Last week, a scan of my Twitter feed shook me from my procrastination-induced daze. A tweet from The Guardian read, “The climate change deniers have won,” and it linked to an article of the same title.
The author, Nick Cohen, frequently weighs in on environmental issues. In his article, Cohen addressed a recent publication from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) regarding climate change. Entitled “What We Know,” the report summarizes the wealth of scientific knowledge about climate change. It also diffuses any doubt that humans have fueled the rapid climate shift and calls for Americans to acknowledge the problem as a serious threat.
With this in mind, Cohen postulates that the AAAS has essentially confirmed the environmentalists’ worst fear: Climate change is a lost cause.
But despite Cohen’s defeatist attitude, we can’t give up the fight.
As a budding environmental advocate myself, I thought it irresponsible and disturbing that professionals are raising the white flag. I understand that environmental advocacy involves accepting many failures, with few small victories. In this sense, Cohen is being realistic. Still, it didn’t quite motivate me to jump into the environmental ring.
Cohen notes that, despite scientific evidence confirming the severity of climate change, political leaders around the world have been reluctant to act. Radical climate change deniers have persuaded politicians to ignore climate change for many reasons, but Cohen believes the principal cause is that these deniers don’t want to admit they are wrong. They have invested so much – literally and figuratively – into fighting climate change that they can’t look back.
Finally, Cohen argues that environmental advocates can’t change the minds of such climate deniers; no amount of scientific evidence or official reports from prestigious panels will do. Science can’t beat stubborn.
He says that we “need a miracle” to alter the climate change forecast. This suggests that it’s improbable for a global united front against climate change to form. However, large-scale revolutions have happened before.
People are unpredictable. Nobody foresaw the firestorm of activism in the 60s, or the wave of uprisings progressing through the Middle East.
Maybe I’m hopelessly naïve in continuing my efforts to combat climate change. The truth is that, even if we can’t stop climate change, the cause is worth fighting for simply because we know how the story will end.
Climate change will destroy the lives of countless people and animals all over the world. Knowing this means that we have a responsibility to warn people.
Even if they won’t all listen, at least some will be prepared.
Amanda Wood is a junior majoring in ecosystem science and policy.