July 18, 2019

Climate Change and Our Democracy

“Hardly a week goes by without some new study or report warning of impending calamity over climate change or some other environmental threat. This week’s entry is a 1,500-page assessment from the United Nations that points to a potentially catastrophic collapse in global biodiversity that is driven by human civilization and could have sweeping implications for that civilization’s very viability over the long term.

The message of the report, like that of so many others, couldn’t be clearer: If we don’t address this enormous environmental problem immediately, we’re doomed.

Like nearly everyone who hears such conclusions, from do-nothing skeptics on the denialist right to sky-is-falling alarmists on the environmental left, I lack the knowledge or expertise required to assess their accuracy. But let’s assume that the UN study is trustworthy and its quasi-apocalyptic predictions are sound. For the sake of argument, let’s go further and assume that all the recent major reports warning of existential environmental threats due to climate change are accurate: Major world cities inhabited by hundreds of millions of people will soon be under water. Storms will dramatically increase in severity. So will droughts, floods, and famines, spreading suffering across the globe and provoking refugee flows on a scale never seen or contemplated in human history.”

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