04th October 2021

Book in Focus

Climate Change, Torn between Myth and Fact

By Constantin Cranganu

The following is adapted from the ‘Credo’ that opens the book.

I believe that humans, a transient, relatively new species of thinking reed, have a well-marked place in the synergistic mechanism of the following five “gears” of the complex and chaotic system called climate: lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, and atmosphere. Therefore, climate science (climatology) is not a discipline per se. It is a multidisciplinary field of study in which meteorology, geology, geophysics, astrophysics, paleontology, botany, zoology, glaciology, atmospheric physics, physical, chemical and biological oceanography, ecology, and cosmology are found.

I believe that the physical manifestations of climate change and, consequently, local meteorological effects, vary in a large part due to the compositional modifications of the atmosphere. These are controlled by random dynamic changes, including human activities, such as anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, population growth, land-use changes, aerosol pollution, and more. These activities contribute to both regional and global climate change, where they overlap to dramatically change natural climate variability.

I believe that the risks of climate change must be taken seriously and acted on responsibly. Humanity will be much better off if we succeed in minimizing these risks by reducing the vulnerability of those exposed to them and minimizing future changes in the atmosphere’s composition.

I believe that the way the way climate change mitigation and adaptation have been presented in international conversations, in particular through the Kyoto Protocol, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, and the latest Paris Climate Agreement, is not the only solution. I do not think these approaches are the best, either. It bothers me that the media often describes climate change using the same language used for imminent dangers and catastrophes. The media claims that climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity, bigger than any other. 

I believe that such media reports distract public attention from credible science. Further, they diminish other ways of thinking, feeling, and knowing about the climate, all of which are essential elements in making personal and collective decisions about climate change.

I believe that climate change is a moderate global problem in an ocean of other bigger and smaller problems. But it is not the Problem. Climate change means change and not the end of the world, in my opinion. I believe that we need to approach climate change with much more imagination, using the issue as a platform to address unrelated but essential human needs. Only then will we be able to address humanity’s spiritual, ethical, and psychological needs. 

I believe that if we want to combat the anthropogenic component of climate change, a long-term perspective should be introduced into national and international policies. There should be a plan for the future. But the verb “to plan” does not always have a pleasant connotation, especially regarding planning economies, because this language evokes authoritarian images on the one hand and ineptitude on the other. Heavy planning has become outdated for two reasons. It was oppressive, and it failed. If humanity were to go back to long-term planning, what new form should it have?

I believe that we are witnessing a hegemony (tyranny?) exercised by climatological predictions imposed on or against social life’s various realities and imagery about the future. Climate models are now regarded as the true predictors of the changes that the climate could undergo. This has led to a hegemony that affects social and political discourse on the future of climate change. 

I believe the main problem regarding conversations on climate change is related to the relationship between risk and uncertainty. Climate change policies are completely about risks and how to manage them. To paraphrase the philosopher Karl Popper, we cannot know the future, because if we knew it, there would be no future. The long-term approach to combating global climate change must be viewed against a background of uncertainty. It is often possible to attach probabilities to future events, but in this case, the current knowledge needed to make predictions is lacking, and large areas of uncertainty surround the issue. What political strategies are needed to address these climate changes?

I believe there is not a unique perspective or privileged viewpoint from which the continuously shifting, implicitly complex concept of climate change can be fully understood. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that first introduced the reality of climate change into social realities have presented an impressive scientific consensus on the global climate’s physical transformations. And I believe in this reality.

Engaging in climate change disputes transports us beyond the physical transformations observed, modeled, and predicted by researchers. Science can solve climate mysteries, but it will not help us unveil the meaning of climate change to humanity. Therefore, I believe that the world needs new ways of looking at this phenomenon because the current outlook considers only the human influences on climate change and their political meanings. I believe this perspective suffers from harmful reductionisms that shrink the immense complexity behind climate change to a binary caricature, where professional experts are pinned against skeptic experts, believers against climate atheists, and progressive liberals against reactionary conservatives.

I believe that scientists with Malthusian-apocalyptic tendencies, environmental activists, and journalists are sick with “civilization malaise,” an insidious mutation caused by a “civilization at a crossroads” sentiment. This statement is not an ad hominem attack. It is a critique of an ecological ideology that has become the dominant movement of the last decades, where it has been associated with many young people’s political attitudes and ethical behavior. Environmentalism has the attributes of a new secular religion, one in which nature has become the new God, and unmitigated climate change will become the new Apocalypse. Thus, sins against God have been replaced with crimes against nature. And the priests of the new religion? Of course, they are the “97% of experts who agree on the anthropogenic global warming.”

I agree with the psychologist Abraham Maslow who said that “if the only tool you have is a hammer, you will treat everything as if it were a nail.” If all you study is climate change, you will treat everything as if it were caused by anthropogenic global warming.

Climate Change, Torn between Myth and Fact is both a plea and an invitation to consider climate change from multiple perspectives, such as (geo)physical, social, cultural, psychological, mythological, economic, and judicial ones. Even if these perspectives reflect politically incorrect images, this book can serve as a valuable and necessary guide to better understand the mental structures and systems of preferences, beliefs, and ideologies found in the world.

In an unpublished introduction to his book Animal Farm (1945), George Orwell wrote, If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

And this is a right that we must defend at all costs, even if we are not politically correct or do not agree with the views of others. My book aims to be, among other things, an illustration of freedom of speech in the Orwellian sense.

Constantin Cranganu is a Professor of Geophysics and Hydrogeology at the Graduate Center and Brooklyn College of The City University of New York. He holds an MS in Geophysics from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and a PhD in Geology from the University of Oklahoma. He has authored, co-authored and edited numerous books, book chapters, and peer-reviewed articles. He was awarded two Visiting Scientist Fulbright Fellowships in 1993 and 2018.

Climate Change, Torn between Myth and Fact is available now in Hardback at a 25% discount. Enter the code PROMO25 at the checkout to redeem.

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