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The end of the world?

July 12, 2017

NY Magazine recently published a scare article on global warming, and Stephen Hawking told the BBC that earth may “become like Venus.” And both are wrong. Which would have little significance on most topics. Alas, the fossil fuel industry and American right-wing have politicized global warming. So predicting the worst imaginable case does significant harm to those who are presenting the fact-based science. It engenders hopelessness at a point where we need rational reaction. It requires the scientsts working on global warming, such as Michael Mann, to spend time and effort to correct the exaggeration. Some people not much involved will be confused by who now is saying what. Perhaps worst of all, it gives fodder to the deniers, letting them pose as rational when they bat down such claims and helping them sow even more confusion.

I don’t think global warming will kill off our species. The enormity we are facing is something different: the mass extinction of many other species and loss of irreplaceable ecosystems. The chief cause of that is habitat destruction. Global warming makes that worse, but is not the sole cause. What we are losing is not the hope for human life, but the hope that our grandchildren will be able to experience the natural places that our grandparents experienced. And that is a terrible loss indeed. It is not the end of the world we are facing, but the attenuation of the natural world in which humanity evolved and expanded and lived from our ancestral species, to now. The great question is: how much of it can we salvage?

Update: Climate Feedback has a more detailed analysis of the NYMag article.

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