As the public debate on the climate crisis moves forward, so does the sophistication of the arguments by some actors to minimize and delay the need to act against climate change. Deniers have gone from rejecting climate change to avoiding the urgency to do anything about it. They are known as “delayers”, for whom measures that will help mitigate the global temperature increase can wait, a disinformation discourse which characterizes this new climate delay machinery.
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The “delayers” and their denial of climate change
Denial always loses in the face of the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating global warming’s effect on our planet. But the denial isn’t disappearing, merely changing form. It’s rare to see someone denying climate change in public, especially among those who have the possibility of introducing opportune actions to mitigate it. We’re talking of companies here, institutions and political leaders. The danger now consists of those who set out to postpone or difficult measures aimed at slowing down the effects. The media already have a name for them: “delayers”.
“They set out to postpone or difficult measures aimed at slowing down the effects of climate change”
Indeed, in 2019, US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to them as climate delayers, people who apparently accept that something has to be done against climate change but won’t understand the urgency.
The problem is, they don’t consist of a single group of people discussing the veracity of climate change over the Internet. These are people, organizations and governments who want to impede a transition that, on the contrary, cannot be avoided any longer.
The 4 elements of “delayer” discourse
The most common arguments in the delay machinery have already been planted into social discourse, risking the obstruction of the introduction of measures capable of enabling the energy transition and mitigation of climate change.
They organize debates on what needs to be done, at what speed, who is responsible and what are the costs and benefits.
According to a study by Cambridge University, climate delay discourses can be grouped into 4 categories:
- Discourses redirecting responsibility. Who should take measures to mitigate climate change? Individuals or companies? The most polluting countries or all of them? These types of debates attempt to avoid the real challenge of building a fair and integrated response to climate change.
“Climate delay machinery argues that there are more urgent problems that need resolving first”
- Promoting non-transformative solutions. They proffer inefficient solutions, thereby distracting from more substantial and genuinely useful measures. Technological optimism is an excellent example of this, leaving it to technological progress to bring rapid reductions in emissions in the future.
- Emphasizing the disadvantages of climate policies. Claiming they introduce a greater burden on society than the consequences of doing nothing. An example might be the possible impact on jobs, consumption, the economy in general or present lifestyles. This when, as can be seen in this article, investing in a regenerative economy would undoubtedly be more beneficial socially and environmentally.
- Giving up, because it’s already too late. “There isn’t enough time” or “it’s impossible”. As if whatever action we take would be too small anyway, or would be too late. This kind of argument denies the capacity of societies to organize great socioeconomic changes.
And all this without even mentioning the context generated by the war in Ukraine, inflation worldwide and the energy crisis, scenarios that the climate delay machinery leaps upon to argue that there are more urgent problems to be resolved than the global warming, caring for the oceans or protecting biodiversity.
The “delayers” are running out of time
The IPPC made it clear in its 6th Assessment Report: climate change is real, human action is its main cause, and measures to limit the rise in temperature need to be introduced immediately.
Earth’s temperature is 1.2ºC higher than during the pre-industrial era. And it will get worse. The World Meteorological Organization says there is a 50 % chance that this will rise to 1.5ºC within the next five years.
This rapid global warming is affecting the lives and subsistence of millions of people, a situation whose consequences will only worsen if we fail to take the necessary action. The climate crisis will aggravate social, economic and environmental risks.
The energy transition cannot be postponed. The moment is now, to leave behind the old fossil fuel system and move forward with renewable energies and clean fuels such as green hydrogen. There’s neither time for any kind of climate change denial, nor for dithering.