For my old friend, the King of the Road,
This blog was always intended for the choir: people who are convinced that CO2-forced climate is real, disturbed about the failure to communicate this effectively, and alarmed at the obstacles placed in the way of a reasonable response, sometimes deliberately. This is how I put it in the original header of the blog layout:
It's easy to refute all the contrarian arguments but that seems to have very little effect on how commonly they are believed. Refuted arguments seem to live on in the public imagination. To bring the public on board to a rational discussion of climate policy needs more than logical argument. So what should we actually do?So that's the core purpose here. It's not about convincing people as such, but more about understanding why we have failed to convince people, and what we ought to do about it. I already knew
- Some unknown number of people, including many PhDs, numbering at least in the dozens, have been paid as their professional field of concentration to argue against the scientific consensus. They pretend to be honest inquisitors but they are polemicists. You can usually spot them by their high-school-debate-club approach and their National Review vocabulary.
- Innocent well-meaning people sometimes follow their lead, amplifying their voice.
- Members of the scientific community are reluctant by tradition, culture, and inclination to get very good as polemicists. The professional defenders of climate science are far less equipped for the debate.
- The longer this nonsense goes on the more serious the consequences. It no longer appears as if large scale consequences can be avoided entirely. (See Australia, Alaska, Galveston)
- The field of play in this "debate" about things that should no longer be debated is as lopsided as ever if not worse
- Prototypes for the opposition were developed in the tobacco industry
- A very similar effort exists in the movement to keep evolution out of schools.
- People's hostility, paranoia and xenophobia have been stoked to a very dangerous level
- Smart people coming in to weigh the evidence sometimes get things wrong (which rarely happens with evolution or tobacco, admittedly)
- Either we need reinforcements or we need to find a different way to play the game
The core audience of this blog is people who agree with the above. The above is considered as given in the articles.
The thing that really crystalized my thinking was this quote from David Mamet, who was writing about a completely different subject (the prospects for art in Hollywood):
"Law, politics and commerce are based on lies. That is, the premises giving rise to opposition are real, but the debate occurs not between these premises but between their proxy, substitute positions. The two parties to a legal dispute (as the opponents in an election) each select an essentially absurd position. "I did not kill my wife and Ron Goldman," "A rising tide raises all boats," "Tobacco does not cause cancer." Should one be able to support this position, such that it prevails over the nonsense of his opponent, he is awarded the decision. ...
"In these fibbing competitions, the party actually wronged, the party with an actual practicable program, or possessing an actually beneficial product, is at a severe disadvantage; he is stuck with a position he cannot abandon, and, thus, cannot engage his talents for elaboration, distraction, drama and subterfuge."
- David Mamet in "Bambi vs Godzilla: Why art loses in Hollywood", Harper's, June 2005.
In the course of the two years I've been blogging and hence thinking hard about it, I've also learned that the following impinge on the question at hand.
- Economic theory is a core problem, greatly overvalued by powerful interests and fundamentally wrong at several points
- Fuel depletion ("peak oil") is competing with global warming as among the technical issues most likely to cause disaster; some of the responses to both problems work together and others compete.
- The public is interested in the wrong questions.
- The academy is interested in different things, but they are also the wrong questions.
- The media are in a tailspin of their own and can't be bothered to help.
- Al Gore, who ought to know better, can't seem to construct a PR organization that can cope with the facts on the ground. (Yes, I would be very happy to discuss this matter, Senator.)
- Some people in the policy sector ask the right questions, but they tend to be distracted by economists' generalizations that are no longer valid or useful.
- The main new positive factor currently at work is information technology and social media.
- Oh, yeah and the drunken lemurs and rabid mole rats are out of the picture in Washington for a few years at least. That's good too, but it doesn't look anywhere near good enough.
So these are also themes. All in pursuit of the question what "we" should do. In short, "we" is defined as people who have some understanding of the climate science consensus, especially those have been playing the global warming outreach game for a while and if not exactly losing, not winning either.
(I am interested in reaching other audiences in other places. I try to keep other audiences in mind in what I write, and I welcome their participation, but that's not who I'm trying to talk to here.)