Can we still prevent an apocalypse? What Jonathan Franzen gets wrong about climate change

" On Sunday, the New Yorker published an essay titled "What If We Stopped Pretending," by Jonathan Franzen. The subtitle reads: "The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can't prevent it."


Franzen goes to explain that—based on the “modelling” he’s done in his head—there is no scenario in which we can avoid 2ºC of warming, that the challenge is simply insurmountable, and that human nature is at odds with the mobilization required. Perhaps it’s fair to be a pessimist in these times: the climate has indeed warmed by just over 1ºC while carbon emissions continue to climb. It’s going to take sweeping changes to our industrial and transportation sectors to change this, and that probably won’t happen without policies that mandate such an overhaul. “Particularly in the case of the 1.5 degree target, it would be very, very difficult to meet at this point,” says Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental think tank. “The challenge there is that the only real way to get to 1.5ºC without relying on sort of global scale engineering to remove carbon from the atmosphere is to cut all global emissions to zero in the next 30 years.”


But however hard it might be to meet our climate goals, Franzen’s diatribe goes a step beyond just pessimism. He’s claiming that those advocating for climate action are practically delusional, and that renewable energy projects and high speed trains are futile efforts to stop a planet “spinning out of control.” His argument, though, rests on a mischaracterized—if not just plain wrong—understanding of several climate science and policy points, as experts have pointed out. With that in mind, we’d like to offer a few corrections..."


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