Saturday, March 29, 2014

Have the Climate Change deniers won?

Now this is an interesting question.  On one hand, it is absolutely, utterly impossible for the climate change deniers to "win."  Climate change is a scientific fact and as such is something we cannot dispute but can only learn to understand better.  It actually makes no difference what anyone's opinion on the subject might be, the fact remains that pumping CO2 into the atmosphere has and will trap greater amounts of energy.  What happens to that excess energy is open to various forms of prognostication, but the existence of that extra energy is well beyond reasonable debate.

On the other hand, the deniers have won in the sense that they have blocked meaningful progress in addressing the problem at a public policy level.  And the problem is not confined to drooling morons and the coal company hirelings.  It has spread to the educated "elites' who don't dispute the science.  I posted an example from Harvard just last Tuesday.  In fairness, while I love to blast "liberal denialism" these days, (personal examples can be found here, here, and here) having one's heart in the right place is an improvement, however small.  The BIG reason that the liberals and environmental activists don't get anything done is that they don't understand the nature of the problems they face.  They actually try the "solutions" they do understand (organizing conferences, writing books, publishing a magazine, organizing rallies, etc.)  Unfortunately, none of these "solutions" is remotely applicable to the problem.  So they keep doing things that clearly cannot work and soon everyone gets tired of their hectoring / consciousness-awareness raising.

And so even though climate change is obviously the most important subject in the history of human existence, most people just want it to go away. And since most of us cannot do much about it anyway, and actually understanding the issues means you stayed awake during high school chemistry class, ignoring the whole subject is a very real and quite desirable option.

The climate change deniers have won

Scientists continue to warn us about global warming, but most of us have a vested interest in not wanting to think about it

Nick Cohen The Observer, 22 March 2014

The American Association for the Advancement of Science came as close as such a respectable institution can to screaming an alarm last week. "As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do," it said as it began one of those sentences that you know will build to a "but". "But human-caused climate risks abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes."

In other words, the most distinguished scientists from the country with the world's pre-eminent educational institutions were trying to shake humanity out of its complacency. Why weren't their warnings leading the news?

In one sense, the association's appeal was not new. The Royal Society, the Royal Institution, Nasa, the US National Academy of Sciences, the US Geological Survey, the IPCC and the national science bodies of 30 or so other countries have said that man-made climate change is on the march. A survey of 2,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in the last 20 years found that 97% said that humans were causing it.

When the glib talk about the "scientific debate on global warming", they either don't know or will not accept that there is no scientific debate. The suggestion first made by Eugene F Stoermer that the planet has moved from the Holocene, which began at the end of the last ice age, to the manmade Anthropocene, in which we now live, is everywhere gaining support. Man-made global warming and the man-made mass extinction of species define this hot, bloody and (let us hope) brief epoch in the world's history.

If global warming is not new, it is urgent: a subject that should never be far from our thoughts. Yet within 24 hours of the American association's warning the British government's budget confirmed that it no longer wanted to fight it.

David Cameron, who once promised that if you voted blue you would go green, now appoints Owen Paterson, a man who is not just ignorant of environmental science but proud of his ignorance, as his environment secretary. George Osborne, who once promised that his Treasury would be "at the heart of this historic fight against climate change", now gives billions in tax concessions to the oil and gas industry, cuts the funds for onshore wind farms and strips the Green Investment Bank of the ability to borrow and lend

All of which is a long way of saying that the global warming deniers have won. And please, can I have no emails from bed-wetting kidults blubbing that you can't call us "global warming deniers " because "denier" makes us sound like "Holocaust deniers", and that means you are comparing us to Nazis? The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.

Tempting though it is to blame cowardly politicians, the abuse comes too easily. The question remains: what turned them into cowards? Rightwing billionaires in the United States and the oil companies have spent fortunes on blocking action on climate change. A part of the answer may therefore be that conservative politicians in London, Washington and Canberra are doing their richest supporters' bidding. There's truth in the bribery hypothesis. In my own little world of journalism, I have seen rightwing hacks realise the financial potential of denial and turn from reasonable men and women into beetle-browed conspiracy theorists.

But the right is also going along with an eruption of know-nothing populism. Just as there are leftish greens, who will never accept that GM foods are safe, so an ever-growing element on the right becomes more militant as the temperature rises.

Clive Hamilton, the Australian author of Requiem for a Species, made the essential point a few years ago that climate change denial was no longer just a corporate lobbying campaign. The opponents of science would say what they said unbribed. The movement was in the grip of "cognitive dissonance", a condition first defined by Leon Festinger and his colleagues in the 1950s . They examined a cult that had attached itself to a Chicago housewife called Dorothy Martin. She convinced her followers to resign from their jobs and sell their possessions because a great flood was to engulf the earth on 21 December 1954. They would be the only survivors. Aliens in a flying saucer would swoop down and save the chosen few.

When 21 December came and went, and the Earth carried on as before, the group did not despair. Martin announced that the aliens had sent her a message saying that they had decided at the last minute not to flood the planet after all. Her followers believed her. They had given up so much for their faith that they would believe anything rather than admit their sacrifices had been pointless.

Climate change deniers are as committed. Their denial fits perfectly with their support for free market economics, opposition to state intervention and hatred of all those latte-slurping, quinoa-munching liberals, with their arrogant manners and dainty hybrid cars, who presume to tell honest men and women how to live. If they admitted they were wrong on climate change, they might have to admit that they were wrong on everything else and their whole political identity would unravel.

The politicians know too well that beyond the corporations and the cultish fanatics in their grass roots lies the great mass of people, whose influence matters most. They accept at some level that manmade climate change is happening but don't want to think about it.

I am no better than them. I could write about the environment every week. No editor would stop me. But the task feels as hopeless as arguing against growing old. Whatever you do or say, it is going to happen. How can you persuade countries to accept huge reductions in their living standards to limit (not stop) the rise in temperatures? How can you persuade the human race to put the future ahead of the present?

The American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Eril M Conway quoted a researcher, who was asked in the 1970s what his country's leaders said when he warned them that C02 levels would double in 50 years. "They tell me to come back in 49 years," he replied.

Most of the rest of us think like the Washington politicians of the Carter era. And most of us have no right to sneer at Dorothy Martin and her cult either. We cannot admit it, but like them, we need a miracle to save us from the floods. more
Climate change denialism is alive and well in Australia these days too.  The reasons are quite similar to those in USA.

Damnatio Memoriae for climate deniers

by David Atkins

The United States isn't the only nation embarrassing itself and endangering the world on climate issues. The conservative Abbott administration in Australia is proving itself corrupt and anti-science as well:
The Abbott government has launched a formal review of Australia's 20 per cent renewable energy target, choosing senior business figure Dick Warburton – who has been sceptical about mainstream climate change science in the past – to head it.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane launched the inquiry on Monday afternoon, with Mr Hunt saying the review's terms of reference would focus on progress towards the target, investment certainty and its impact on electricity prices.

"We are a government that are unashamedly doing our best to take pressure off manufacturing, households, to do anything that can lower electricity prices," Mr Hunt said.

"But this is about certainty, it is about the long-term. [The review] was always due and always predicted."

The target, established under the Howard government and expanded under Labor, mandates that at least 20 per cent of Australia's electricity comes from renewable energy sources by 2020. But with electricity demand falling in Australia some industry groups complain the target – which mandates 41,000 gigawatt–hours of power be produced from renewables by decade's end – will be overshot by up to 7 per cent.
Who wants to bet that the Abbott administration will find the 20% goal simply "too costly for consumers" and "burdensome to business"?
What's worst about this is that Australia, with its drought-prone climate, severe weather and coastal cities, will be among the nations hardest hit by climate change. It's also unfortunate that by the time the damage Abbott and his cronies is fully felt, most of them will be too dead to face crimes against humanity charges as they deserve.

The Romans had an elegant solution for this problem called Damnatio Memoriae, in which all villains too powerful to be held accountable during their lifetimes would be cursed and stricken from history after their deaths. For today's corrupt climate change deniers, that may be the best bet. That and a hefty estate tax. more

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