Katharine Hayhoe Says: “How can we not afford to act on climate change?”

by admin on October 27, 2021

Katharine Hayhoe, Barack Obama and Leona Di Caprio discuss climate change

Five stages of climate denial and how to counter them, according to a climate scientist

From an Article by Madeleine Cuff, i-News (Environment), UK, October 25, 2021

Backbench MPs in England are railing against the government’s plan to cut UK emissions to net zero by 2050, warning the policy will leave British citizens “poorer and colder”.

Most insist they do not deny the science of climate change and are merely questioning the policy costs and wisdom of targeting ‘net zero’ in the UK. But renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe suspects otherwise.

Professor Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist, professor of political science at Texas Tech University, and chief scientist at the US Nature Conservancy. She is also one of the world’s leading communicators of climate science and has experienced her fair share of climate sceptics.

In her eyes, there are five clear stages of climate denial: arguing (1) that climate change is not real, (2) that humans are not to blame, (3) that climate change will be a positive force, (4) that it will be too expensive to fix, and (5) arguing it will be too late to tackle it.

“What do all these stages have in common?” Prof Hayhoe asked. “They all accomplish the same goal. The goal is the important thing – it doesn’t matter what you say, it is the goal that matters. And what is their goal? No climate action.”

“We often see politicians cycling through these stages,” she told i-News. As the climate science has become ever more robust, those arguing against action have had to adapt, she argued. “No wonder the sceptics have shifted,” she said. “They are very clever. They have their eyes fixed on their goal.”

“[Yet] the reality is, what is at stake is civilization as we know it,” she stressed. “What’s at risk is so large that the question is not ‘how can we afford action’, the question is ‘how can we not afford to act’.”

To counter these arguments there needs to be a more honest and open dialogue among the public about what climate action looks like, Professor Hayhoe said. “Why those arguments are so successful is because the rest of us remain paralysed,” she argued.

“We don’t know what to do. And it’s easier, if someone is arguing for inaction and we don’t know what to do, to say ‘maybe let’s wait and study some more’. We don’t have time for that. We need to act as soon as possible.”

The right conversation can go a long way towards spurring action, Prof. Hayhoe insisted. “The secret is begin the conversation with something you agree with the other person on, not disagree,” she said. “That establishes common ground and mutual respect.”

“Then – and this addresses the fear – always bring up a positive, constructive solution to the problem in hand,” Professor Hayhoe said. For example, if the conversation is about cars the solution could be talking about how many people are already switching to EVs. “The solution can be at any level, but it has to be something that person can get on board with,” Professor Hayhoe said.

She hopes the COP26 climate summit, which starts next week in Glasgow (31 Oct. to 12 Nov.), will spark more conversations about climate change across the UK. “It gives us a great opportunity to start a discussion,” she said.

NEW BOOK ~ ‘Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World’ by Katharine Hayhoe, Simon and Schuster UK, £20

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