Climate Change Pessimism: Helpful or Harmful?

There is some debate in climate change circles as to whether there is too much pessimism on the subject and whether this is or is not helpful. My dark riff:

I am always reminded of the Hungarian Jews. They had survived the Holocaust because Hungary had not joined in that project. They must have thought they had survived….

“But then a German occupation of Hungary happened and: “From May 15 to July 9, 1944, Hungarian gendarmerie officials, under the guidance of German SS officials, deported around 440,000 Jews from Hungary. Most were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where, upon arrival and after selection, SS functionaries killed the majority of them in gas chambers.”

The so-far-we-have-no-calamity mentality is a problem for humanity.

That said, I would prefer to handle an uncertain future with scenario based futuring as developed by Peter Schwartz in the Art of the Long View: you set up say four possible scenarios and trip wires to show if anyone is becoming the most probable. And yes you can act to try to make a scenario not happen. The key is to analyse the forces driving towards each possible future. to have no one “official future” but to learn from the possible futures and tell stories about how they were or were not avoided as if we are now in say 2100.

For instance four scenarios:
1) We do nothing much different and billions die and civilization collapses, humanity reverts to 10 million hunter gatherers in the ruins.
2) We act decisively but way too late so hundreds of millions die and civilization gravely weakens and become barely recognizable
3) We act decisively but it is already too late to head off some major impacts and tens of millions die and civilization continues to need massive reform efforts for generations
4) We stop carbon emissions dead and avoid any mega deaths and life is good.

I find #4 hard to believe. #3 is a major stretch. I lean #2 though would not rule out #1.

The real issue is: is it too late to change thinking about stopping catastrophic climate change. That is a political, social psychological question and really also one of what would it take to change humanity’s divided mind on this. Some say humanity can’t really act to stop its own extinction because we are wired to deny our own individual death…..

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Environmental Conflict, US Political Conflict, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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