Emily has written an interesting post about our half-longing for apocalypse and the psychology of climate change. Evoking the possibility of disaster sometimes serves rational purposes, such as providing a way to deal with uncertainties about costs. There are still people who argue that the benefits of climate change are likely to exceed the costs, and others who argue that the cost of addressing climate change is unacceptably high. Pointing out the possibility of catastrophic runaway change is one way to respond to such positions.
That being said, there are deeper and more emotive reasons for which the destruction of our civilization as the result of climate change has psychological poignancy. At some level, there is the feeling that we deserve it – that our abuse of the rest of nature has disqualified us from continued participation in it. Thankfully, quasi-religious notions of sin and damnation generally leave a space for redemption. Particularly if we can do it in a way that doesn’t leave the world littered with nuclear waste and toxic pollutants, moving to a low-carbon society could help humanity to redeem itself in its own eyes.