Elegy for a Planet on Fire: The Truth of Climate Change | Opinion – Newsweek
A number of years ago, my psychologist and I got around to discussing my fear of global warming and the end of the world.
She explained to me that, sure, I could focus on that — and that I was probably right about what was going to happen — but it wasn’t a smart way to live my life. No, she said, true wisdom comes from being able to shove the big picture to one side and find happiness. To love your children, and your spouse. To enjoy a good meal every once in a while. To try to find fulfillment in your work and satisfaction in your hobbies. Perhaps find consolation in a being greater than yourself.
She was right those 20 years ago, in a way. I mean, achieving denial and tolerating cognitive dissonance have helped me to deal with the depression that has dogged me all my life.
Of course, as the people of the United Kingdom are experiencing today and tomorrow, she was equally wrong. I’ve written about climate change. I’ve edited a thousand stories on it. I’ve owned a Tesla. And, in reality, I’ve taken no responsibility for the greatest threat to civilization that there is.
When I can no longer block reality from my thoughts and I look at my 8-year-old son, I am crushed by sadness over the world I am leaving him. I am raising him as I was raised, as if the future was a straight line and the path forward would lead only to progress.
But I know better.
There’s a widespread belief that the media is all about dramatic headlines and fearmongering. I can tell you from the inside that while headlines sometimes oversell the truth, mostly, if we’re not talking about Fox News and other Murdoch outlets, the opposite is true.
For many years, editors at the top tended to downplay stories about climate change, both out of a sense that responsibility means understatement, and a dedication to the principle of both-sidesism. I was more than 20 years into my career before The New York Times or The Associated Press were willing to call global warming what it is and to stop giving deniers equal space. Somehow, with the planet burning, my colleagues were able to find “very fine people, on both sides,” as former President Donald Trump said about neo-Nazis and everyone else.
It’s important for us to realize that there are no two sides to climate change and, despite cheerful headlines about carbon capture and electric vehicles, we will miss all the goals that the United Nations set to keep rising temperatures on Earth down below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Warming is likely to be two degrees, or three — or more before the end of this century.
There have been efforts to visualize what that hotter planet would look like. We throw the word catastrophic around. Click the link to see what it really means.
Global goals have been set at halving the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by 2030. This will not happen. It cannot happen. And it’s time to acknowledge that fact. The only major contributor to a decrease in greenhouse gas generation was a plague, and even that didn’t do all that much.
We need to face the facts. Nobody in government is even thinking about dreaming of proposing any policy that would truly slow global warming. In fact, as the war in Ukraine grinds on, the government’s sole focus is on lowering gas prices and increasing supplies of the very drug that is killing us.
People and birds are dropping dead of the heat now, not in the future. The planet is literally burning now, not in the future. The Amazon rain forest, called the lungs of the planet, is being cut down at such a rate that we’ll see the last tree fall in our lifetimes.
I love science fiction, I truly do, but I hadn’t imagined that I’d live through the apocalypse of Soylent Green. Nor did I think that the people I’d be apocalypsing with would have their fingers in their ears while shouting “Lalalalala!”
So, what do I have to offer you, other than despair?
If you’re an inventor, invent.
If you’re a person who prays, pray.
If you’re a person who feels they can compost the world to redemption, do it.
If you’re a leader, for God’s sake, lead.
Jason Fields is a deputy opinion editor at Newsweek, an author, and co-host of the Angry Planet podcast. TWITTER: @jasonqfields
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.