There has been a rather extensive discussion on Twitter about hostilities in the online climate debate. It seems to have been partly motivated by the recent articles by Matt Ridley and David Rose, in which they complain about how they’ve been attacked because of their views about climate change. The suggestion seems to be that these articles are illustrating how hostile the online debate has become and that we should be aiming to be less hostile so as to encourage better behaviour (or something like that, I rather lost track of the arguments being made). Personally, I have no problem with it becoming less hostile, I just don’t really think that either of these articles is a particularly good motivation for suggesting it now.
Although both articles highlight some fairly atrocious verbal attacks, my impression is that the authors are really just trying to use a few awful examples to score points against, and de-legitimise, their critics. I actually find it offensive. I’ve criticised both Rose and Ridley in the past, but have never said anything remotely offensive and have neither condoned nor encouraged any such attacks. If Ridley and Rose think the examples that they highlight are typical of the tone of their critics, then they’re either being incredibly disingenuous or they can’t tell the difference between an attack and a critique, and should probably assume that they don’t have the intellect to engage in discussions about a complex topic.
So, as much as I’d be all for a reduction in hostilities, and a more reasoned approach to discussions about climate science, I see no reason to capitulate to those who appear to be using a few extreme examples to simply score points. I also think we all own our own behaviour. If people want to reduce hostilities, they can simply do so. People are not responsible for how someone responds to what they say, they’re only responsible for what they actually say.
I will admit, however, to what may be a very obvious bias. Although I have no problem with a reduction in hostilities, I don’t really care either way. I have no great interest in engaging in discussions with those who strongly and vocally dispute mainstream climate science. I’ve tried and failed too many times to think it’s really possible or even worthwhile. That doesn’t mean that I would encourage bad behaviour. It just means that I have no great interest in encouraging those I largely agree with to change their behaviour, just so that some of the most unpleasant people I’ve ever encountered might possibly behave a little less atrociously than they are now.