My Latest: How to Blow Up a Climate Fantasy
Once more into the breach... What the latest IPCC report really means.
I was asked to comment on the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report for The Nation’s new issue, which is now available online. Here’s the piece. (The headline on the web version is rather different than the one in the print edition, thus I’m including the image above.) It begins this way:
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On March 20, the final installment of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) landed with all the force of a pebble hurled into the sea. Another round of dutifully—and accurately—alarming coverage appeared on the world’s news pages and in social media feeds, but it was barely acknowledged by the guardians of our political and cultural status quo and their corporate paymasters. … [More]
Originally, I was asked to comment as well on the April Harper’s cover story, “The Incredible Disappearing Doomsday,” as a reminder that I’d written a scorched-earth (sorry) piece for TheNation.com back in December called “Against Climate Optimism—Because ‘Team Normal’ Won’t Save the World,” which, as y’all will recall, took a somewhat harder line than did Harper’s. But there wasn’t space in the current print piece (800 words is not a lot!). Here’s the part we had to cut. It didn’t really work as a lead-in to the main topic anyway, so I wasn’t too sad to lose it. But I did have a point I wanted to make, which was this:
Earlier this month, to coincide with the customary ritual of another major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Harper’s magazine graced the world with a sensational cover story on the well-worn subject of climate catastrophism versus optimism. If there is anything new to be said on the matter, the story’s author, Kyle Paoletta, failed to find it. Instead, in a clumsy attempt at a click-bait takedown of New York Times climate journalist David Wallace-Wells, Paoletta manages to reach the unoriginal conclusion—one articulated by Wallace-Wells himself in last October’s New York Times Magazine essay “Beyond Catastrophe” (which Paoletta seems not to have fully read)—that humanity is probably not facing an extinction-level climate “apocalypse”; we merely face “a world destabilized by hundreds of millions of people going hungry and being forced to flee their homes.” (In truth, that’s not the half of it.)
If you’re going to attempt a takedown of an accomplished journalist, perhaps first ask yourself if your own conclusions differ in some fundamental way from those of your target. If not, then everything else is bile that distracts from, to borrow Paoletta’s weighty phrase, “the substantive peril of the present.”
I mean, honestly, what was the point of publishing that Harper’s piece? It added exactly nothing. It was a distraction, click bait for the twittering New York media elites and their climate-comms gawkers who apparently have nothing better to do. I say this not only as one who respects David Wallace-Wells and thinks he was grossly misrepresented in that article. I saw it as someone who’s tired of reading articles on climate change in major national periodicals that have nothing to say about the real task in front of us.
Meanwhile, I have more for The Nation coming soon, and it will be, I promise, something very different.
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And so it goes.