Is Worry Worthwhile in Confronting Climate Change?
Is worry worthwhile in confronting a challenge as complex and sprawling — in time and geography — as greenhouse-driven climate change?
I’ve addressed this question before in various ways, but was prompted to dig into my ideas and feelings about the building greenhouse effect with new rigor when two very different magazines, Issues in Science and Technology (the magazine of the National Academies) and Creative Nonfiction, invited me to write an essay on my 30 years of climate inquiry.
I went through three or four completely different drafts and settled on a narrative starting with how I’ve come to deal with two immovable realities — my own mortality and the inevitability of extensive climate change even as humanity endeavors to expand energy access while limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than generating worry, both of these profound subjects elicit in me a seemingly incompatible mix of urgency and patience. For me, that combination distills down to sustained engagement. But it also means normalizing an issue that has long been portrayed as a crisis.