An Earth Scientist Explores the Biggest Climate Threat: Fear

An Earth Scientist Explores the Biggest Climate Threat: Fear

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“We already know it is too late to reverse the planet’s transformation, and we know what is going to happen next – superstorms, super-droughts, super-pandemics, massive population displacement, water scarcity, desertification and all the rest. Massive destruction, displacement and despair. Our worst fears are already upon us. The reality is far worse than anyone has imagined.”

These phrases are distilled from “Writing at the End,” an essay by Nathaniel Rich in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. They capture its doomsday ethos, and its breathtaking certainty. Rich, a novelist, is sure he knows the causes of our present ills, and the nature of the near future. He probably feels that he learned this from the 98 percent of climate scientists who – famously – agree on some things. I am part of that community; we agree that human greenhouse gas emissions are having a huge, negative effect on global climate. But I don’t agree with Nathaniel Rich.

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