Climate apocolypticism makes action on climate change less likely. The trend has been to normalize and downplay the threat of climate change in the last decade.
This is a response to the previous model of climate pressure, involving well-meaning NGOs from rich heartfelt OECD countries trying to persuade an international community in which the most powerful players were those, like the USA and China, with the least to lose from climate change, and the most to spend in mitigation (Sunstein 2007).But there signs that this may be changing (see my blogpost: http://rickylawton.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/humanity-has-heard-all-the-evidence-it-needs-on-climate-change-and-the-verdict-is-shrug/).
We are seeing signs of moral pressure from affected countries. 113 walked out of the 2013 climate negotiations at Warsaw in disgust at western indifference towards the real and current effects of climate changing happening right now. The Philippines UN Commissioner went on hunger strike at the same conference in protest of “what my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event”.
The rise of genuine voices from countries that are already victims of climate change may have more impact on the global citizenry than the accusatory self-flagellation offered by the twentieth century environmental movement. There is no room for doubting the validity or motives of their claims (yet), and this provides strong, legitimate and credible argumentative force, that also makes good media copy.
Second, we all have biological urge to protect our progeny, the carriers of half of our DNA, and give them the best possible opportunities to survive in life. What quality of wellbeing do we feel comfortable leaving to our grandchildren? What opportunities to prosper and flourish? We may look at climate change risk and decide we can’t be bothered with acting for our own future good. Are we really willing to say the same about our children?
The next period of climate advocacy will stand or fall by the strength of these voices of current victims and claims of future generations. They offer both argumentative legitimacy and political clout. If we express how concerned we are with them, decision-makers will be forced to follow suit
While climate change really is our most daunting problem, it’s not our most imminent problem. It isn’t severely hurting most Americans who aren’t drought-ravaged farmers. This is partly because environmental activists are known for being Debbie Downers and Chicken Littles, for always accentuating the apocalyptic. "Images of melting glaciers, raging wildfires and rampaging floods” only increase skepticism about global warming. “More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization,” (Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger).