If you watched El Cheeto’s incoherent news conference on coronavirus, you saw someone attempting to announce an emergency and minimize it, while continually congratulating himself on the good job he’s doing. It was a disgusting performance, totally unreassuring and self-serving. If you’re telling people everything is fine, there is no urgency. The stock market reaction shows us something different.
It was later reported that Dr. Anthony Fauci, “the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was told to ‘stand down’ and not appear on five Sunday morning talk shows to discuss the coronavirus.” Presumably, he would only scare people.
Climate activist Bill McKibben recently wrote: “It is far too late to stop global warming, but these next ten years seem as if they may be our last chance to limit the chaos.” That’s the urgency. Government and university labs have been predicting the climate crisis for thirty years and more. And what’s been done about it? McKibben tells us how the emergency was predicted, with the World Health Organization calling it “potentially the greatest health threat of the 21st century.” We are not even close to accepting that; coronavirus is so much more immediate.
McKinsey, the management consulting firm, has been taking it on the chin recently, not without cause. They recently published a study about climate impacts, showing their severity. It was an impressive summary, though their lame conclusion was not:
Societies have been adapting to the changing climate, but the pace and scale of adaptation will likely need to increase significantly. Key adaptation measures include protecting people and assets, building resilience, reducing exposure, and ensuring that appropriate financing and insurance are in place. Implementing adaptation measures could be challenging for many reasons. The economics of adaptation could worsen in some geographies over time, for example, those exposed to rising sea levels. Adaptation may face technical or other limits. In other instances, there could be hard trade-offs that need to be assessed, including who and what to protect and who and what to relocate.
A lot of conditional words here (“likely,” “could,” “may”) but no urgency, and unfortunately that’s been typical of much of the writing about climate. Too little of what we write has any immediate urgency. A Guardian writer in the U.S. south put it this way:
In eastern North Carolina, where I grew up and write from, climate change was never a polite topic of conversation. I was told the same in a coffee shop in Mississippi, and by a minister in Georgia. Too many southerners are still dancing around the reality of climate change, and the cost of avoiding the conversation is going to be steep.