Climate wars, Report from the blogging front
Denier vs Greenie, Spy vs Spy.
Deniers, despite the recent success in the email skirmish, have been losing the blogging battle. They have not done a good job articulating the shortcomings of the global warming theory. Any science deniers cite is suspected by many as flawed, flimsy, fallacious or fantasy. Deniers soon descend to the same argumentative rhetoric as used by the warmers. They rely on just as much alarmism as greenies to make their case. Or resort to conspiracy theories. Guilty as charged.
Greenies accuse deniers of all kinds of things but especially of being neo-cons and profiteers with no concern for the environment. Being a bit of a greenie myself, and having once been a true believer in Global Warming, I was guilty of this too. Cast in wolf's clothes, deniers get no respect for having any legitimate concern about the environment, science, costs or logic. Some blame for this must rest with our hype prone, politically correct, simplistic minded media and of course their customers.
So what are we supposed to do? Do you suppose the IPCC is interested in funding deniers? Not even big bad business wants its name linked to a denier while they're trying to sell cool stuff to greenies. Not even oil companies want to appear politically incorrect although Exxon is said to fund think tanks. Big oil however, is conflicted because oil seems to be running out anyway.
But in order to do science, they'd have to find a scientist willing to go out on a limb, a scientist who for instance, would be willing to find another reason for earth to warm, such as the sun. Finding such a scientist who can hold their own in debate is no easy task, which is why politicians have taken over.
Consider the situation for such a scientist. Will colleagues shun him or her? What does the boss think? Will Nature publish the work? How about further IPCC work? How about calls to present his work at the climate change seminars? Most folks like their status quo and are risk adverse. They don't want to rock the boat, especially given all the hype about the global warming theory. If there weren't so much money/ emphasis on climate change, maybe the risk for the scientist would be lower and they could come out of the closet.
The public thinks or is told scientists are unbiased, skeptical by nature. Few people are truly skeptical. It is a rare art. A scientist hoping to formulate a complicated plastic or unravel DNA needs imagination and optimism, not skepticism. No, scientists are human.
Since the globe certainly appears to be warming, at least going by northern ice, looking for confirming evidence in flowers or bugs is a good bet for both getting a grant and finding uncontroversial results. The IPCC loves to fund such work. And if anything goes 'wrong' if the findings contradict expectations, the scientist has an 'out' - he simply does not publish. Lots of science goes unpublished. He can explain the situation, hope for another chance (grant) and maintain his reputation. Only an obstreperous truther would publish such work.
Obstreperous scientists are lonely. Unloved. Shunned, ostracized. So they become even more extreme on whatever little data they can find to support their hypothesis. Climate work is expensive so its hard to get that data.
Conventional scientists on the other hand, get to travel and more or less do what they want. Is a little creature in decline or not? Could temperature be a factor? Even remote possibilities become media darlings, especially if there as a cute animal involved. No wonder the science seems overwhelming, case closed. But science is never settled. Well, not since the Church gave up trying to control it. Galileo was confined to House arrest. There are lots of ways to Confine.
Every time a strip mall or subdivision goes up near a weather station, the temperature seems to rise. Is that global warming? The deniers say no, its the heat island effect. But did anyone remember to flag the data as suspect as it flows to the IPCC? Then, again, maybe the temperature change is valid anthropogenic anyway, since humans did the building. Its just not CO2. When whole forests are felled for chopsticks and the Amazon jungle razed for hamburgers, even hard bitten deniers have to wonder about the climate effect. But deniers dare not admit anything lest we lose the anthropogenic argument. Greenies don't want to mention it either, in case they lose the CO2 argument. But not razing the Amazon is far easier than what Copenhagen imposes.
And as for those conspiracy theories, deniers are both wrong and right. Greenies reject our assertions because they sound so preposterous. That is because the beginning of suspicion in our minds often started a long time ago, in areas unrelated to global warming, mostly in the political sphere. When Bush accepted the GW theory for instance.
This and other factors separate the two camps. Greenies trust, deniers are skeptics. Greenies lean to the left, doubters mostly to the right. And there is realism vs idealism which perhaps springs from age vs youth. If you aren't a socialist at 20 you have no heart, if you aren't a capitalist at 40 you have no head. Which is why politics cannot please anybody.
On top of this is the media, and writers in general who are more interested in publishing and simplifications than truth. Truth is often muddled and complicated, not a good sound byte. Truth may not be absolute. Even in physics. But hacks must make a point clear and simple enough for the public to grasp and dramatic if possible - publish or perish, truth be damned.
This is understandable but unfortunate. Debates end up as a shouting match, egged on by media, combatants made into caricatures. I'm not sure how to get past that. Professionalism is not enough. The divide is too deep. Those of us caught in the middle, trying to thread the needle, just get it from both sides. My theory on this is that the US is especially prone to this because there are only two political parties. I suspect the benefit of multiple parties is that it gives subtleties more opportunity to be discovered. Italy, with more parties and elections than anyone, is still a developed country. They might tell us why but its too complicated!
So with little or no approved science to go on, isn't alarmism our only option? Can it perhaps be condoned, considering the stark consequences of the supposed fix to global warming? If that fix were easy, there would be no debate. But the greenie blogs aren't talking about the fix, just the science they are so sure of.
The only hope is for greenies and deniers to stop shouting long enough to think about the many other perspectives, especially what the Copenhagen treaty entails. The public has to live with those consequences. Not only does the treaty commit us to an unbelievable 80% reduction in the fuels that power our entire economy, it actually usurps the people's democratic control of taxation under Clause 38. That should scare everyone, greenies included.
Greenies who are mustering mighty support for this treaty, put down deniers without realizing that the onus is on themselves to not only prove their science is not corrupted by politics but to research answers to any question doubters may have, to explain honestly, the cost and impact of the treaty, and to consider the risk that even if an 80% carbon reduction is achieved, the temperatures and the water may rise anyway. They must then contemplate the difficulty of trying to build sea-walls and other works using an economy that may well have been gutted by the draconian measures stipulated.
It seems, the worst the deniers can do is cause a delay. If the human causation is true, it will become more settled. And yes, the earth will be warmer. Vikings grew grapes in Greenland a few thousand years ago. Humanity will survive. But if we get the story wrong, if we adopt useless solutions, what then? Small mistakes are an annoyance, big mistakes are often fatal. Humanity will survive, but civilization may not.
The original Spy vs Spy strip in Mad Magazine was funny but this is not the time. Surely, toning down the rhetoric would be a good idea.