Making Sense of the Climate Crisis

A collection of some of the best links from around the web, manually curated.

The Transapocalyptic Now

This is an important aspect of the climate crisis that cannot be stressed enough: «The 21st century will be apocalyptic…but not everywhere, and not for everyone. Some parts of the world will experience death and suffering and tragic upheavals as horrible as any humanity ever seen, even while others experience unprecedented prosperity.» This essay is not an easy read, but it’s worth the effort.

From Weekly Filet #371, in November 2021.

To Build a Beautiful World, You First Have to Imagine It

«The climate crisis is also a crisis of imagination.» With the climate crisis, our attention is usually on dire scenarios for the future and how to avert them. This short essay (by one of the hosts of the excellent Hot Take podcast) reminds us to think of it in other terms as well: What does a more liveable world look like? If you were to build that world, what would you do?

From Weekly Filet #368, in October 2021.

The case for a more radical climate movement

Andreas Malm is a professor of human ecology in Sweden, and he wants to blow up pipelines. Well, sort of. His argument: The climate movement in its current form will not achieve the drastic changes needed. It needs a more radical wing, one that will literally «destroy the property that’s destroying the planet». In this hour-long conversation, he lays out his case in detail, and responds to obvious objections. Thought-provoking.

From Weekly Filet #368, in October 2021.

Forget your carbon footprint. Let’s talk about your climate shadow.

The carbon footprint is a flawed concept. Not only because BP popularised it to shift blame to individuals. It also limits itself to what can conveniently be measured (how much energy you use, what you eat, how much you fly,…). If we’re interested in an individual’s impact on the climate crisis, we’d want something more sophisticated. That’s why I like the idea of the «climate shadow». It «helps each of us visualize how the sum of our life’s choices influence the climate emergency». It includes how you vote. Where you work. How you use your influence on others. Anything that has an impact, good or bad. It might not be easy to measure, but that’s not the point.

From Weekly Filet #367, in October 2021.

How we fixed the ozone layer

The most impressive example of international cooperation on any challenge in history» — What can we learn from how humanity dealt with the depleted ozone layer for tackling the climate crisis? The historical perspective provides valuable insights. However, as the author points out, there is one key difference: Just like with the climate crisis, rich countries contributed most to causing the problem. Unlike with the climate crisis, they also had the most to lose if it didn’t get fixed. Honi soit qui mal y pense…

From Weekly Filet #361, in September 2021.

Want to make an impact on climate change? Focus on elections.

Election matter — that much we knew. But how much, exactly, when it comes to an individual’s actions to mitigate climate change? I am equal parts intrigued by the attempt and wary of what looks like false precision in this article. Based on research for Canadian elections, the median emissions responsibility of a voter who selected a winning candidate was 34.2 tons of Co2 equivalents — way more than the average person emits per year.

From Weekly Filet #356, in July 2021.

We’re not yet ready for what’s already happened

Two weeks ago, people in Switzerland voted against a modest piece of climate legislation — as if we can just wait and see. This week, as a scorching heat wave hit Canada with temperatures of up to 49.7 degrees, I came across a comment: «This moment will be talked about for centuries.» My immediate reaction was: Well, that’s the best case scenario. As I’m trying to understand what is happening here, I discovered this helpful essay. At its core: our inability to grasp discontinuity — the «moment where past experience loses its value as a guide to decision-making about the future.» And it lays out a simple choice: «Disruption now, or even more discontinuity (and then more disruption).» So far, we pretend there’s a third option: to just wait and see. Read it now

From Weekly Filet #354, in July 2021.

Why has climate economics failed us?

The economy is one of the driving forces on this planet. So one would think economists have a thing or two to contribute to solving arguably the biggest issue before us. Yet, Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith argues how «climate economics has almost completely failed to be useful to the national policy discourse». A good read. Also, more opinion pieces should include the phrase «That’s obviously bananapants.»

From Weekly Filet #343, in April 2021.
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