In the NewsFinancial TimesSeptember 20, 2022

‘Magic numbers’ are clouding the climate debate

An analysis published earlier this month in the journal Science deepened the gloom around whether global efforts are sufficient to cap warming fast enough. But it also elicited a more provocative complaint: that scientists, activists, policymakers and the public have become too fixated on the numbers attached to the climate crisis, for no tangible benefit. That is the view of Bob Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey and co-director of the Climate Impact Lab. “I worry about [tipping points] feeding this idea that there is this threshold, and below it we’re OK, above it we’re not,” Kopp told the journal, adding that a wrong-headed belief in “magic numbers” could instil a feeling of hopelessness as humanity tiptoes closer to the cut-offs. Kopp’s critique shows that climate messaging needs a fundamental reset to make it more accurate and relevant to our lives.