Climate Campaigners Say Yes, We Should Be Scaring Young People, Because It's a Reliable Way to Effect Change

By Shabana Arif on at

Climate change campaigners think it's necessary to scare the living daylights out of everyone in order to trigger them into action.

Former chief scientific adviser to the government, Prof Sir David King, told the BBC that "it's appropriate to be scared," explaining that "we predicted temperatures would rise, but we didn’t foresee these sorts of extreme events we’re getting so soon.”

Apparently, these events are occurring with more frequency than forecast in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014, with Prof King specifically referring to weather extremes, and loss of ice - on both land and sea.

Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the UN agency World Meteorological Organization (WMO), has said that the majority of the changes Prof King mentions "were within the IPCC forecast range - although some - like polar ice - were at the top end of the range," urging people to "stick to the facts."

He said that the WMO is "fully behind climate science and fully behind the (upcoming) New York climate summit," and that the facts of the matter "are quite convincing and dramatic enough. We should avoid interpreting them too much."

He likened the panic and doomsday soothsaying to the way the threat of nuclear was presented when he was a child. "We seriously thought it’s better not to have children. I’m feeling the same sentiment among young people at the moment. So we have to be a bit careful with our communication style."

The BBC cites a story from The Telegraph that reports that there's a "tsunami" of young people flooding into psychiatrist offices to be treated for eco-anxiety, some of which are having to be treated with psychiatric drugs.

Ultimately, there seem to be two camps - those who want to stick to the facts, which speak for themselves and paint an adequate picture of the reality of the situation, and those who think fostering panic and anxiety is preferred because it will give people a kick up the arse, and their mental health be damned. People can feel like shit and still not do anything about climate change, so even that is no guarantee of action. And big changes need to be implemented at a governmental level. As long as the data is there, it can't stick its head in the sand about it.

Prof King went so far as to suggest that the UK's 2050 net zero emissions target be brought forward to 2040, ignoring the difficulties we're already facing in trying to hit the original target, which has itself been dubbed "delusional".

Well that would be fantastic, but you can't just wave a magic wand and ignore the realities of what's involved in bringing these changes to fruition. To hit the target as it stands, people would need to be willing to make a lot of severe lifestyle changes that they may not actually want to adopt. It's been suggested that "major technological advances" will be needed as well as measures like slapping higher taxes on activities that generate more pollution, and tax reforms that will reward those who live low-carbon lifestyles.

Either way, we all want to live on a thriving planet without turning it into a barren wasteland, but it needs to be balanced with sensible ideas that can be put into practice, and not trying to use scare tactics as a means to make people fall in line. [BBC News]

Feature image credit: Unsplash