There is no such thing as a climate alarmist

Imagine betting everything—your life, your children's future—on the unpredictable odds of climate change. The stakes are unimaginably high, and the danger is impossible to overstate. Yet, some would dismiss these warnings as alarmist.

There is no such thing as a climate alarmist
Photo by Ray Harrington / Unsplashchat

A while back, during a conversation, the other person said something that stayed with me. They called some people "climate alarmists".

Climate alarmists hell-bent on wanting to reverse progress with a frightening religious zeal. Climate alarmists dedicated to making us all ride bicycles, take trains and eat bugs, rather than drive cars, fly in airplanes, and enjoy the cool fresh breeze coming out of an air conditioner on a hot summer's day. Zealots proselytising their version of self-inflicted austerity on the world.

Except there is no such thing as a climate alarmist.

There is no such thing as a climate alarmist because there cannot be such a thing as a climate alarmist.

Today, entire nations, usually poor, most of which barely contributed to our collective greenhouse gas emissions, some of which (Nauru [[0]] [[1]] [[2]] [[3]]) have been transformed into a hellscape by foreign mining operations, are currently disappearing underwater and will be inhabitable in the coming decades [[4]] [[5]] [[6]].

These countries are keenly aware that nothing can be done to save them. Because of the inertia of climate change processes, stopping all greenhouse gas emissions today wouldn't change a thing for them. There is a time lag [[7]] [[8]] [[9]]. This is why some of them are currently buying land in neighbouring, hopefully, safer, countries, like Fiji [[10]] [[11]], or negotiating migration deals with Australia [[12]] [[13]].

Other nations, already economically fragile, will see their infrastructure and economic investments underwater in the next decades.

Many, some already, will have to divert a significant part of their budget from investing in their economy and their population's well-being towards attempting to protect the infrastructure they already have [[14]], or rebuilding elsewhere, from scratch [[15]] [[16]].

All in all, 267 million people today, and much more by then, live in coastal areas that will probably have to be abandoned by the end of the century [[17]]. Meanwhile, Iceland appears to be rising. Good for them? No, not really. [[18]]

Now, let's forget about rising oceans ruining already struggling economies, and take a look at something else. Volcanic activity. Yes, you read that right. Volcanoes. Sounds straight out of a bad action movie. Climate change's effects, such as longer, more frequent droughts, could both compound with a volcanic eruption, leading to disastrous consequences, but it is also now believed changes to our climate could affect the risks of volcanic eruptions occurring [[19]] [[20]]. The good news is, that after blowing entire islands to pieces [[21]], burning thousands of people, and destroying the infrastructures we all rely on every day, volcanic eruptions release tons of gases that might cool down our planet [[22]]. For a little while. There, feeling better? After all, "Patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish for a nuclear winter".

We've skimmed rising sea levels. We've peeked at volcanoes. What's next? Wilder wildfires? Bigger hurricanes? Nah. Earthquakes baby. Let's shake things up with earthquakes.

What do earthquakes have to do with anything you ask? Hopefully, nothing. Except there seem to be multiple ways for melting glaciers (apparently, they don't just melt and make oceans rise, as if that wasn't enough) and droughts (yes, them too, again) to impact the likelihood of earthquakes [[23]] [[24]]. And thus tsunamis too [[25]]. Maybe. Maybe not. [[26]]

Next, we have stronger, more violent, hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons [[25]], more frequent, more violent, longer floods, heatwaves, and droughts [[27]] [[28]] [[29]] [[30]] [[31]]. And, of course, last summer's hot topic: far worse and more frequent wildfires [[32]] [[33]] [[34]] [[35]] [[36]] [[37]] [[38]].

So, as the more astute amongst may have noticed, it is today difficult to say for sure how climate change actually will impact some of these phenomena. How much globally rising temperature averages might, if at all, increase the likelihood of volcanoes blowing up and covering entire cities in warm grey blankets of ash and lava. Or whether or not it will contribute to making "The Big One" [[39]] happen, happen sooner, or just increase the damage and suffering it causes, either directly, or indirectly, when it does happen.

I think we've covered the "alarmist" part. How about the proselytized austerity?

Although I am aware of these risks, keenly aware of how little I am aware of how little I know and understand, and sometimes terrified by all this, I too, however, am not keen on the technological and quality of life regressions proposed by some.

I too would rather not go back to living by candlelight in barns, pushing cartwheels (because horses are too expensive and eat too much), rising with the sun to break my back in the fields all day before tending to my cows (no, no cows, they too eat and drink too much), sheep (ah, nope, them too), pigs (nope), chicken? (no chicken either! Not efficient enough!). Ok... flies then? Ah, no, not flies either. It would seem even "black soldier flies" (...) and "Argentinian cockroaches" (.......) aren't good enough. What I could tend then? My aching joints? While laying in my trusty, decades-old, straw mattress? How grand.

I am all for sustainable social and technological solutions that could help us preserve the best environment for all of us while safeguarding or even improving our living standards. I won't hold my breath on that, especially considering all the greenwashing[[40]], shams[[41]] and scams[[42]] [[43]] [[44] going on (I mean, "clean coal", seriously? What's next, "blue" hydrogen? [[45]]), but I sincerely hope some people will figure out real solutions for all of us. In the meantime, I'll just try to deal with my inner contradictions, do better than I have so far, and give us all a little more time to figure it out.

I don't know the odds. It's a good thing. Because it means we still haven't seen enough of climate change to know any of this for sure. I don't know the odds, but considering the stakes, I sure don't like them. How about you? Would you want to bet on them? Everything you have. Everything you will ever have. Plus your children's entire future. And their children's. And that of everyone else, everywhere. Today, tomorrow, and for the next hundred years or more.

I wouldn't.

Carl Sagan made a great speech, precisely about that, back in 1990.

There is no such thing as a climate alarmist because there cannot be such a thing as a climate alarmist.

There cannot be such a thing as a climate alarmist because the danger, however likely or unlikely, we are all collectively facing, simply cannot be overstated.

So anyone calling anyone else a "climate alarmist" can only be explained by either ignorance, lack of awareness, or a difficult-to-describe self-absorbed absence of care and consideration for others.

[[0]]: New York Times: On Nauru, a Sinking Feeling

[[1]]: MIT Press: A Dark History of the World’s Smallest Island Nation

[[2]]: Searching for Nauru Tourism on a Troubled Tiny Island

[[3]]: CNN: Rising sea level puts island nations like Nauru at risk

[[4]]: Time: The Climate Crisis Is Making the Pacific Islands Uninhabitable. Who Will Help Preserve Our Nations?

[[5]]: NIH: Most atolls will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century because of sea-level rise exacerbating wave-driven flooding

[[6]]: USGS: Saltwater contamination of freshwater resources could make many atoll islands uninhabitable in decades

[[7]]: NASA: If we immediately stopped emitting greenhouses gases, would global warming stop?

[[8]]: Geographical: Climatewatch: 1.5°C? It’s now impossible

[[9]]: Scientific America: Slash CO2, Then Wait—and Wait—for Temperatures to Drop

[[10]]: The New Yorker: President Tong and His Disappearing Islands

[[11]]: The Atlantic: The Island Nation That Bought a Back-Up Property

[[12]]: Reuters: Australia signs security, migration pact with Pacific's Tuvalu

[[13]]: CNBC: Australia offers refuge to Pacific island nation threatened by rising sea levels

[[14]]: Reuters: Rising sea levels are forcing Fiji's villagers to relocate. They want polluters to pay instead

[[15]]: France24: Maldives to battle rising seas by building fortress islands

[[16]]: The Guardian: How to move a country: Fiji’s radical plan to escape rising sea levels

[[17]]: Nature: Global LiDAR land elevation data reveal greatest sea-level rise vulnerability in the tropics

[[18]]: CNN: A drop in the ocean

[[19]]: Scientific American: Get Ready for More Volcanic Eruptions as the Planet Warms

[[20]]: Forbes: How Will Climate Change Impact Volcanic Eruptions?

[[21]]: The Atlantic: The Volcanic Eruption of Krakatoa

[[22]]: BBC: Global cooling - volcanic eruptions

[[23]]: NASA: Can Climate Affect Earthquakes, Or Are the Connections Shaky?

[[24]]: World Economic Forum: Climate change could be triggering more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Here's how

[[25]]: The Guardian: How climate change triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes

[[26]]: Vox: Does climate change trigger earthquakes?

[[27]]: European Commission: How climate change is disrupting rainfall patterns and putting our health at risk

[[28]]: The New York Times: How Is Climate Change Affecting Floods?

[[29]]: PBS: Scientists confirm global floods and droughts worsened by climate change

[[30]]: BBC: How climate change worsens heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods

[[31]]: Nature: Climate change impact on flood and extreme precipitation increases with water availability

[[32]]: EPA: Climate Change Indicators: Wildfires

[[33]]: European Commission: Climate change and wildfires

[[34]]: European Commission: Wildfires in the EU: 2022 was the second-worst year, a warning from a changing climate

[[35]]: USGS: Will global warming produce more frequent and more intense wildfires?

[[36]]: The Harvard Gazette: Wildfires are much worse than a sign of climate change

[[37]]: CNN: How a warming climate is setting the stage for fast-spreading, destructive wildfires

[[38]]: Imperial College London: Scientists uncover the role of climate change in devastating East Canada fires

[[39]]: The New Yorker: The Really Big One



[[42]]: The Australian Institute / The Canberra Times: The era of the great carbon fraud is upon us

[[43]]: The Guardian: Australia’s carbon credit scheme ‘largely a sham’, says whistleblower who tried to rein it in

[[44]]: CNBC: Former Australian Prime Minister Turnbull says ‘clean coal’ is a scam

[[45]]: ABC Australia: A clean future or merely greenwashing? Critics claim Coalition's hydrogen plans are a 'fig leaf' for fossil fuels