Two interesting essays over the past week raise questions on how we frame climate action. Should we declare a “war on climate change,” as 350.org founder and author Bill McKibben proposes, or “wage peace for regenerating ecosystems,” as author Judith Schwartz writes?
Here’s a clip from McKibben:
“We’re used to war as metaphor: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer. Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.) It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. Its first victims, ironically, are those who have done the least to cause the crisis. But it’s a world war aimed at us all. And if we lose, we will be as decimated and helpless as the losers in every conflict–except that this time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planetwide occupation that follows.
The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?”
Here’s a clip from Schwartz:
“Shifting to renewable energy—the core of McKibben’s mobilization—is essential. But this alone won’t avert climate disaster. Even if we stopped fossil fuel emissions this minute, it would take centuries to bring CO2 down to appropriate levels. Plus, what remains unspoken: We could suck all the CO2 we want out of the atmosphere and still suffer the droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires we now associate with climate change. We’re blind-sided by carbon, as if breaking our fossil fuel addiction were all that’s needed to restore climate dynamics. Climate is too complex to be reduced to a single variable.”