It’s not often that an article about climate change becomes one of the most hotly debated issues on the internet — especially in the midst of a controversial G20 summit.
But that exact thing happened following the publication of a lengthy essay in New York Magazine titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, Economic Collapse, a Sun that Cooks Us: What Climate Change Could Wreak — Sooner Than You Think.”
In the course of 7,200 words, author David Wallace-Wells chronicled the possible impacts of catastrophic climate change if current emissions trends are maintained, including, but certainly not limited to: mass permafrost melt and methane leaks, mass extinctions, fatal heat waves, drought and food insecurity, diseases and viruses, “rolling death smog,” global conflict and war, economic collapse and ocean acidification.
Slate political writer Jamelle Bouie described the essay on Twitter as “something that will haunt your nightmares.”
It’s a fair assessment. Reading it feels like a series of punches in the gut, triggering emotions like despair, hopelessness and resignation.
But here’s the thing: many climate psychologists and communicators consider those feelings to be the very opposite of what will compel people to action.