Fast Company: Climate Optimists are Worse than Climate Doomers

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From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

According to Brian Kateman, climate alarmists like Musk who think colonising other planets will solve our problems are worse than people who think it’s all hopeless.

Climate doomerism is dangerous. Climate optimism is even worse

Hope is crucial in effecting change. Blind optimism is not.


When we talk about climate change, especially as it applies to the U.S. and public policy, the subject matter often seems to divide people into two strict, opposing camps: environmentalists and science deniers. But those of us who acknowledge the very real risks posed by climate change aren’t a monolith. 

Optimists tend to reject “Malthusian” thinking, which is based on the idea that finite resources cannot support an exponentially growing population forever, instead advocating for more people instead of fewer

It’s nice to think that more humans would mean more innovations and more chances to address the effects of climate change, but it’s just not supported by evidence. The rapid growth of our population over the past half century is correlated with a 69% drop in wildlife populations and the alteration of at least 70%—possibly up to 97%—of the world’s land. If history shows us anything, it’s that a growing human population has always meant more planetary destruction, even as new and better technologies have been developed. There’s little reason to think that this simply won’t be the case going forward.

Unfortunately, some prefer to ignore the grim reality. For example, I find self-identifying “pathological optimists,” like Elon Musk, are the ones most excited to bring humans to other planets before we’ve even figured out how to not wreck our own. This idea is bizarre for many reasons, one of which being that space colonization is supposedly an inevitable piece of our not-so-distant future. It’s not really a problem if the Earth’s resources are limited, the belief goes, because we’ll soon be expanding to other planets anyway. …

Brian Kateman cofounded the Reducetarian Foundation in 2015 after coining the term reducetarian to describe a person who is deliberately reducing their consumption of meat. He is the author of The Reducetarian SolutionThe Reducetarian Cookbook, and Meat Me Halfway, and is the lead producer of the documentary version of Meat Me Halfway.Read more:

What I find more bizarre is people like Brian Kateman think there is any alternative to eventually going off planet to obtain the resources we need.

Resources are finite, and will eventually be exhausted.

Greens can spout all the nonsense they want about developing a circular economy, but we live in an age where we can’t even recycle wind turbine blades, let alone challenging items like EV batteries.

Given the inevitable eventual need to obtain off planet resources, though that crisis likely won’t occur for centuries or millennia, what are the options?

The engineering challenge of economically transporting vast masses to and from Earth orbit, and ferrying them around the solar system, has already been solved. Freeman Dyson, who worked with Robert Oppenheimer and other giants of physics in the 1950s, led Project Orion alongside Ted Taylor.

Project Orion found a way to use atomic bombs to propel spaceships. They would have been big spaceships – thousands, even millions of tons, aircraft carrier size or larger, but launching the ships, and returning back to Earth, would cost a fraction of the current cost per pound of a chemical rocket launch.

Obviously nobody is going to build such a ship tomorrow, unless a desperate need arises, such as the early detection of a large comet on a collision course with Earth. Nobody in today’s world is keen to be downwind of a nuclear launch range. And hopefully our descendants will find less polluting ways to transport large masses to and from Earth orbit, than a series of atmospheric nuclear explosions.

But if it comes to a deadly choice between civilisation collapse and mass starvation, and detonating a few atom bombs to alleviate the shortages, I hope my distant descendants have the courage to make the right choice.