Our Society Is Living a Massive Lie About the Threat of Climate Change -- It's Time to Wake Up
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This story first appeared on the Climate Psychologist.
Our society is living within a massive lie. The lie says, “Everything is fine and we should proceed with business as usual. We are not destroying our climate and, with it, our stability and our civilization. We are not committing passive suicide.”
The lie says we are fine—that climate change isn’t real, or is uncertain, or is far away, or won’t be bad enough to threaten humanity. The lie says that small changes will solve the problem. That recycling, bicycling, or closing the Keystone Pipeline will solve the problem. The lie allows people to put climate change in the back of their minds. To view it as someone else’s issue—the domain of scientists or activists. The lie allows us to focus on other things. To proceed with business as usual. To be calm and complacent while our planet burns.
And what is the truth? I will not go into the specifics, or the science, of what is happening to our planet or how it threatens to throw civilization into chaos. For a thorough discussion, I will refer you to: The IPCC’ 4th report,Paul Gilding’s “The Great Disruption,” Bill McKibben’s, “ Eaarth” and James Hansen’s “Storms of my Grandchildren.”
James Hansen, recently left his long career as a NASA scientist so that he could more effectively live in climate truth. He is now by pursuing full-time climate change advocacy. Here is how he describes the scope of the problem:
Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril. The urgency of the situation crystallized only in the past few years… The startling conclusion is that continued exploitation of all fossil fuels on Earth threatens not only the other millions of species on the planet, but also the survival of humanity itself—and the timetable is shorter than we thought.
I wish to emphasize two issues that are often misunderstood. First: the time line. Many refer to climate change as a problem for our grandchildren—as occurring sometime in the future. But climate change is happening right now. Storms have been becoming more extreme. Droughts are damaging crop yields, and contributing to civil wars, especially in Africa and in the Middle East. Fish and birds are migrating north. Humans are starting to follow. These problems will get worse and worse. They will combine with each other, to create large-scale disruptions, disruptions that could overwhelm us, causing the breakdown of the social order and the rule of law. These catastrophic scenarios are decades, not centuries, away.
The other issue is uncertainty and how we should incorporate it into our thinking and plans. Our climate and ecosystems are dynamic, non-linear systems. It is therefore hard to predict precisely what will happen and when as the Earth’s climate changes. Scientists don’t have a test case from which to derive predictions. We are the test case.
Shall we make “Scientists don’t know everything! They aren’t sure!” our anthem and take this uncertainty as license to continue business as usual? No. Actually, the opposite. We know that carbon and greenhouse gasses will cause catastrophic impacts for humanity, but we don’t precisely how and when—they will unfold. This uncertainty must therefore reinforce our urgency to make major, systemic changes as rapidly as possible. By delaying action, we are playing round after round of Russian Roulette. Instead of recognizing the gruesome danger and inevitable outcome, we comfort ourselves with the fact that the bullet might not be in the chamber this time.