Climate Catastrophe Is a Choice

Downplaying the Risk Is the Real Danger

A wildfire in Lower Lake, California, September 2015. Noah Berger / REUTERS

Oren Cass argues that the worrying predictions of mainstream climate science are overblown (“The Problem With Climate Catastrophizing,” March 21). But rather than assessing the legitimate range of views regarding climate change, Cass marshals a series of fallacies in an apparent effort to justify a fossil fuel-friendly agenda of inaction.  

The clearest signs of trouble in Cass’ essay are rhetorical. By referring to mainstream climate scientists as “catastrophists,” Cass suggests that he is more interested in scoring political points than in engaging with the science surrounding climate change. It is true that the projected effects of unmitigated warming might objectively be characterized as catastrophic. If anything, however, scientists have been overly conservative in their assessments, tending to understate the actual threat posed by climate change—the very opposite of catastrophism. What’s more, the label creates a straw man: in Cass’ argument, “the catastrophist” is an amalgamation of perspectives set up

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