Climate Doomism: Is It Too Late?
A new mindset threatens our chances at minimizing the future impacts of global warming — ingraining images akin to the catastrophic 2009 film, “2012” into the heads of today’s youth — despite its shaky connections to science. What researchers have dubbed “climate doomism” has emerged alongside warnings of a “code red for humanity.” It is classified by feelings of helplessness and guilt incited by frightening headlines and irrevocable statistics. These wake up calls spark a sense of urgency that was lacking before but may seem like a death sentence for humanity to the casual reader.
Climate change can be a harrowing topic. Knowing that today’s youth and future generations will ultimately bear the repercussions can cause climate anxiety for many. Yes, global warming will worsen. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rise, with 85% of emissions coming from the burning of fossil fuels and the remaining 15% from deforestation and land degradation. Sea surface temperatures have shown consistent patterns of increase as the ocean absorbs 91% of the energy from excess heat. Since 1992, Antarctica has lost three trillion tons of ice, contributing to rising sea levels around the globe. The ecosystems and biodiversity of our planet are at stake. However, this does not mean that humanity should abandon all hope.
Christiana Figueres, a former U.N. secretary who helped create the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, informed Associated Press News, “It’s not that they’re saying you are condemned to a future of destruction and increasing misery. What they’re saying is ‘the business-as-usual path … is an atlas of misery’ or a future of increasing destruction. But we don’t have to choose that. And that’s the piece, the second piece, that sort of always gets dropped out of the conversation.”
So, how do we tackle the fear that the livelihoods of children who survive us will be torn apart by this crisis?
It is important to understand that no one is alone in suffering from climate anxiety. 60% of young people [ages 16–25] are frightened by their planet’s future. Scientists and researchers have felt it too. Dr. Natalie Jones, a specialist in existential risk at the University of Cambridge mentioned to BBC, “I’ve felt terrified… I’ve felt incredibly angry at fossil fuel interests who have delayed action for so long. I’ve felt frustration at politicians. I’ve gone through real helplessness.”
Acceptance is a crucial step in confronting the notion that we will continue to live with this issue. It is vital in acting towards change, as it fuels ambition and initiative. Instead of letting climate doom hinder progress, we can pave a new, more manageable path for the society that follows us. Although there are high odds against completely eradicating fossil fuel use in the near future, there are ways we can soften the blow, and abandon laissez-faire attitudes.
If you are experiencing severe climate anxiety, it is crucial to have healthy coping mechanisms. Here are a few helpful ideas.
- Join a group! Working together with others who share the same degree of passion and concern can help combat feelings of loneliness. Making infographics, voicing worries and arranging protests/events can prove to be inspiring and restore hope.
- Change up your diet! While it may not be for everyone, consuming less meat and eating more fresh, locally grown produce can significantly impact the environment. This decreases the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale deforestation, transportation and production.
- Stop wasting food! Each year, people waste around one billion tons of food globally, giving rise to about 8–10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to only buy what is needed from the supermarket and to measure portions carefully.
- Maintain a garden! Not only does growing your own food reduce your carbon footprint, but it can be a great emotional outlet. Allowing biodiversity to flourish by planting and inviting new critters to your backyard may help keep your mind at ease. The effort may be small, but it is still an action being taken in the big picture.
- Do not let anxiety convince you that you are too tiny to make a difference. By trying your best you are providing a great example of resistance for others to follow.
“I refuse to write off or write an obituary for something that’s still alive. We are not through a threshold or past the threshold. There’s no such thing as pass-fail when it comes to the climate crisis,” University of Maine climate scientist Jacqueline Gill told AP News.
When we stop focusing on a fixed fate, that’s when progress begins to be made. Humanity is fully capable of changing the narrative, and we still have a choice about our future, but it won’t happen without action.