How to Act on Climate Change in a Post-Truth World

Shortly after President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, longtime New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert decided it was time to get clear on the debate around global warming. “I thought, ‘Either this is a really big deal—in which case it’s being horrifically under-covered—or it isn’t, in which case we could forget about it,” Kolbert says. She set off to Alaska and Greenland, met with top atmospheric scientists, and quickly learned that the vast majority of scientists had arrived at a consensus: Our world was changing. Her resulting three-part series in 2005, “The Climate of Man,” took readers to the front lines of climate change and became the basis of a seminal tome on the topic: Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change(2006).

Field Notes galvanized conversations around climate action, policy, and research. It was also instrumental in creating Climate One, a San Francisco talk show aimed at engaging leaders from business, policy, advocacy, and academic circles in a conversation about stabilizing the earth’s climate and building a sustainable economy. (Founder Greg Dalton, a journalist, started Climate One after an interview with Kolbert prompted him to visit the Arctic and witness the changing climate for himself.) Since then, Kolbert published another influential book, the Pulitzer Award–winning The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014), which details why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in ways no species has before.

More than a decade after their first interview, Kolbert met with Dalton again last week at the Climate One headquarters, within the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. She sat onstage alongside fellow veteran climate reporter Dave Roberts (formerly of Grist, now writing for Vox), for a televised conversation about environmental journalism in a post-truth world where climate-denialism is on the rise.

“We’ve already met the enemy, and he’s all of us,” Kolbert said during an interview with Sierra before the event. At the time, Maria was spinning toward Puerto Rico, and Texans and Floridians were still reeling from Harvey and Irma.

Sierra: In Field Notes From a Catastrophe, you discuss turbulent natural forces that have shaped previous human civilizations with a NASA scientist. You quote him saying, “We may say that we’re more technologically able than earlier societies. But one thing about climate change is it’s potentially geopolitically destabilizing. And we’re not only more technologically able; we’re more technologically able destructively as well.” Can you talk about the ways in which technology is helping humanity to address climate change, and the ways in which it isn’t?

Elizabeth Kolbert: Right now we’re sort of only addressing climate change through technology. It comes down to two schools of thought: One is that we can keep doing everything we’re doing now, just with different technologies. The other is that we’ll have to live differently, with maybe much less technology—that we can’t just solar-power everything and call it a day. I tend to fall into the “We can’t just keep doing what we’re doing but actually have to change the way we live” category, but then I also don’t have a mechanism to get from here to there.

In any case, right now I think it’s pretty clear that we’re only pursuing the former, tech-reliant strategy and that we’re not even pursuing that very accurately. I mean, look out on the street—most people are still driving cars with internal combustion engines, even here in California, which has done as much as any place in the United States. Nothing very dramatic has changed. So, I don’t know an answer.

The other point of that quote was that, really, at the end of the day—and this is sadly all too relevant right now—most major countries have nuclear weapons, and that if things get ugly, they’ll use them. At the time I wrote that, it seemed way out there, but now it doesn’t. So I think this nativist, national moment we seemed to be in is contributing to all sorts of potential crises around the globe—climate-related and not.

Read more at sierraclub.org

Photo credit: CLIMATE ONE

Can we discuss Climate Change in the Post-Truth World?

Australia is in the grips of ‘post truth’ phenomena

Gillian Triggs has said Australia is in the grips of the phenomena of “post truth” which compounds the problem of the overreach of executive power.
Giving the Michael Kirby Oration on Wednesday night at Victoria University, Professor Triggs said the idea of alternative facts which had credibility had created an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ world where words mean what we choose them to.

“This is what is increasingly concerning me particularly in the context of the current debate on marriage equality,” she said.

“The obfuscation of the truth, the failure to deal with the issues, to throw in great debating techniques and straw men and red herrings … are deeply troubling in an issue that should be lead by clear evidence-driven leadership through our politicians and senior members of the community.”

Professor Triggs said it was a “tragedy” that most Australians did not know enough about our system of government.

“We don’t have education in what might be described as ‘civics’,” she said.

“The basics of our democracy I think need to be taught at our schools, more clearly than they are, and more emphasis at our universities.”

She said there needed to be a focus on separation of powers, checks and balances and why Australia can’t have cabinet executive government assume a larger role to the detriment of parliament and the judiciary.

“I also believe it is time for us to revisit the work that’s already been done on the introduction of some legislative form of a bill of rights,” Professor Triggs said.

“I know very well there is very little political appetite for a bill of rights but it doesn’t mean that we should stop thinking about it.”

She said by creating the language of a bill of human rights across the country, people would be more aware when there was creeping legislation that in one way or another curtail those rights.

“I might note the paradox that the very people who have been demanding an end to identity politics, to political correctness, all want reform in anti-discrimination laws on race or sex, are the very same people who are now demanding new legislative protection on freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” she said.

Full story at: The Australian

Featured Image Credit: The Australian