Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 8, 2014

Looking for optimism

In posts I have placed on my blog during the last two years (see a full list of them at under the menu tab, author’s blog), I have painted a distinctly dark picture concerning our prospects for addressing CO2-caused climate change.  In a recent article entitled “Seven reasons why America will fail on climate change” columnist Ezra Klein, has done the same by listing the seven basic reasons why he believes “all” is essentially lost (see it at  Like me, Klein would like to be more optimistic and would love to have someone point out why he could be more optimistic.  On my blog and in my book entitled “Thoughts of a Scientist, Citizen and Grandpa on Climate Change” I have previously discussed all of Klein’s seven reasons – which I have listed below – and agree with his assessment of each of them.  What I would like to draw primary attention to here, however, is his concluding statement concerning what might nevertheless be done for the benefit of future generations.  I also share Kein’s view on this point – concerning why it is important to continue to do whatever we can – even if “our best” will very possibly not be enough.

First, Klein’s seven reasons for pessimism:

1) We’ve waited so long that what America needs to do is really, really hard — and maybe impossible.

2) The people most affected by climate change don’t get a vote. (Here he is referring to the numerous poor countries of the world that will be affected first and most intensely by climate change).

3) We’re bad at sacrenificing now to benefit later.

4) The effects of global warming are not easily reversible and has a “game over” quality to it.  

5) The Republican Party has gone off the rails on climate change.  It was Palin’s position, not that of John McCain, that captured the Republican Party.  

6) The international cooperation required is unprecedented, and maybe impossible

7) Geoengineering is nuts.  (I agree that the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is not financially possible.  The other geoengineering approach is to increase the reflection of incoming solar radiation.  While that one raises many serious and probably show-stopping questions, nutty, questionable approaches might turn out to be our only remaining options). 

Then,Klein concludes with his best attempt to envision why we should continue to fight this fight.  I totally agree with his view on this point also and have provided it verbatim below. :

A more optimistic view – by Ezra Klein

“I could add that section here, too. I could make up a more optimistic story. I just don’t believe it (though — and I mean this seriously — I would be deeply grateful to anyone who could convince me of it). The world is failing to do nearly enough on climate change nearly fast enough. That isn’t to take away from the incredible work of the activists trying to push politicians further and faster, or to deny the possibility that a once-in-a-generation storm will upend the politics or a tremendous technological breakthrough will render the problem moot. Pessimism shouldn’t be considered fatalism. And impossible fights have been won before.

Perhaps more to the point, climate change isn’t binary. There’s not a single state of success and a single state of failure. Warming the world by 2.5 degrees Celsius is a whole lot better than warming it by three degrees Celsius. Warming the world by three degrees Celsius is vastly less catastrophic than warming it by four degrees Celsius. There are manageable failures and there are unmanageable failures. We’re currently on track for an unmanageable failure. I think it’s possible that we can slowly, painfully pull ourselves towards a manageable failure, but I’m not willing to call that optimism.

On climate change, the truth has gone from inconvenient to awful. Right now we’re failing our future. And we will be judged harshly for it.”


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