It is Now Hopelessness - Not Denial - That Keeps Climate Change Strong

Climate change is a big deal. And it’s not always comfortable to think about. In fact, this lack of willingness to touch such a scary topic is now possibly one of the biggest threats to positive change. A panel of researchers suggest that “neoskepticism” – believing climate change is real but not believing anything can be done about it – is now a huge problem that needs addressing.

Researchers Paul Stern of the National Research Council, John Perkins of The Evergreen State College, Richard Sparks of the University of Illinois and Robert Knox of the University of California have written an essay explaining neoskepticism. They have also offered some ways to combat this new public trend.

While out-and-out deniers of climate change still exist, they are now far outclassed by those who do believe, but who think putting any sort of plans to combat climate change will be a waste of time and money. After all, who knows if they’ll even work? What of the costs involved? What will become of our daily lives?

It’s a frustrating point to argue, as on the one hand the list of evidence to the effectiveness of fixes is immense, and the technology to do so quite literally available right now. But try convincing Joe Bloggs, especially when the much louder voices of politics and big oil insist that the current way is the only way, and you’ve got a society that’s essentially afraid to take any positive action at all.

But politics and business, are nothing in the end. The threat that grows each and every moment we continue to ignore climate change is real. However, as the researchers note, painting the issue of climate change in such “doom and gloom” overtones is doing nothing to motivate the public. Instead, they argue we should look to past victories and hold them as proof that things can be done and that positive change can be made. For example, the chemical DDT was once rife across Europe and America, despite its devastating effects on the environment and wildlife. Despite the benefits of banning the chemical being “uncertain” at the time, it was banned and the world was indeed better off for it. They argue we should hold victories like that up as a mirror to our current climate change issue: the benefits of our proposed changes aren’t guaranteed, but the rewards could be great. We have to try. We can’t just do nothing.

This essay is only the beginning of what they hope will be the beginning of a very large conversation among the scientific community. In essence, they believe we need to find new ways to frame the issue. To present climate change not as an unstoppable harbinger of devastation, but as something that can be improved, can be stopped, and that better choices can be made.

And I for one wish them luck in having that conversation.