In case you hadn't heard, the state of the planet is not good. At a big gathering earlier in the year, an assortment of esteemed, professional worriers reaffirmed this diagnosis and warned:
Without urgent action, we could face threats to water, food, biodiversity and other critical resources.
I don't take these concerns lightly. Global changes of a massive scale suggest some very worrisome trends, which have led to some very bleak projections. So it behooves us to pay attention to the state of the planet. (It is also reasonable to hash out the metrics used for these projections.) I'm no panglossian, notwithstanding my distaste for breathless catastrophizing. I think we should pay close attention to how the earth is being altered by 7 billion people and what those alterations may portend. What bothers me most about this debate is how it swings between two opposite poles. I suppose it happens this way because voices are loudest at these ends and the tug-of-war conflict makes for a convenient narrative. Thus, on one side, we have Team Doomsday that poses this blunt question at staid science conferences:
Credit: Eli Kintisch/Science
On the other side, we have Team Nothing-to-Worry About, whose members breezily dismiss concerns about global warming. One of the high-profile leaders of this pack is UK science writer Matt Ridley, who, in his latest Wall Street Journalop-ed, turns to a semi-retired financier for expert advice on one of the most vexing, complex issues related to climate change. Perhaps Ridley was taking his cue from the journal
Nature Climate Change
, which recently featured another financier, who lectured on the problems of peak fertilizer and meek climate scientists. Yes, there's something to be said about a public discourse shaped by two teams at opposite poles on the climate spectrum, each with their own freelancing financiers.