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Research Driven Critique: Steven Maher and Climate Change Essay

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Updated: Aug 8th, 2022

Introduction

The ravaging effects of Covid-19 must not distract the world from the impending ramifications of severe environmental and climatic events that shaped the lives of a significant portion of the population in the past year. The earth is undergoing tremendous changes, some of which are likely to impact humanity’s future. Steven Maher evaluates these changes in his article, “This Year has Shown us That we have What it Takes to Stop Climate Change,” posted on Maclean’s website in 2020. Stephen Maher is a dedicated environmental author keen on highlighting potential solutions to the world’s evolving climatic conditions.

Maher is eager to point out that the Covid-19 pandemic and American politics distracted most readers from important environmental events (Maher, 2020). While Maher correctly surmises that the Covid-19 pandemic marks a turning point in the fight against a changing climate, his argument demonstrates inconsistencies in clarity, relevance, and the use of scientific evidence.

Summary

In Maher’s article, he posits that the Covid-19 pandemic overshadowed significant climatic events. For instance, the polar ice caps are thawing at a hitherto unseen rate, wildfires have decimated sections of the U.S., and the Amazon and tropical storms are more severe than any other time on record (Maher, 2020). Despite the severity of the events above, greenhouse gas emissions fell dramatically. While the pandemic caused devastation, green activists provided a rare opportunity to test their proposals. The reduced traffic and industrial activity witnessed during the period had remarkable results. Even though maintaining these conditions is challenging, there is hope, given the changing tone of political voices and business strategists. Maher argues that the migration from fossil fuels is taking shape as investors support alternative energy sources, thanks to Covid-19.

Critique Segment 1: Lack of Scientific Evidence

Even though Maher expresses optimism that things will change after the pandemic, he fails to provide persuasive evidence to highlight the exact mechanisms through which society will adapt to the post-pandemic era. While his claims on the pandemic’s effects on the global climate may be valid, the lack of strong scientific evidence to support his assertions reduces the gravitas of his argument. For instance, Maher states that green activists see the pandemic as a turning point because the world has found a way to reduce greenhouse emissions (Maher, 2020). However, it is vital to note that while the author highlights the reduction in emissions, he fails to propose sustainable ways of maintaining the low levels.

Maher does not present data to support the claims made. Global News noted that emissions dropped by 17 and 40% during the lockdown (Global News, 2020). This was occasioned by a reduction in industrial activity and a drop in air travel by approximately 70% (Thompson Reuters Foundation, 2020). Bonardi et al. (2021) note that domestic and international lockdown measures led to a 35-45% reduction in pollution. The researchers used fine particle pollution (PM2.5) as their primary air quality indicator, given that it has the most adverse immediate health consequences (Bonardi et al., 2021). The reliability of their findings gives concrete evidence to support the reduction in pollution levels.

Maher further notes that the pandemic has led to changes in how businesses view work. Most people will probably never return to work, and office buildings may be transformed into homes (Maher, 2020). It is vital to note that Maher’s proposed solutions are not grounded in scientific fact. While his proposals are inventive, the practicality of their application is wanting. For instance, the economic cost of transforming offices into homes is immense.

In addition, the modifications may cause unprecedented environmental damage as the buildings are adapted for home use. Mansuy (2020) makes evidence-based proposals about combating the adversities of a changing climate. For instance, the proposal to transform degraded landscapes into environmentally healthy spaces is supported by the fact that every dollar invested in restoration projects has the potential to yield between seven to thirty dollars (Mansuy, 2020). Maher’s lack of evidence limits the credibility of his arguments in so far as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on a changing climate is concerned.

Critique Segment 2: Relevance

It is vital to note that Maher’s article does not adequately capture the relevant issues about environmental pollution. For instance, he does not talk about the associated adverse health effects populations must contend with due to heightened levels of pollution. This is relevant in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the loss of life and significantly impacted people’s health. Maher should have focused on how reducing pollution levels is linked to improved health outcomes and minimized illnesses. While pollution remains a significant problem to address, Maher fails to make a convincing argument in the context of Covid-19.

Unlike Maher, Stark (2020) argues that Covid-19 is most likely the result of humanity’s mistreatment of the environment. He further notes that the pandemic is proof that governments can take swift action when adequately motivated. Stark (2020) argues that the pandemic proves that governments have not taken the climate threat seriously. His argument, unlike Maher’s, is relevant because it ties pollution to the world’s most current events.

Critique Segment 3: Clarity

Some of the assertions Maher makes in his article are unclear. For instance, he states that when cruise ships and airplanes resume services, environmentalists believe people running economies will not continue regular business (Maher, 2020). In addition, he notes that when governments use funds to restart stalled economies, there will be reasonable arguments supporting investments in green jobs (Maher, 2020).

The author’s statements fail to define the proposed changes, how they will be implemented, when they are likely to start and why the suggestions must be prioritized. Robert Rapier’s argument that nuclear power can be used as clean energy provided it meets the International Agency’s requirement to double its output from the current 10-12 gigawatts of electricity annually is clear (Rapier, 2020). Rapier’s suggestion is relevant to pollution because it outlines a precise solution, stipulates the requirements for implementation, and references a credible agency in the energy sector. Maher’s lack of clarity jeopardizes the effectiveness of his delivery because it distorts the intended message.

Conclusion

Maher’s attempt to shed light on the link between pollution and the Covid-19 pandemic is average. While he highlights that the levels of ozone-altering gases have dropped, the article’s lack of clarity and limited use of scientific evidence hampers his delivery. In addition, his inability to elucidate relevant issues in the context of Covid-19 reduces the effectiveness with which his message is delivered. He does not highlight important health implications even though the world is amid the worst health calamity. However, it is vital to note that the article alerts its readers to the importance of pollution, albeit ineffectively.

The pandemic is a turning point in the fight to reverse the effects of a changing climate is an important matter to consider. The article’s flaws significantly reduce its credibility and alter the precision with which the author’s argument is interpreted.

References

Bonardi, J.-P., Gallea, Q., Kalanoski, D., Lalive, R., Madhok, R., Noack, F., Rohner, D., & Sonno, T. (2021). . VOX CEPR. Web.

Global News. (2020). [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Maher, S. (2020). . Maclean’s. Web.

Mansuy, N. (2020). . Restoration Ecology, 28(6), 1343–1347. Web.

Rapier, R. (2020). Forbes. Web.

Stark, C. (2020). . IPPR Progressive Review, 27(2), 132–139. Web.

Thompson Reuters Foundation (2020). . [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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