I often talk to people about their attitudes to climate change. Many people are surprised when they realize that, despite my work on this crisis-ridden topic, I don’t feel any fear, but on the contrary, I’m hopeful. People then usually ask me why this is the case.
First, I’d like to emphasise that it’s a privilege not to be afraid – because that’s not something you can make a conscious decision about. Studies show that specialised knowledge helps.1 The more a person knows about the climate, the less climate anxiety they have. But that on its own isn’t enough.
I suspect that in my case it’s mainly because I can research effective climate strategies. When you look at solutions, it changes your perspective: the crisis doesn’t seem hopeless; prospects open up. You can sense that there’s a chance for improvement, and you start to see progress, however small.
Climate solutions instead of climate anxiety
So I study how various greenhouse gases effect the climate, and I understand that reaching net zero CO2 emissions is sufficient to prevent further warming of the atmosphere2 – even in the event that the expected tipping points up to two degrees Celsius of warming are activated.3, 4
And I see the slow but steady progress in government climate pledges, which mean we will no longer end up with 4 to 5 degrees of warming, but with around 1.9 degrees5 – that’s still far too hot and only a promise, but it is at least progress.
I’m also aware of the 1.1 trillion dollars that were invested in climate action last year, mainly by China. And I’ve noticed that more and more companies are pursuing robust climate strategies and expecting corresponding standards throughout their supply chains.
This is just a selection of the positive aspects that I find motivational. But I don’t want to play down the situation. There are also many things I find demoralising. So far, only two dozen countries have really started to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The challenges are huge, and progress is far too slow.