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Climate change: Is there still hope?


In the LA Review of Books, professor of meteorology Michael Mann reviews Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis by Tim Flannery, and book that attempts to determine whether the globe still has time to avert a planetary warming of 2°C (3.6°F), beyond which the consequences would be potentially catastrophic. This question is especially pertinent in the run-up to the Paris Climate conference taking place in December, which many regard as the world’s last chance to avoid climate disaster. Flannery believes we do still have time, a view that’s not shared by all climate scientists, according to Mann:

In fact, some pundits have already written off the task as impossible. In the journal Nature, Oliver Geden, head of the EU Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, recently asserted that “the climate policy mantra — that time is running out for 2°C but we can still make it if we act now — is a scientific nonsense.” It is an odd and self-defeating claim, given that there is no physical obstacle to 2°C stabilization. Lack of political and collective societal will constitutes the only true obstacle to such stabilization. Insisting that the goal is no longer possible is dangerous insofar as it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, providing an excuse for politicians unwilling to support the dramatic actions needed.

It is in confronting this softer, gentler form of denialism — the denial of hope — that Atmosphere of Hope shines. Flannery is no Pollyanna — he fully acknowledges the steep challenges and serious obstacles we face. So when he affirms that a path to averting catastrophic climate change remains in place, we know the conclusion is not reached capriciously. In excruciating detail, in chapter after chapter, he explains why averting catastrophe is indeed still possible.


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