Terrifying people about the possibility climate change could eventually destroy Earth is justifiable because alarming citizens about the Y2K bug worked, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Academics and activists have a license to generate some fear among people about what could happen if global warming is not properly addressed, according to NYT writer Farhad Manjoo. He claimed that a little fear can go along way if it rallies people toward a common cause.
Manjoo used the terror created during the Y2K scare as an example of what can be accomplished through fear.
“[S]ometimes, sometimes the worst case is only that prompts us to get anything done,” wrote Manjoo, who covers technology for the paper. He reported on a computer bug in the late-1990s that some predicted would cause government computers to crash and be unable to process information at midnight Jan. 1, 2000.
“I know this because I’ve studied the last time governments, businesses and ordinary citizens joined together to combat a complex, man-made problem that threatened to wreak global havoc in the distant future,” he wrote, referring to the massive effort some tech-types used to eliminate the bug.
Manjoo was responding to academics who have criticized a July 10 article in the New York Magazine that suggested global warming was much worse than anyone could have predicted.
“It is, I promise, worse than you think,” David Wallace-Wells wrote in a more than 7,000-word article for the magazine. He noted how global warming could make Earth “uninhabitable,” possibly by “the end of this century.”
“If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today,” Wallace-Wells added.
Some climate scientists deemed the piece so outlandish that it was bordering on absurdity.
Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, for instance, laid into Wallace-Wells, writing on Facebook that there’s “no need to overstate the evidence, particularly when it feeds a paralyzing narrative of doom and hopelessness.”
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” said Mann, who some conservative skeptics have criticized in the past for what they call overhyping global warming. “The article fails to produce it.”
Some academic studies indicate much of climate change can be explained through natural variation within the environment.
Academics have haggled recently over the possibility natural variation plays as big a role with climate change as does human action.
Climate scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute, for instance, found earlier this year that there’s too much uncertainty in observational data to determine why there appeared to be a 15-year pause in warming. Scientists argue that “unless the uncertainty of observational estimates can be considerably reduced, the true origin of the recent hiatus may never be determined.”
Max Planck scientists found hiatuses in global warming can be caused by relatively small changes in ocean energy balance, which can originate from the top of the atmosphere or the ocean.
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