Below is in full and without edit a letter to the editor of the TLS:
Sir, – Unless a substantial proportion of the world’s scientists are deluded and are (innocently) deluding us, articles that blithely project a long-term future extrapolated from a continuing present need to be challenged (see “The last mortals” by Regina Rini, May 17). Or rather the publishing of them. To make predictions based on the present could be an act of climate catastrophe denial, an act that recursively makes the catastrophe more likely. This article is particularly odd in that it posits the exact opposite problem to the one we (almost certainly) face. It’s not how we cope with watching the next generation sail off into immortality, but how we cope with leaving them to face the conclusion of our civilization. Even the most sophisticated actuarial programs would struggle to tell me my grandchildren’s life expectancy, but I’d bet it’s shrinking by the day. A more useful challenge for philosophers would be to ask why environmental and social collapse are increasingly inevitable now, why we don’t care, and perhaps why we seem not to care that we don’t care. Are we incapable of seeing the world as real? Better to deal with these sorts of questions than to go floating off into Elfland.
I wonder if Mr Steinhardt and like-minded people fully appreciate the equally strident policy implication that directly follows from the climate emergency being so catastrophic that thinking about anything else is irresponsible?
Namely: Such persons should be publicly shamed and humiliated, if it turns out that, of course, the climate emergency is going on and yes, it is disastrous, but that does not excuse humanity from thinking about other existential disasters.