Climatism’s claims of pending apocalypse are nonsense

Climate change is a problem, but predictions of climate and social apocalypse are not just wrong but dangerous

By Mike Hulme, National Post, June 26, 2024

The argument developed in Naomi Klein’s 2015 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate, is that the real significance of climate change is that capitalism is reaching its end. Or, at least that it is necessary to ride the wave of climatism to ensure that through aggressive campaigning and discrediting of capitalism social licence to operate it does reach its end. But it is a dangerous move to position the ideology of climatism as a direct opponent to the ideology of capitalism.

Prognostications of “extinctionism” and societal collapse, which pervade the discourse around climate change, and which feed climatism, are wrong.

Don’t misread me. Climate change kills and climate change is real. The risks induced by a changing climate are serious. Efforts to mitigate these risks and to adapt to them are important.

But climate change will not wipe out human life, let alone all life on the planet. And it is questionable whether annual deaths from climate change will ever exceed those resulting from non-communicable diseases, such as heart or lung failure, dementia, or stroke.

Climate change is a significant risk with uneven effects, but it is not a collective existential one. There is a risk that needs to be attended to, but this must be done in the context of other present or emergency risks such as nuclear war, pandemics, preventable childhood mortality, failed states, air pollution and so on.

Climatism becomes a dangerous ideology when it feeds the belief that the human species faces extinction because of climate change and when it pronounces that there are only so many years left to stave off collapse — thereby claiming warrant for declarations of a perpetual climate emergency. This is dangerous talk that opens the door to misguided one-eyed techno solutions.

This is an excerpt from Climate Change Isn’t Everything: Liberating Climate Politics from Alarmism by Mike Hulme, professor of human geography at the University of Cambridge, Polity Books, 2023.

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