On September 8, the New Yorker published an article by Jonathan Franzen titled, “What if we stopped pretending?” By September 11, various instant criticisms and rebuttals had been published including a Scientific American piece by Columbia University climate scientist Dr. Kate Marvel, titled, “Shut up, Franzen.”
Basically, Franzen believes there is almost no chance that enough will be done to avert massive climate changes and consequent disruptions in coming decades. The critics find this defeatist, and they object.
Thing is, I thought Franzen’s piece was the best thing I’ve ever read about climate change. In conversations this week it has struck me that people objecting to his article missed key points and nuance, or are simply so emotionally and professionally invested in the fight to stop climate change that they just can’t entertain the possibility of failure. To reevaluate the disparity between Franzen, his critics, and me, I went back through and raked out some of Franzen’s main points and ideas, to see if I still thought Franzen’s article solid and constructively thought-provoking. I do. In fact it seems even milder on second reading.
Franzen opens with, “The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.” That premise is no different than the premise undergirding all the calls for flood gates, geoengineering, coastal retreating, raised homes, and varied schemes large and small under the heading “climate adaptation.” All those proposals rely solely on the proposition that climate change is coming and will not be prevented. A very safe bet, since it’s here and getting worse….