The New Lukewarmers: Scientific American Turns Down The Heat Over Global Warming

  • Date: 10/03/18
  • John Horgan, Scientific American

I work hard to maintain my optimistic outlook. Wishful thinking works. The first step toward building a more healthy, peaceful, just world is to believe we can do it. So how do I deal with all the bad news about climate change? U.S. officials are rolling back regulations designed to curb global warming even as reports flood in about its scale and potential consequences.

I have thus found solace in two new essays that offer upbeat takes on our environmental future. Both reflect the outlook of ecomodernism, a movement I have written about here and here. One essay, published in the ecomodernist Breakthrough Journal, is by mega-pundit Steven Pinker. I have knocked Pinker for his views on the roots of war and other matters, but in general I appreciate his empirically-based optimism.

His Breakthrough essay, “Enlightenment Environmentalism,” is adapted from his new bestseller Enlightenment Now. The book, which been praised and attacked, argues that we’ve achieved lots of progress, material and moral, and we should achieve lots more as long as we don’t succumb to fatalism.

In his BreakthroughThe Conquest of Climate” by Will Boisvert, a journalist I met at an ecomodernist powwow a few years ago. My first exposure to Boivert’s dry, iconoclastic sensibility was a 2013 Breakthrough Journal article, “A Locavore’s Dilemma,” which asserts that “the linkage of local farming to efficiency and sustainability is dubious.” Boisvert’s new essay, which he posted on his blog “Progress and Peril,” deserves to be widely read. It is even broader in scope than Pinker’s essay, and I found its analysis strikingly original. Boisvert begins:

“How bad will climate change be? Not very. No, this isn’t a denialist screed. Human greenhouse emissions will warm the planet, raise the seas and derange the weather, and the resulting heat, flood and drought will be cataclysmic. Cataclysmic—but not apocalyptic. While the climate upheaval will be large, the consequences for human well-being will be small. Looked at in the broader context of economic development, climate change will barely slow our progress in the effort to raise living standards.”

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