Tuesday 3 October 2023

Minisinformation, green gloating, and apocalypse porn

"Remember when a flood was just a flood? A watery calamity that might make roads impassable, homes unliveable and sometimes, in the worst cases, claim lives? Not anymore. Now it’s always a deluge, an apocalypse, a portent of the horrors to come if mankind keeps on sinfully heating the planet. Now a flood is always a lesson from on high – from a ticked-off Poseidon, presumably – warning hubristic humans to ‘reduce carbon emissions.’ Floods are our fault now, like everything else.
    "This neo-Biblical view of floods, this pre-modern belief that gushing waters are divine wrath for human misbehaviour, was much in evidence following the flooding of New York City on Friday....
    "The flooding was bad, there’s no question about that. ... [But t]here’s been a nauseating streak of apocalypse porn in the chatter about New York’s floods.... Hacks have been trying to outdo each other in the hyperbole stakes. ... With dire predictability, Friday’s flooding has been blamed on climate change – which is to say on that pesky, polluting modernity created by mankind. ... we must [they howl] ‘reduce carbon emissions and stop the ongoing heating of the planet’ or else these violent visitations from Mother Nature will ‘become more extreme’ ... In short, appease the weather gods, offer up industrial society as a sacrifice, and maybe they’ll leave us alone. ...
    "There is something distinctly medieval in this view of extreme weather as nature’s rage with mankind. You see it all the time. In response to wildfires in Australia, heatwaves in Europe, big storms in the US, the same cry goes up: we’re being punished for our eco-crimes. ...
    "It is a testament to the creeping irrationalism in chattering-class circles that every weather event is now interpreted as a ‘sign,’ a species of heavenly punishment. Like pre-modern peasants, who at least had the excuse of having never heard of science, they’re incapable of shrugging off rain or heat or wind as perfectly normal events. No, they’re rebukes, lessons, all providing ‘a glimpse of the possible winter world we’ll inhabit if we don’t sort ourselves out.’
    "The idea that weather is turning more violent, and that it’s all down to climate change, is essentially misinformation. As Bjorn Lomborg points out, ever-fewer people are dying in natural disasters. Even as the human population has quadrupled over the past hundred years, deaths from climate calamity have dropped 20-fold. The risk of a human dying in one of nature’s catastrophes has fallen by 99 per cent since the 1920s. Modernity isn’t taking lives – it’s saving them.
    "Which is why we need more of it, not less."

~ Brendan O'Neill, from his column 'Stop this green gloating over New York’s floods: Friday’s flooding was bad, but it was not an eco-apocalypse'

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