'Hothouse Earth' Co-Author Says 'People Will Look Back on 2018 as the Year When Climate Reality Hit'
By Jessica Corbett
Amid a flurry of "breathless headlines" about warnings in a new study that outlines a possible "Hothouse Earth" scenario, one co-author optimistically expressed his belief that "people will look back on 2018 as the year when climate reality hit."
In an interview with the Guardian on this past Friday, Stockholm Resilience Center executive director Johan Rockström declared, "This is the moment when people start to realize that global warming is not a problem for future generations, but for us now." Rockström's study has received an "unprecedented" amount of global attention in the past week—270,000 downloads and counting.
World is finally waking up to climate change, says 'hothouse Earth' author https://t.co/Ej9XewMr4L— Guardian Environment (@Guardian Environment)1534502027.0
"Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago," Common Dreams reported last week.
This domino effect of feedbacks loops, the report explains, would pose "severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans." Though such warnings are chilling, the report authors and climate experts pointed out a major takeaway from the study that much reporting on it failed to highlight: that there is still time for humanity to act.
"Yes, the prospect of runaway climate change is terrifying. But this dead world is not our destiny. It's entirely avoidable," meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote for Grist this week. "As the authors of the paper have argued in response to the coverage, implying otherwise is the same as giving up just as the fight gets tough."
Investigative journalist Antonia Juhasz, known for her deep dives on the oil industry, spoke with another co-author of the report, University of Arizona professor Diana Liverman, about actions the international community can take right now to address the climate crisis.
/2 I had the pleasure of interviewing report (entitled, "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene") co-… https://t.co/LZxNw7ZOn3— Antonia Juhasz (@Antonia Juhasz)1534370543.0
"Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state," the report's abstract declares. "Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."
Rockström told the Guardian that he is concerned about the growing gap between scientists warnings' and most politicians' docile statements and actions, noting that "politicians prefer small problems that they can solve and get credit for. They don't like big problems that, even if they succeed, leave the rewards for their successors."
However, Rockström added, "once you pile up public pressure, politicians find it hard to avoid taking responsibility." As the Guardian acknowledged, "even in the U.S., which President Donald Trump has vowed to pull out of the Paris accord, public opinion surveys have shown a growing acceptance of climate science," likely helped along by recent extreme weather across the globe, which experts have linked to the climate crisis.
Gallup polling found earlier this year that although there's a notable partisan divide—only 35 percent of Republicans believe human activity is causing the crisis, compared with 89 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Independents—"majorities of Americans overall say most scientists think global warming is occurring (66 percent), it is caused by human activities (64 percent), and its effects have begun (60 percent)."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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