the earth is hotA Guardian story suggests that we may have as much as eight degrees of global warming already locked in, in the form of stored heat in the ocean. But a substantial stored-heat backlog in the ocean has been well-known for some time. That it is greater than expected is bad news — but (as I’ve confirmed in correspondence with Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate) this does not mean that all or most of that stored heat is going to “come back” and fry the planet, provided we take action in time.

I know James Lovelock, the brilliant inventor of the Gaia hypothesis, is spreading the “8 degree” misinterpretation, but most climate scientists do not agree with him.

Climate disruption is a serious crisis for the human race, but the reality is bad enough. No need to make solving it harder by exaggerating the threat. RealClimate has posted a number of articles debunking exaggerated panic-mongering:

I don’t think anyone will dispute that errors and false statements from any part of the political spectrum or scientific community should be corrected. But I think we have to move beyond that and avoid pushing the panic button in general. (Note that there is plenty to say about global warming that is both frightening and true).

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Fear works against us in this fight — even when fact-based. Yes, it is a powerful emotional force. But fear impels us towards authority and reaction. Politically, it is inward-looking, destructive, narrow, and often xenophobic, moving us either to resist change or seek a mythical past. Positive social change comes from other emotions: hope and joy sometimes, or anger, outrage, and a sense of betrayal in others.

The deniers, the business-as-usual types, are engaged in asymmetrical warfare — fear is useful for them, not useful for anyone who wants serious positive change.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.