Noticing a certain amount of (much needed) media self-criticism right now, on the failure of American journalism to do anything like an adequate job reporting on the worsening planetary crisis over the last 30 years.
But there's a critical lapse not being discussed...
During that time, some folks were doing great work.
Hundred of journalists and public intellectuals were covering these problems, unpacking the systems that caused them, exploring solutions, anticipating the world we live in now.
They were largely ignored and unsupported.
Their work was not reviewed, their stories not picked up, their opinion pieces declined. They were not hired, not funded, not given awards, not brought into think tanks or universities.
It needs to be pointed out more often that almost all of our calculations of the difficulty of disruptive climate action presume essentially no meaningful political change, and thus a world where solutions must compete in broken markets with only minimal state help.
Only extremely rarely are genuinely large-scale changes discussed, like national war-level mobilizations...
It's a busy day, but I feel I ought to comment on this new story about the Trump administration predicting "the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century" as an excuse for lowering mileage standards.
2. The first is the Carbon Bubble. If we check climate emissions quickly enough to avoid rapid warming, then high-carbon industries are massively over-valued, and subject to a crash (as I explained here)
If you grew up in a family of modest means, you may not even know the extent to which money enables creative success.
There's the main, obvious one: Rich kids don't have to hustle to survive. Don't need to have day jobs. Don't have the Precariat Fear. Don't have survivor guilt.
Simply not needing to worry about where the money's coming from—or even just not needing to worry about what happens to you economically if you fail—is an almost indescribable advantage when doing creative work.
Here's the biggest problem with explaining the need for climate action with carbon budgets: In my experience, many people react to them as if they are the budget we get to "spend" before we are going to be forced to act on climate.
The reality, of course, is that carbon budgets are [controversial] estimates of the total greenhouse gas pollution we can emit before losing a given chance of holding temperatures at a given level (for instance, a 66% chance of holding warming to 2ºC).
Here's the thing, though: Getting off fossil fuels, closing our economy into sustainable loops, ruggedizing for the impacts ahead, spreading sustainable development—all of these, in our current economy, mean emitting carbon.
A particular challenge of climate writing in this moment is that the very same speed of change that's rendered many previous ideas about impacts, solutions & responses obsolete has also rendered some well-cherished climate storytelling approaches unsound, or even untrue.
2. First of all, some praise: It's great (and rare) to see an outfit as prestigious as @nytimes devote this much attention to climate change, to foreground the planetary crisis with the emphasis it deserves.
3. As someone who began covering climate change in 1990, shortly after the events described in the piece, it's great to see this critical period of failure spotlit.
We're entering the last decade to ward of planetary catastrophe now because of the failure of leaders to act then.
Using the word "transition" to describe the changes climate action and response are unleashing on our societies carries two unhelpful connotations.
The first is a change from one long-term state to another.
The second is of a gradual, controlled pace of change.
Both are wrong.
One of the most pernicious mindsets we have is the idea that change is a period of time we will go through before arriving at a stable state, a long-enduring and perhaps unchanging kind of civilization.
It's a secular form of religious utopia.
The truth is almost certainly that we're in for decades, perhaps centuries, of upheaval—of often rapid shifts in our climate, ecosystems, economy, societies, technologies, and geopolitics.
There is no "there" to get to on the other side of a transition.
It is very difficult for most members of the American press/academia/punditry to accept the idea that their core thinking on climate change and the planetary crisis has been bounded and shaped by Carbon Lobby propaganda... much less grapple with the implications of that fact.
Nonetheless, almost all of us accept as givens ideas about climate change and global sustainability and frames about how to discuss them that were never true, or are no longer true.
There's the really obvious one: The idea that the science of climate change is in question.
No real debate about the science of climate change has existed for at least two decades (arguably much longer)—it's here, we're causing it, it's getting worse and we know why.
One of the things that keeps me up at night is my growing sense that many who rightly demand more justice in the world do not understand the unprecedented injustice of the crises we've set into motion (and are rapidly worsening through inaction on climate and sustainability).
1. The greatest danger in any work that asks you to think systemically about the future is getting locked into the worldview that made sense to you when you first began, that you built your successful career on.
This "sunk-cost expertise" can easily become a set of shackles.
2. It is very common, when you're highly rewarded for a given set of working insights, to commit more to those insights as your career unfolds, to begin even to defend those insights from challenging new perspectives (ones you fear might devalue your intellectual stock in trade).
3. We all have limited time and energy. Building up an insightful mental model of how the world works takes a lot of both. The pay off is in the profit from one's expertise.
this creates a sunk cost investment that we're inclined to psychologically over-value and defend.
We speak, for the sake of brevity, of "the climate movement."
But there is not one climate movement, but several different movements of people who want climate action, and the tensions between them are rising as younger people get more engaged.
2. We can see this best, right now, in the U.S. where there is, first, the old mainline environmental movement, which has done the bulk of climate advocacy work for decades.
Largely, this advocacy work has focused on cap-n-trade/CO2 tax policies and support for clean energy.
3. Mainline enviro groups have tended to treat climate as an environmental issue, indeed, often as one that must be weighed against others (we see this for instance in opposition to windfarms out of concerns for potential bird kills).
I care deeply about rolling back this tide of fascism, racism & corruption, and building far more just, honest & fair democracies for everyone.
This is the time for that fight.
That said, I have never been more worried about another, larger threat.
2. Our planet is in crisis.
This crisis is inarguably the largest present threat to human well-being around the world, right now, and it's getting worse fast.
It ought to be the main focus of human attention, everywhere.
3. Huge numbers of scientists who study the Earth's climate, oceans and ecosystems—and experts who study food, water, public health, migration and international security—are warning us that these systems are plunging into crisis, with each crisis impacting the other crises.