Horrifying near-life-sized Ken doll Ben Shapiro is very, very disappointed with Scientific American magazine, which earlier this week announced that it, along with a number of other outlets, will begin using the term "climate emergency" instead of "climate change." The magazine justified the term on the grounds that, as it observed in January,

The adverse effects of climate change are much more severe than expected and now threaten both the biosphere and humanity. [...] Every effort must be made to reduce emissions and increase removal of atmospheric carbon in order to restore the melting Arctic and end the deadly cycle of damage that the current climate is delivering.

Shapiro complained on his little internet teevee show about how very "unscientific" it is to call climate an emergency, because perhaps the planet can be kept from warming just by being very snotty at it:


Shapiro doesn't bother citing why Scientific American made the change, but instead went straight to griping that he's "not aware that there's a scientific designation that amounts to emergency," unlike, say, "emergency medicine," which means "a person's gonna die if you don't do something about it right now." (That's actually not far from the magazine's explanation of why it's using the term: Unless we take immediate action, much of the planet will become unlivable.)

Mind you, Shapiro's running a bait and switch here in pretending that the problem is the lack of a "scientific" measure of emergency-ness. He's playing a linguistic and political game anyway, by disputing whether the word emergency applies to the coming disasters we'll face as the planet heats up:

It's not as though a certain level of climate change occurring over the course of the century turns it from just "change" to "emergency." It's a completely political designation.

Given that Scientific American calls for some very specific changes in energy policy and other curbs on greenhouse pollutants, sure, of course it's "political." And? Shapiro again falsely suggests that the magazine is being sneaky, when in fact the editorial announcing the new usage acknowledges that "words matter" and that "to preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately."

Shapiro then launches into his own very political spin on why we don't need to worry about the climate changing, because he doesn't think we need to:

And by the way, I do not consider it a quote-unquote "emergency" if the climate were to warm 4 degrees Celsius over the course of the next century. I consider that a gradual change that human beings are going to have to adapt to with increased technological know-how as well as innovation. [...]

He goes on to argue that economic growth will magically negate the damage done to Earth's ecosystems, and that the "damage done to humankind" will only amount to a "small percentage of global GDP," and that he doubts that "billions, or hundreds of millions of people" will die ā€” heck, we probably won't see tens of millions or even millions dying "through climate change directly."

Isn't "directly" just the cutest little weasel word there? Hard to say what Shapiro means by that "through climate change directly" nonsense, really.

Consider projections of what the planet is likely to be like if we do get to 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F) of average warming over pre-industrial temperatures. Equatorial zones would become largely uninhabitable, with daytime temperatures becoming downright deadly in parts of India. But Shapiro may be right: We might not see tens or hundreds of millions of people dying directly from the heat. As long as they only die because of famine, wars, or mass exoduses, then those aren't direct deaths from climate change, and surely we should all compliment Ben Shapiro on that clever distinction.

The sea level rise resulting from the disappearance of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets probably won't directly drown too many people as coastal areas become uninhabitable, either. (Besides, as Shapiro infamously proclaimed in 2018, folks in those flooding parts of the world can just sell their houses, no problem. Maybe to Aquaman.) Again, we have to wonder a bit about whether Shapiro would count deaths from severe weather events as being "directly" caused by climate change. Probably not.

Those lucky duckies in much of Asia will certainly not die directly from the disappearance of the glaciers that now feed the continent's rivers, either, nor will the acidification of the oceans kill too many people directly. All we'll need to worry about is the minor disruption from much of the food supply disappearing. No big, and anyone starving as a result is a very indirect result of climate change. How can you call that an emergency, silly?

And this is part of what makes Ben Shapiro such a dangerous climate denier: Unlike the old-fashioned denialists who insist there's no such thing, Shapiro says sure, greenhouse gases are warming the planet ā€” but it's no big deal because we'll magically technology our way out of it. How exactly? Innovatively! And please don't sweat the details, because "direct" deaths from climate change will be acceptable, and certainly Ben Shapiro won't be around to see the worst of it anyway.

[Scientific American / Guardian / Scientific American / Jesse Harris on Medium]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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