Time to silence voices of denial

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Admitting there’s a problem is usually the first step toward dealing with it.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/01/2020 (1063 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Admitting there’s a problem is usually the first step toward dealing with it.

And yet, when it comes to climate change — undoubtedly the most urgent problem of our time — many people still deny it exists. What will it take to get climate skeptics to take this issue seriously? Grim studies are not compelling to them; nor are the pleas from scientists, who have reached a near-universal consensus on human-made climate change. Instead of listening to the words of young climate activists such as Greta Thunberg, people fixate on the fact she’s touring the world instead of attending school.

So maybe we turn to the images of climate change-related disasters. Right now, Australia is burning. The pictures are harrowing. Red and orange skies, choked with smoke. People’s homes exploding. The continent’s most beloved creatures, koalas, with scorched paws and fur. People, in masks and goggles protecting them from unbreathable air, fleeing their homes for the beach, in the hope that the sea may help them survive.

Dan Himbrechts/AAP Images via AP Firefighters battle the Gospers Mountain Fire in New South Wales, Australia.

The continent is the face of the climate crisis, the brushfire photos an apocalyptic preview of what’s to come if we can’t accept the truth of the critical issue at hand. “This will happen” has become “This is happening.” It’s not a prediction. It’s reality.

The Australian wildfires are far from being the first or only climate-related disaster we’ve faced. Last year alone saw an intense heat wave sweep India and Pakistan, with highs reaching 51 C. Much closer to home, Manitoba saw a freak October snowstorm and unprecedented fall flooding in 2019; a dry growing season and a wet harvest left more than 180,000 hectares of farmland in the province unharvested.

Weather and climate are not the same, it’s true, but weather is a part of climate. Extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods, occurring in greater frequency and severity, are heralds of a changing climate. Human beings are complicit and, in increasing numbers, are suffering. And they — we — will continue to suffer. Famine, disease, resource precarity, war — it’s all in our future unless there is radical change.

For a long time, even those who accepted the reality of climate change remained reluctant to use the phrase “climate change.” As history has shown, our species isn’t great when it comes to the long game. We tend to be more concerned with instant gratification. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the future, and it’s easy to maintain a certain amount of cognitive dissonance about something that’s happening half a world away.

And so, we remain hung up on the first step: admitting there’s a problem.

In 2020, there’s no longer room for debate about the existence of climate change. Treating it as a hypothetical is a luxury the inhabitants of this critically ill planet can no longer afford. We need our leaders to make climate change a priority issue, but that can’t happen until they, and we, stop wasting precious time with circular debates and denials while the world burns down around us.

Climate-change deniers, including those directly invested in the fossil-fuel industry, should no longer dictate the terms; a false balance — sometimes described as “bothsidesism” — has no place in the current conversation. Regardless of your political affiliation, or your financial interest, or your chosen sources of information about the most critical issue of our lifetimes, we all live on Earth.

Isn’t trying to save it in everyone’s best interest?

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