"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Friday, March 30, 2007

Why are We Moving Backwards?

Another take on it is here: "Why the right goes nuclear on global warming" by Jonathan Chait in the L A Times. I suppose that I should acknowledge that this article is what kicked off the thinking behind this blog.

I don't always understand what point Roger Pielke is trying to make, but his
response to Chait's article
is certainly coherent and interesting. I even agree with most of it, though I find it hard to figure where he gets his optimistic spin at the end.

Chris Mooney and Tim Lambert kick this cat around a bit without much effect, too. I find the most interesting thing about each of these blogs to be in the comments. See a refreshingly honest posting in Lambert's log from "RightWinger" and a terrifyingly ignorant one in Mooney's from "strangetruth".


EliRabett said...

Well a pretty good reason is the rabid middle splitting that Chiat pulls out of thin air

"No doubt something like this happens on the Democratic side pretty often too. It's just rare to find the phenomenon occurring in such a blatant way."

No example, no justification, but see, both sides are alike. Not.iRabe

EliRabett said...

You also might consider Pielke's framing. Al Gore made the issue partisan. Wanna bet? I could just as well say in 5000 words or more that Roger Pielke made the issue partisan, or more truthfully, Roger is providing cover for those who made the issue partisan. You also might consider the similarities between the Stalinist position on ecology and the Republican one.

Michael Tobis said...

Framing is a central issue which I'll get back to.

I think there really is a point that Mr Gore is the wrong messenger.

Mr Gore was a very great senator. I have great admiration for him as a thinker and a speaker. It's not clear he would be a great president, but he was an absurdly weak candidate, and he now carries the baggage of his disastrous effort.

For Gore to make this issue his own may be therapeutic for him, but given his history it doesn't advance the issue in the minds of great swaths of the population.

I greatly admire Al Gore but I am concerned it is too late for him to be of much help, at least in public outreach about climate change. In other words, I think Pielke may have a point.

EliRabett said...

Michael, I think you need to go back and read the testimony from ~1988 in various Senate hearings. This has been Gore's issue from early on, and he is not going to let go.

When you read the testimony, if you read his earlier book "Earth in the Balance" I think you would be struck by how right he has been on the issue.

Part of the problem I have with your approach is that you refuse to go beyond what is known with dead certainty. One of the skills that (some) people have is to synthesize arguments based on fuzzy evidence. In a science context, this points you to the next study/experiment, etc. People who are good at that advance knowledge. Gore, based on everything I know, is exceedingly good at it.

You also appear to have bought into the he was asking to get beat up by the bullies school of viewing the 2000 election. The simile that I push is Gore as Cassandra, always right about the future, always ignored. The Greeks called that tragedy.

EliRabett said...

One final thing, you also appear to have bought into the cognitive disonance that the denialists are selling these days. Do you think that climate change would have exploded into the public concious without "An Inconvenient Truth"? (lots of spelling errors..sorry)

Michael Tobis said...

Eli, yes I am aware of Earth in the Balance, and I was fairly vocal in defending it when it came out.

The question is what to do about the echo chamber effect, where so many people are getting a skewed view of the whole business.

Did "Inconvenient Truth" wake up the country? I really doubt it. It may have energized the faithful but I really doubt that it made many converts. Indeed I suspect that "Swindle" was more effective at convincing the uncertain. Of course, it had the Mamet advantage.

Gore has a lot to offer in reaching out to responsible elements in business and government. I take a back seat to no one in admiring his work as a senator and his early awareness of the seriousness of the issue.

That all said, you can certainly make a case that he's the wrong person to reach out to the main target audience of the denialists, because of how he alientated so many people in his botched and literally disastrous presidential campaign.

Whether he won narrowly or lost narrowly, the election was his to lose in the first place. He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, in much the same way that climate scientists are doing.

The disloyal opposition is quick to pick up on this resonance for a reason.

Gore deserves more trust than he gets, and so do we. In a perfect world we all might be getting it, as we wouldn't have an opposition with little compunction about attaching sinister motives to us.

Let's deal with the flawed world we have, and try to understand how our efforts are backfiring.

EliRabett said...

I think we have a real disagreement about how the situation is evolving. The major thing IMHO to avoid at this point is the attempt to move the frame of what is reasonable to the side of inaction and denialism.

An inconvenient truth pushed the middle to the realization that there is a serious challenge. The true denialists will never change, they will only become irrelevant.

For one thing the denialists have not been able to recruit very many younger people from the climate science community. They are undergoing a Planckian demise. In a few years they will be gone, or at the minimum diminished. Politically Europe will put a carbon tax on everything used there, including imports and then the US and China will have to follow.

Michael Tobis said...

Eli, I hope you are right, but I think if you keep your ear to the ground you will see plenty of signs that the general public is starting to shift backwards, especially in the English-speaking countries, and especially on the right.

In any case, I invoke a precautionary principle. It would be sufficiently bad if the general public were to be moved backwards, even if only for a decade or so, that we should at least keep our minds open to the possibility.

In a democracy, the technocracy rules only at the pleasure of the masses, after all. We have seen enough spectacular blunders in centers of power in the last few years that we should realize that the truth does not always out in a sufficiently timely manner.

Even though most of the energy concerns seem to be coming around, they have done too good of a job bamboozling the public in the meantime. I fear they have loosed a monster they will have trouble recapturing.