Santorum on Climate Change Deniers

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 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.

An Admonition to Debate Club Members Everywhere

I was just chastised for being “erudite”. This castigation was part of a greater argument intent on demonstrating why my point was somehow less valid than that of my opponent; an attempt at ad hominem, but unintentionally turned upside down. The debate itself had loathsome structure and lacked precision. If it had been some sort of test of a reasonable question, the kind I used to debate back in high school, even the most uninterested or inexperienced judge would have had to call the whole thing off.

Here in lies today’s life lesson. Back in my high school days I spent time cultivating a more expensive vocabulary specifically because it provided increased accuracy and greater precision.  At various points during that time I felt encouraged in this pursuit by teachers, parents and other superiors eager to support rhetorical success.  At the time I needed the success, in any form and having the forum just made me happier relative to the shiftless kid I had been prior.  Admittedly, my formal education stalled and while I may unintentionally demonstrate “great learning or knowledge” even I know there are much smarter and more capable people out there with credentials to back them up.  Today that vocabulary may unintentionally paint me as a “smartypants” or a guy-on-the-internet-with-a-superiority-complex ([your favorite deity] forbid). Its ultimately an obsessive/compulsive pursuit for a narrow degree of closeness of measurement to a true value.

Now years after high school cross-x I have found that debate and even impromptu rhetorical exercise has became increasingly an opportunity for wonder and confusion. I completely understand that you and seven billion others are likely to see things differently than I do, in fact, I would bet on this likelihood. I’ve also found that, because there is largely no organization around these sorts of disagreements, the lack of rules ultimately makes the whole affair useless.

Frankly, before you learn even the least bit about rhetoric, you should read a disclaimer stating firmly and without equivocation that you’re signing up for a lifetime of disappointment. Unless you’ve got a pHd and work at a think-tank no argument or debate will ever again be as rigorous, well structured, precise and meaningful as what you’re likely to get at the standard high school invitational. You may make a habit of reading and learning about things that interest you around what would appear to be a reasonable resolve, but ultimately, you’re going to spend most of your time after high school listing off the logical fallacies the opposition will rely on.

Ultimately, in my most recent disappointment for a debate, I ended up withdrawing all comments and resigning any opposition because, per my oppositions only valid point, there was no point to the exercise.  His argument was so poorly formed and so rife with comments about the potential state of my mind that I felt like I was facing a sand blaster with a broken throttle.  I need to renew my resolve to avoid this kind of social contact with friends and, and in this case, strangers.  It does me no good and usually leaves me stuck in thought loops which just eat away at me.

A Grand Irony

I’ve done a pretty good job of eliminating lines of “conservative thought” from my Facebook friends list. The biggest reason is that I like to use Facebook to see what my friends are up to, how their families are, and what they might be doing to make the world a better place. And sure, I too have thoughts political. And I even share them on Facebook, but with this caveat, will what I’m sharing make the world a better place?

But occasionally one or two slip through my anti-anxiety net and more often than not I’m just like . Lately, the “conservative thoughts” that have been making their way through most often have to do with gun control. Someone who likes to hunt, or enjoys their weapons, reposts something with an eagle and a flag and probably an assault rifle on it from “You’ll never disarm me” or “Can the Declaration of Independence get more FANS than Obama?” and I more often than not just de-friend them. Discernment is one of the ways we can weed out suffering in our lives and frankly, I just don’t have enough of the paramita of patience to suffer fools.

Today sweet one poked its little head through my net. And because of the great irony this little picture represents, I decided to write a blog post about it because responding to the re-poster would just lead to more suffering.

So, if you, as I do, disagree with the sentiment this photo intends to impart I’m going to ask you to bear with me. And if you, on the other hand, completely agree with the sentiment contained therein I’m going to ask you to read it, start to finish, a second time.

The image was originally posted by a “conservative” wordpress blog and later picked up by “Can the Declaration of Independence get more FANS than Obama?” on Facebook. Later it was posted through to my feed by a soon-to-be ex-friend (sorry buddy, I’ve been giving you the benefit of my patience for far too long) where I encountered it and nearly choked laughing.

So, let’s not even get into the idea that these numbers are most likely largely made up. I mean who is keeping track of annual statistics for death by hammer? Is there really an epidemic of sue chefs killing kitchen staff with knives in America? If so that’s something I’d truly love to see get some news coverage. But quality of the numbers aside, many of the things cited above as being responsible for death are in fact controlled much more strictly than assault weapons. For instance, name a county in this country that doesn’t have multiple officers of the law out looking for drunk drivers during the weekend. Getting a driver’s license in this country is considerably more difficult than getting a firearm. And we shouldn’t need to go into how difficult it is to become a doctor let alone keep your license to practice in North America.

Yes, I do have the heart of a liberal and personally I’m really looking forward to Obamacare taking on force of law. And no, even being a gun owner, I don’t agree that enough has been done to ensure safe ownership. My opinions aside, why would you point out a number of highly regulated items to make a case for lax regulation and no control of the item you want to keep? I mean, and I don’t want seano to think I’m calling him stupid or anything, this just doesn’t show a very deep consideration of the facts at hand.

Its opinions like this that make me wish I was still hard at work back in high school debating. And there’s a point that just emerged all on its own, maybe we wouldn’t have to worry so much about gun control if more kids joined their high school debate teams. And even if we did have to worry an equal amount about wing bats getting ahold of assault weapons at least we’d be less likely to have to endure the constant stream of poorly formed justifications post fact violence from people worried that their gun case won’t be chocked full when the zombies come.