Ice floats atop the East Siberian Sea in the North Pole. (Photo: Getty Images)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to better deal with climate change deniers and obstructionists. The rational argument with piles of evidence is not changing the hearts and minds of too many. The simple fact of the matter is that there are competing, well resourced interests which for their own reasons do not want you or I or anyone else to change, even slightly, the way in which we might be living.
Ultimately, I feel like there are some people I share this planet with who are holding a clathrate gun to the heads of my children. While they are entitled to their narcissistic and selfish points of view, there is no reason that this sort of nonsense should even be part of the debate any longer. But this is what happens when belief and opinion gain assumed equality with the scientific method and reasoned thought.
Recently an interview and article by my friend Ramez Naam, which appeared in Yahoo!’s financial publication, brought this notion into sharp focus. One of the things I like most about Mez is that he has both a data driven road map to deal with climate change and a message of hope despite news and science which seems to indicate that we may have passed the threshold where we can still cling to such a pipe dream.
My mistake was in participating, even briefly, in the comments section appended to the article. I just scanned through the top couple of responses and despite the rational and well reasoned call to switch to cleaner (lower carbon emitting technologies) the greatest majority of the comments (nearly 1,000 at last count) indicate that Naam’s message of hope is not necessarily being heard.
People do not seem to be getting the message. Or if they are getting a message they’re unable to fully assimilate that information. Rabid ignorance is the character of most of these posts.
Then there are the fringe political elements which do not understand that the only conspiracy at hand is the one that they are theorizing.
To put it bluntly, I feel humiliation because of people who think this way. Neither one of these commenters bothered to read or even watch the interview, that’s obvious. And while they have formed opinions which they are more than happy to trumpet, they obviously lack any real understanding of the science or the situation concerning climate change or clean technologies. “Cheap energy” for that matter.
But its not a couple of nobodies on the internets that bother me, rather it is the fact that these sorts of uninformed opinions have such great reach. Within the US at least, this is a pervasive norm which constantly impedes any meaningful change.
There’s not sound science to support some of the initiatives that the President, I think, is committed to. We know that some of the research was faulty and it drove a lot of the agenda for a long time. and then it turned out there were some questions about the validity of that research….I don’t see a lot of the green initiatives that are being talked about being supported by scientific data, but more supported by political agendas.
– Rick Crawford, R-Arkansas
The simple and plain fact of the matter is that the science is out there. Its out there and easily consumable, peer reviewed and vetted, lacking emotional influence, desire for power, or greed. It is out there, ready and waiting to be understood, and made of use. And, just so I’m completely clear at this point, its not that there is a difference of opinion between Climate Change science and the Obstructionist block; rather its that the CCD&O crowd constantly hamper, stall, or shout down any attempt that does not agree with their miserably skewed world view.
It is my firm belief that Climate Science needs to move beyond its current mode of communicating, it needs to influence policy and thus behavior. Visionaries like Naam and economic wiz-kids such as Andrew Birch can help us form the foundation of a meaningful adaptive response, but this is a project that requires a fundamental change in the way humanity operates. All walks of life will be affected as the consequences of nearly 300 years of fossil carbon being dumped in the atmosphere unfold. And thus, all walks need to be part of the response.
Today, I encountered a new method for dealing with those worthy of ridicule. Actual ridicule, stark and in the public’s full view.
The environmental activists at 350.org have created a petition and program to change the naming convention of Atlantic hurricanes, which have demonstrably become more intense and destructive as the climate has changed, to the names of public figures who persist in their pigheaded denial of climate change. This video is well worth watching and I suggest that you sign the petition as well (5 seconds).
Shame is a powerful tool, many in the CCD&O crowd are firm believers of doctrines that use shame as a primary tool for altering behavior. I will prognosticate the following, if a campaign of ridicule becomes a primary means of exposing the ridiculous in the the CCD&O crowd than those interests which back these people will seek power and control through other avenues. Esteemed members in the halls of Congress will once again be worthy of esteem, because they will, at least on this issue, not have their hands tied by an outmoded and non-adaptive minority rich with resources used to manipulate.
Politics are, much like the internet, a popularity contest. Rick Santorum learned this the hard way when he took on Savage Love. It cost him his political career and will haunt him until he is dead and gone. And I’d argue, while the things he said about the LGBT community were wrong, ill-informed, and prejudiced, they are only minor transgressions compared to some of the material that spews from the CCD&O crowd. People we live in a target rich environment, get ready to laugh yourself silly.