Do we have the right to be climate doomists?

The last three months of climate disasters alone have felt like the prelude to a classic disaster movie; warning signs that are leaving a breadcrumb trail towards an inevitable and irrevocable disaster.

Wildfires in Greece, Maui, and Canada, record-breaking global temperatures, Pacific Ocean sea levels rising well beyond the average.

And with it, there seems to be a growing sentiment of "Climate Doomism" that is spreading as quickly as wildfire amongst the younger generations as they grow apathetic towards the increasingly dangerous inaction of governments, businesses, and peers.

But is Doomism a luxury we can afford?

Climate Doomism is a frame of mind that is quickly taking hold of younger generations as they see the increasingly frequent warning signs of global warming as a sign that we won't fix the problem.
Climate Doomism is a frame of mind that is quickly taking hold of younger generations as they see the increasingly frequent warning signs of global warming as a sign that we won't fix the problem.

The Lancet, a planetary publication, recently surveyed 10,000 children and young people (aged 16–25 years) in ten countries on their "thoughts and feelings about climate change, and government responses to climate change." The study found that while nearly everyone felt at least moderately worried about the climate crisis, a whopping 83% of respondents believed that governments and policy makers have failed - with little to be done now to solve this crisis.
The study's findings are upsetting, but they are hardly surprising, especially when, in relation to the climate crisis, the one thing global governments can be consistently defined as is: Inconsistent.
I believe it's partly why activist activities have also reached a tipping point, as they now stand in direct antagonism to civil life, discourse, and dialogue.
And this makes sense when you look at certain polls or studies on youth attitudes towards climate action, or rather, inaction. A recent Science Direct poll of young people in Norway found that "anger" was the most prevalent emotion amongst young people.
"People should feel angry because they had been deliberately deceived by fossil fuel companies and governments had let that happen, said Dr Laura Thomas-Walters, a social scientist at the Yale Programme on Climate Communication and an activist with Extinction Rebellion, who was not involved in the studies.
The link from anger to activism was logical, she added. “It’s in the name that activism is an ‘active’ behaviour, and anger can spur action.”
Yet at the same time, anger and frustration can lead to as much inaction as not. For many young people, a state of apathy seems to be the most appropriate response to global temperatures.
So, it seems like there are really only two options:
Defect towards green extremism or embrace apathy and give up.
But is the only response that one can or should have to the climate crisis? Or is it simply a inevitable result to the sensational way in which media portrays global warming?

The unsung successes of the climate crisis

As Pilita Clark's FT article points out: "It is not hard to see doomist thinking spread, especially in a year such as this when a warming El Niño climate pattern is adding to a baseline of human-caused higher temperatures."
But with that being said, it is often the case that climate disaster takes centre stage over climate solutions. In other words, the negative is far more tractional in a media setting, that it overshadows all the amazing work being done for climate action.
So, naturally, this leads to a far more skewed perception of the state of the climate crisis than what is reflected in reality. To the point where the negative sentiment races ahead of even the dire warnings of scientists.
When in reality, there is a constant stream of reasons to be "climate-positive", from investments into new solar projects, to innovations like water batteries, and wind farms having the potential to generate 33% of all energy.
Yet it's incredibly difficult for people to access these stories, because every second headline on their newsfeed or For You page bends the narrative towards despair rather than hope.
And this is dangerous, because the reality is that neither Doomism nor marginalizing activism provides a through-lane for collective climate action.

Why Doomism is as bad as Denial

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The Doomist mentality is not something that is exclusive to the climate crisis. Young people have warranted reasons to be apathetic about many things. House prices, job opportunities, AI turning them into batteries to power their automatons... etc, etc.
But as pointed out in a recent Washington Post article on the matter, "the problem with climate “doom” — beyond the toll that it can create on mental health — is that it can cause paralysis."
What's more, it has reached such a state of apathy that many have taken to perpetuating it as hard and as dogmatically as climate deniers spread their denial. So much so, that they actively combat hopeful rhetoric or attempts at reducing hysteria... even if they come from climate scientists themselves.
“It’s fair to say that recently many of us climate scientists have spent more time arguing with the doomers than with the deniers,” said Zeke Hausfather, a contributing author to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In fact, in certain cases they outright accuse climate scientists who try and calm the climate worry down as corporate oil shills who are somehow furthering the carbon agenda.
Regardless of the severity of their accusations, though, the reality stays the same: There's no solutions from a Doomist society.

Extreme action or extreme inaction?

On the other side of the activity spectrum naturally lies the climate activists. However, while this can be a very broad term describing anyone from an IPCC scientist to a Just Stop Oil advocate, the most common association with the term in the news and headlines at the moment is the latter, not the former.
Indeed, these are the most vocal and emotive groups when it comes to climate action, but their format of solutions seems to be entirely anti-establishment and in many cases anarchistic. At the present moment, from a PR standpoint, these groups are doing a better job at alienating the everyday person from the climate crisis discussion, as their modus operandi is disruption rather than dialogue or lobbying.
But with these two groups being the most vocal and passionately disimpassioned, it leaves real estate for solutions-based dialogue and climate positivity to take place.
We should not be in a position where a solutions society is backseat to a Doomist or activist one.

A concerted effort for solutions

Climate solutions are being discovered every day, every week, every month. Some of them are quite literally ground-breaking, like the recent study that highlighted the potential of soil as a carbon sequestration tool.
However, even the most amazing climate solutions won't take centre stage if they're not giving the spotlight they deserve.
This isn't to say that climate disasters and tragedies shouldn't get the attention they deserve either, but part and parcel of changing the narrative is making sure that climate love gets appreciated in the ways that it should, particularly when it's love that inspires positive, collaborative action.
We don't have the luxury of Doomism if we actually want to solve the climate crisis.
  • Patrick Kiash

    43 w

    Doomers are worse than deniers,but none of them is better... They should all see the light of day,so that we can all solve the spirit of doom and denial together.

    • Sarah Chabane

      43 w

      Absolutely agree. Climate doomism might be understandable, but it's a luxury we can't afford. Instead of succumbing to hopelessness, let's focus on actionable solutions and progress being made. We need to be louder than them.

      Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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