Andrew Revkin from DOT EARTH blog at New York Times, speaking in Australia: ''Governments need to take panic out of climate change''
A leading international environmental commentator has urged governments to take the panic out of the response to climate change and “normalise it” in long-term public policy.
Andrew Revkin, author of Global Warming, The North Pole Was Here and The Burning Season, and Dot Earth Blog writer, said reducing carbon emissions was going to take “a weird mix of patience and urgency” to be effective.
“Energy transitions are slow,” he told The Australian. “Even if we want them to be fast, they are not fast. Getting comfortable with that is very hard for traditional environmentalists because a lot of the campaigns have been built around urgency.”
Mr Revkin, in Brisbane to address Griffith University’s Global Integrity Summit this week, said science on a planetary scale was fundamentally complicated and it was going to take an “element of luck” to avoid the most extreme impacts of climate change.
“It would be useful to start addressing climate change more like the way we address public health or education or poverty — it’s just one of the things we work on,” he said. “None of these things can go away in the blink of an eye. It’s just the reality of that type of challenge.”
Mr Revkin said addressing climate change also had to be seen less as “saving the planet” and more as identifying what we value and want to preserve.
Coral, for example, had survived hundreds of millions of years and would successfully endure global changes that would wipe out humans. Yet the Great Barrier Reef was vulnerable to climate change, as were many species. In contrast, Puerto Rico had twice the plant diversity now that it had when explorer Christopher Columbus arrived.
“It’s not like we are ending ecology or evolution, but we are endangering things that we care about or are valuable as a resource,” Mr Revkin said.
“You can hold back the tide or you can just in some ways manage the flow of change, but it still feels sad and uncomfortable in some ways when this type of change happens.
“The science that matters isn’t really the greenhouse effect and the question of whether we are changing how the globe gets heated. That is a yes. The question is how dangerous it is and what you do about it.”
As well as his environmental writings, including for 15 years with the The New York Times, Mr Revkin is the only non-scientist on the working group exploring whether Earth has entered a new geological epoch — a man-induced “geographical age of our own making” known as the Anthropocene.
The theory suggests that carbon emissions will actually create a new layer in rock sediments and under the ocean, the first new epoch since the last ice age.
Mr Revkin will use the summit to urge people to learn information-consumption skills, to avoid a generation forming opinions based on poor or biased data.
Due to social media and rapid digital change, many people were building information “bubbles” around themselves.