Climate Doomerism: Staying positive during the Climate Crisis By Matt Cockfield-Hall

Over the last 10 years, the news has been flooded with stories about our changing climate. It seems from both experience and evidence that natural disasters are becoming more prevalent due to our impact on the environment. More recently, the heatwaves across Europe are a clear example of what living on a hotter planet may look like.

With all these frightening stories, it is far too easy to become resigned to a state of inaction, completely overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible task of ending the climate crisis. The fact that 100 companies make up 71% of emissions only contributes to this feeling of helplessness. As a result, the idea that ‘climate disaster is inevitable and there is nothing we can do to stop it’ is becoming widespread. Many across social media have adopted this viewpoint, which has become known as Climate Doomerism.

This way of thinking is greatly damaging to the environmental movement, as it actively promotes inaction. In a time when we need as many people to act as possible, the complacency that forms the basis of this idea is dangerous. In fact, the fossil fuel industry has made a concerted effort to weaponize Climate Doom in order to prolong the use of oil and gas. In 2004, BP hired the Public Relations firm Ogilvy & Mather to create the ‘Carbon Footprint’ advertising campaign, in an effort to shift responsibility for climate change onto the consumer. Rather than deal with the consequences of fossil fuel extraction themselves, BP blames you for increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

In a time when we need as many people to act as possible, the complacency that forms the basis of this idea is dangerous.

Since then, the only way we are told we can fight climate change is through individual action, such as adopting a different diet or switching the lights off. Understandably, most see this as inconsequential, merely a drop in the ocean when compared to the unimaginable volume of greenhouse gases emitted by large corporations every second. Looking at it this way, it is easy to understand the viewpoint of a Climate Doomer.

However, individual action does in fact make a great difference in the fight against rising temperatures, although it can be hard to see initially. Making greener lifestyle choices on a personal level will precipitate up to the societal level- or in other words, the actions of few eventually become the actions of many. Systemic change can only come about from a collection of individuals deciding to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and as more people become concerned with our effect on the planet, it becomes easier to push through legislation to help mitigate this crisis. Individuals can also vote to elect parties which represent more environmentally-conscious views.

With all this in mind, what should you do when you come across a Climate Doomer?

Firstly, remember that this view comes from a point of helplessness and not indifference. The majority of Doomers tend to care a great deal about environmental issues. Remind them that the goal of climate action is not to solve all the world’s problems overnight, but instead it relies on many small changes occurring over a period of time.

One way to combat the feeling of hopelessness is to get involved in local community efforts. Volunteering is very fulfilling and can also help to build confidence and knowledge when it comes to environmental issues. Here’s what you can do as a student in Guildford:

  • · Join a society on campus such as People & Planet.
  • · Volunteer with ZERO Carbon Guildford.
  • · Sign up to the Student Union’s dedicated volunteering platform - Surrey Volunteering
  • · Help inform others through social media

In summary, Climate Doomism is a harmful mindset which only perpetuates the cycle of inaction on environmental issues. To stay on the right path, we must all use our collective voice to dismiss this mindset and carry on the fight for a safe future.