Scientists blast Jonathan Franzen's 'climate doomist' opinion column as 'the worst piece on climate change'

Jonathan FranzenJonathan Franzen said he once considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan to better understand young people.Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
  • Scientists and climate experts are furious after a New Yorker opinion column declared the fight against climate change useless.
  • In an essay entitled "What If We Stop Pretending" published Sunday, journalist and author Jonathan Franzen writes that the destruction of the planet by human-induced climate change is inevitable and that environmentalists and climate change activists are delusional for trying to stop it.
  • Alex Steffen, an author focused on climate issues, tweeted that he "would vote for this as the worst piece on climate change yet published this decade-flawed in both concept and execution, morally cowardly, and lavishly self-indulgent."
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Scientists and climate experts are furious after a New Yorker opinion column declared the fight against climate change useless.

In an essay entitled "What If We Stop Pretending" published Sunday, journalist and author Jonathan Franzen writes that the destruction of the planet by human-induced climate change is inevitable and that environmentalists and climate change activists are delusional for trying to stop it.

"It's hard to imagine major outlets publishing essays declaring efforts to reduce poverty hopeless," Climate Central editor John Upton wrote on Twitter, "Or telling cancer patients to just give up. Yet this Climate Doomist trope flourishes - penned, best I can tell, exclusively by older, comfy white men."

The scientific consensus is that reducing emissions can still slow climate change. An October 2018 report by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial average temperatures could reduce the frequency of the most dangerous climate events, such as severe drought and extreme heat. 

Franzen disagrees with the notion.

"If you're younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth-massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought," Franzen wrote in The New Yorker. "If you're under thirty, you're all but guaranteed to witness it."

UC Santa Barbara assistant professor Leah Stokes, NYU professor and climate economist Gernot Wagner, Project Drawdown director and environmental scientist Jonathan Foley, and author Alex Steffen were among those who criticized Franzen's opinion.

 

Both Franzen and The New Yorker did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
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