutons over a salad has some negative, real-world consequences:

Really? Why? (Image by Markus Spiske, via Unsplash, license.)
In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change. In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion ("XR") -- an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence -- and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters. And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was "happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight" from climate change.


Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public. There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people. And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over. [bold added, links omitted]
These tactics emphatically include -- and I think are essentialized -- by Greta Thunberg's recent call for panic. Considering that (1) the hallmark of panic is blind action, with cooler heads issuing orders, and (2) the remedies proposed by the panic-mongers are quickly seen to be wrong and life-threatening upon careful consideration; let me add that this kind of framing would lead any sane person to question the motives of the people making the claims. This would be true and reasonable, even if the claims were correct and the cause just, neither of which is the case with whatever green totalitarians are choosing to call global warming at the moment.

There is a lesson here, and not just for people who might be concerned about the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate. Even if a course of action would (such as essentially outlawing fossil fuels without an alternative in place) result in a catastrophe, screaming that the sky is falling is no way to be taken seriously.

Those of us who are interested in truly making a positive difference in the world would do well to view climate catastrophism as a case study in what not to do.

Climate alarmism has been as successful as it has been only because the culture of our society has been disarmed by hundreds of years of altruism and collectivism, and several generations of Progressive education. Competing for scaring others the most does nothing about this problem, is aiming at exactly the wrong audience, and will not create the kind of change we need. That requires rational persuasion, which is the farthest thing on earth from herding a panicked crowd, and far more effective, at least if human flourishing is the goal.

-- CAV

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