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Tim Mohin: Pessimism or Positivity?

Tim Mohin: Pessimism or Positivity?

They argue that pessimism leads to giving up.
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The age-old debate of whether doomerism or optimism will be more effective in driving the climate agenda forward reared its head again this week.

On the doomer side, the pessimists view incremental progress as a smoke screen obscuring the actions needed to reverse out-of-control global warming. They argue that optimists inject complacency into the climate movement.

On the optimist side, the prevailing belief is that we can incentivize innovation and cooperation to beat climate change. They argue that pessimism leads to giving up.

Stories emerged this week on both sides of this divide:

For the Doomers:

Tony Leiserowitz, a Yale professor on climate change communication, said, “The notion of a ‘doomer camp’ is overstated… In fact, the far larger and more important problem is that most Americans are not worried enough.”

Illustration: Fiona Katauskas/The Guardian

For the Optimists:

Christiana Figueres, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, wrote in an op-ed this week explaining why stubborn optimism is critical, saying, “A sense of despair is understandable, but it robs us of our agency, makes us vulnerable to mis- and disinformation, and prevents the radical collaboration we need.” In a similar article released this week, climate scientists Michael Mann and Katharine Hayhoe said, “The facts dictate urgency and agency. Our future is still in our hands.”

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