Defining Alarmism

Dec 16, 2018

On Dec. 9, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel published a piece by syndicated columnist, Mona Charen. Ms. Charen spoke of climate alarmism and how many environmental and climate activists were resorting to fear-based tactics in their climate and environmental messaging that are over-the-top and are not helpful in addressing their concerns. I beg to differ, for the most part.

On Dec. 1, 11 members of Mid-OhioValley Climate Action attended the 2018 National Energy Conference at West Virginia University College of Law, hosted by the WVU College of Law Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, Friends of Blackwater and the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation. The keynote speaker at the event was Emily Calandrelli, WVU graduate with a B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate with a master’s degree Aeronautics and Astronautics and Technology and Policy. Emily is an Emmy-nominated science TV host and Executive Producer of Fox’s Xploration Outer Space, a correspondent on Bill Nye’s Netflix program Bill Nye Saves the World and author of a children’s book series on STEM about a little girl in West Virginia, Ada Lace Adventures.

Part of the focus of the conference was climate communications and there were numerous speakers and panelists throughout the day. An especially good panelist, I felt, was a University of Maryland psychologist named Dylan Selterman. Dylan’s focus was on decision-making and what motivates people on a cognitive level. Dylan pointed out that liberals and conservatives tend to view the world a bit differently.Liberals tend to value things like equality, community and fairness most, while conservatives tend to value things like loyalty, respect and patriotism most.Being aware of this can have a profound effect on how we all communicate with one another regarding anthropogenic climate change.

I mention the conference, and Ms. Callandrelli and Mr. Selterman in particular, because the conclusion these and other panelists and speakers reached on climate communications is that it is important not to scare people to death. This is something that most of the climate and environmental activist community fundamentally understands. There are those who try to use the fear tactic, but it’s most often an unsuccessful motivator, as it leads mostly to despair and a feeling of helplessness.

That said, numerous reports and studies released in recent months warrant serious concern and demand our immediate attention. On Black Friday, volume II of the 4th National Climate Assessment was released by 13 federal entities under the Trump administration.This report was nearly 1,700 pages in length and included such findings as a predicted 10 percent loss in gross domestic product (GDP) in the U.S. by 2100related directly to climate change.

On Oct. 8, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of approximately 2,000 global scientists, released their report on a world where we encounter 1.5C(centigrade) warming over a pre-industrial baseline, the lowest and most ambitious target set in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords. The report warned that the world must reach net zero carbon and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by2050 to avoid potential climate catastrophe should we exceed 1.5C or at the most 2C of warming over a pre-industrial baseline. We’re currently on track to hit at least 3C warming by the end of the century.

Given these realities, I think there is plenty of reason to sound an alarm. Global governments are not doing nearly enough on what you could say even approaches a reasonable time frame. The Trump administration is headed in the exact opposite direction from what’s needed,exacerbating global warming on a daily basis. Ms. Charen accuses the climate and environmental activist community of alarmism, but it is not hyperbole to simply state what the science unequivocally shows and call for the actions necessary to mitigate what we’ve locked in and prevent the worst from occurring. Ms. Charen recommends nuclear energy as a solution, as do others.Perhaps nuclear is part of the equation but, contrary to what Ms. Charen states, nuclear is prohibitively costly and we would need to explore so-called new age nuclear options to avoid some of nuclear energy’s worst drawbacks.

The science is settled, the threat is real and growing, and the time for action is right now. Together we can tackle the challenge of anthropogenic global climate change, but we’ve got to stop the politically motivated back and forth and work to deliver real solutions. It starts with public policy and the actions of global asset managers and investors, but it doesn’t end there. Please join us at Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action today and let’s work together locally to effect change globally.


Eric Engle of Parkersburg is Chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.