Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Arguing With Your Crazy Uncle About Climate Change
Elsewhere I show that the War on Science is part of a much wider effort to destroy public trust in every "smartypants caste" -- from school teachers, journalists, medical doctors and attorneys to professors, civil servants and skilled labor. (Name a center of intellect that's exempt!) But nowhere is it more relentless than by savaging the one group in society that's unarguably among the smartest and best educated.
It's having the intended effects. Chew on this. Thirty years ago, in the era of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, 40% of U.S. scientists were Republicans. Today that fraction has plummeted to around 6%. Can you blame them?
Why is this happening? I go into it elsewhere -- the underlying motive for a campaign that will leave only one elite standing. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that everybody has this thing backward. Scientists are not being undermined in order to argue against Human Generated Climate Change (HGCC). Rather, the whole HGCC imbroglio serves as a central rallying point in the campaign against science.
== The latest salvo ==
Trust the once-credible -- now murdochian -- mouthpiece called the Wall Street Journal to publish a sophistry-drenched festival of talking points. Five Truths about Climate Change by Robert Bryce.
Yep, call it "truth." The Far Left spent years devaluing that once-proud word on a hundred university campuses, in their own version of a War on Science. Now the Entire Right -- not just the far-fringe -- completes the devaluation of "truth" down to Orwellian levels. Take this sampler from Bryce.
"The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere."
Urk! Gurggle (*strangling sounds*) -- I must let someone else answer this. This cartoon from Sci- ənce! will make you both laugh and sob for your civilization.
== How can you help win this phase? ==
Trapped between the Far Left's own distaste for science and the Entire Right's lemming charge, lured by Rupert Murdoch over the cliffs of insanity, what are all the pragmatic-moderate liberals ... plus those rare but admirable and deeply appreciated awakened paleo-conservatives and Smithian libertarians to do?
Why, what he have to do is fight this phase of the American Civil War, of course! The "blue" forces were slow to rouse in the other phases, too, but finally got it together to rescue the Great American Experiment. Are we made of lesser stuff?
This fight won't be with muskets or civil rights marches, but by patiently prying open the skulls of our crazy uncles and neighbors out there who swallowed the anti-future, anti-progress, anti-science hype recreating the Know Nothing movement of the 1830s. It is going to take all of us -- working on the smartest and most salvageable of these fever-racked neighbors, one by one. Getting them to calm down and re-join civilization.
It won't be easy! Rupert's fox-machinery supplies endless talking-point incantations to stoke trog fury. Go prepared. Here's a pair of sites to arm you.
== How to answer your crazy uncle re: Climate Change ==
1) I offer my own handy guide to engage intelligent people who only half swallowed koolaid. Smart guys who proclaim they aren't climate science "deniers"... but "skeptics" instead.
In fact, this distinction is very real! Moreover, science benefits from critical questioning by genuine Skeptics!
Still, given the pervasive villainy of fox-propelled denialism, a burden of proof falls on those who claim to be above the fray and not Rupert's hand puppets. My article reveals half a dozen essential (if a bit intellectual) ways to test the claim. And if they pass? Then prove your own adaptability and lack of dogma! Engage and argue with such people, like adults.
2) Alas, most of those marching in Rupert's Lemming Army don't make such fine distinctions. They're fine with anti-science denialism and my intellectual points will be meaningless. But if you think your crazy uncle has a -- somewhere buried deep inside -- the remnant of an honest "paleocon" conservative, then your role -- your duty! -- is to gather stamina and wear him down, for the sake of civilization.
Each ostrich conservative who lifts his head is a victory for America. Worth hosannas and paeans of joy. When enough of them get angry at the real villians - the monsters who hijacked conservatism - we'll get back a conservatism folks can sanely argue with. Negotiate with. You can help, one crazy uncle at a time.
This site offers: simple rebuttals to denier talking points — with links to the full climate science. It's extended, exhausting and somewhat repetitious. Print it before your next crazy-uncle encounter.
But of course... I found some gaps! So I went ahead and wrote a few more. Add these to the printout.
== Some additional rebuttals to Denialist talking points: ==
1. Practical minded people don't listen to Climate Change chicken-littles:
The US Navy is spending a lot of time, money and effort planning for an ice-free Arctic. The Russians are too, setting up sub-oceanic mining claims and outposts and reassigning a whole division of special forces. Are the Russians and the US Navy and the Canadians and Norwegians all doing this for nothing? Because they are fools and chicken-littles?
2. Climate scientists are clueless:
The supposedly stupid climate scientists are in many cases the very same people who improved the Weather Forecast from a 4 hour joke (remember those days?) to a ten day projection so useful that you plan vacations around it. Sure, climate is more difficult, but it uses the same equations and same modeling systems. If they proved titanically competent in one area, don't they deserve some benefit of the doubt in a closely related field? Perhaps more than TV shills who work for coal czars and Saudi princes?
But of course Glenn Beck knows more than they do.
3. Scientists just follow the herd:
Top scientists are the most competitive human beings of all time. Put three in a room and there's blood on the floor. Below them, "young guns" are constantly looking for some giant to topple or "wrong corner" of current theory to shine light into and make a reputation. If you believe the meek, herd-following nerd image, enjoy! It clearly makes you feel better to express superiority over people who are smarter and know a lot more than you do. But... it... is... a... lie.
4. Scientists are pushing climate change for grant money:
Really? They'd lie for a $50,000 grant? All of them? Even the vast majority who have no such grants and work in other (related) fields? Or who have grants that are secure forever due to their wondrously successful work in weather forecasting? Vastly more is spent on weather than climate: these tenured guys have no "skin" in Climate Change... yet they all believe it.
Oh, but Beck says they are all sucking up to the money gushers in Big Environmentalism. (Do you ever actually listen to your own words?)
How about the major prizes and grants offered by coal companies and petro moguls, for anti-Climate Change "research"? Huge offers, often much bigger than those petty little grants from EPA, NASA, NOAA or private foundations. Why don't those coal-co offers draw serious, top-rank climate scholars, if they are all such money grubbers?
And how does it feel parroting the exact same lines as the Tobacco Industry pushed, when they cried "the jury is still out" about the health effects of smoking, and Tobacco shills claimed that anti-smoking scientists were all in it to become millionaires off grants from the Heart Association? Have you no memory? No shame?
More to the point, if you are so sure about this slander - that all the scientists backing Climate Change are grubbing for grants - HOW ABOUT OFFERING IT AS A BET? Wagers are on the table. Free money, if you're sure! Follow the money, prove this and collect the bets. Only a coward would refuse. (Hint: when offered wagers, these folks always, always run away. Try it and watch them scurry for cover!)
5. Accepting the advice of 97% of the people who know about the climate would ruin the economy.
Wrong. Accepting HGCC would only open us to finally arguing over the BEST methods to ease greenhouse warming.
Admitting that something needs to be done would not pre-judge the argument over what to do. It will just start that argument! Many tools would be on the table and economic repercussions would certainly be a factor in negotiations and tradeoffs. We all want to keep the lights on. Given a choice, we'd all prefer the solutions that kept a vibrant economy.
Stop portraying scientists - and those who respect science - as unreasonable people. Stop portraying them as people like yourself.
6. Solving Climate Change would veer us in directions we shouldn't go.
Even if HGCC proved to be an utter myth, it would still be worthwhile to bend major efforts toward efficiency and new energy, if only to wean ourselves off dependence upon foreign oil and filthy coal. An accomplishment that George W. Bush swore would be his top priority... and that he sabotaged at every turn. (Hmm... look at his family friends and guess why.)
Indeed, follow the money behind climate change denialism. It leads directly to... foreign oil princes and big, filthy coal. Congrats. You are in good company.
7. The Earth isn't that delicate:
In many ways the planet is resilient. But here's a fact that you will hear nowhere else, though as an astronomer I'll vouch for it:
Our planet skates along the very inner edge of the sun's "Goldilocks Zone" (GZ). The sun has been getting warmer gradually for 4 billion years. (This has NOTHING to do with the rate of warming re climate change. A separate, slow but inexorable shift over hundreds of millions of years.) Now the inner edge of the GZ is right upon us. That means we must expel almost all of the heat we get from the sun as infrared rays and cannot afford even the trace amounts of greenhouse gas increase that humans have caused. It sounds unfair, and maybe it is, but them's the facts.
7. In the 1970s scientists were predicting an Ice Age.
An outright lie. There were a couple of very tentative papers, that's it. But this lie is dealt with in the big list of rebuttals that I cite above. So why do I bring it up now?
Because of a big, popular movie that illustrates just how widely people were already talking about HGCC, even in the 1970s. Proving that science never swerved. Go watch Soylent Green.
8. I don't care, I hate science:
Yep, that is the fall-back refrain. Hatred of people who know stuff. Not just science, but also teachers, diplomats, journalists, lawyers, professors, medical doctors, civil servants, skilled union labor... you name a caste of knowledge and professional intellect -- of knowing stuff - and it's under attack. Most vigorously by the foxed right (making Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley spin in their graves) but also by the loony far-left.
Pragmatic-moderate problem solving and negotiation were great American virtues. Culture War is betrayal. Treason. And the chief purpose of denialism.
Again. Scientists aren't being dissed in order to detract from the theory of climate change. Climate change denialism is being pushed in order to help know-nothing-ism win the War on Science. If our generation fails this test - if you refuse to do your part by rescuing some salvageable conservative, luring him or her back to the version of conservatism professed by real men like Buckley - then welcome to the Dark Ages.
==See also: Distinguishing Climate "Skeptics" and Climate "Deniers"
and The Real Struggle Behind Climate Change: A War on Expertise