Practice what you preach?

I wanted to comment briefly on a recent paper which concludes that

recommendations made by climate researchers are followed when they practice what they preach.

This seems pretty obvious to me; if you’re going to make specific suggestions, then people are more likely to take you seriously if you appear to practice what you preach. The problem, though, is that a vast majority of climate scientists do no such thing. They are simply people who carry out research to understand different aspects of our climate. Only a small fraction actually advocate for anything specific, such as emission reductions.

That’s why I think that the way in which this research was highlighted was poor. The headline in the press release (see Update at the bottom of the post) is

Climate scientists are more credible when they practice what they preach

which is clearly not what the research indicates. The research says nothing about their credibility as climate scientists; it simply discusses the perceived credibility of climate scientists who also advocate for action.

Although I obviously agree that people should practice what they preach, I think the framing of this is unfortunate. Most climate scientists do not advocate, and are simply researchers studying our climate. Expecting them to set some kind of example, because their research indicates that maybe we should take some action, is – IMO – wrong. The only thing they should be obliged to do is to present their research honestly and clearly, and to make it possible for the public and policy makers to be informed by the research that is done. In fact, there is something rather ironic about this. Those who advocate publicly are regarded, by some, as no longer scientifically credible, while those who don’t set some kind of public example, are regarded by some as hypocrites. It almost seems as though they simply can’t win.

Of course, I have no problem with climate scientists taking a public stance and, those that do, should indeed practice what they preach. In general, however, climate scientists are not public figures and are not responsible for whether or not we (society) take action on the basis of their research. In fact, that we should be considering taking action is really based on the collection of all climate research, not on the basis of any research done by any individuals. That’s why I think Anthony Watts posting images of climate scientists’ houses, showing that they don’t have solar panels, is wrong; even if he didn’t post their actual address. They are not elected officials and they do not – typically – benefit from their public profile, and so have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

So, I do think that people who advocate should practice what they preach, but the suggestion that this should be true for climate scientists in general is – in my view – unhelpful. They’re not responsible for whether or not we decide to take action to reduce the risks associated with climate change, and I think it’s important that this is made clear. If, in the future, we decide that we took insufficient action to address climate change, it’s not going to be the fault of climate scientists who didn’t put solar panels on their roofs.

Update: Springer have changed the headline for their press release to now say:

Climate scientists are perceived as more credible when they practice what they preach

This is mainly – I think – because I emailed them to point out that the headline was somewhat misleading. I still think the update is not quite right, since the paper refers to climate scientists who advocate, not climate scientists in general, but a willingness to make a change should be applauded. The Indiana University press release is still unchanged, though.

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74 Responses to Practice what you preach?

  1. verytallguy says:

    Simply put,  this is a Catch-22.

    Anyone who has a zero carbon footprint is a hair shirted zealot who wants to return civilisation to the stone age.

    Anyone who does not is a hypocrite who doesn’t deserve to be listened to. 

    The truth is that individual action can never suffice to impact societal emissions.   At best it is marginal but influential,  but at worst irrelevant as it merely shifts emissions around rather than truly impacting them. 

    We need low carbon infrastructure,  regulation to prohibit damaging activities altogether,  higher near term costs for emissions and some way to keep fossil fuel deposits from exploitation.

    Moralistic sermons will help no one except those wishing to avoid action. 

  2. Richard Betts says:

    Well said. That paper joins the ‘seepage’ one as an example of people projecting their views onto climate science as what they think it ought to be, rather than what it actually is.

  3. Rachel M says:

    A scientist who studies the impact of smoking on health can choose to smoke cigarettes. Does this mean we should disregard their research? Of course not! Isn’t this what Willard would call a tu quoque? I may not understand that term properly so I could be wrong about that but our behaviour does not change the science. The only conclusion we can draw from the smoking scientist is he’s maybe a bit of an idiot or maybe he’s just addicted to cigarettes and finds it hard to quit.

  4. Richard,
    There is certainly some confusion about what climate science is and what climate scientists should do.

    Rachel,
    I think it might be a form of tu quoque. Maybe Willard will clarify 😉

  5. metzomagic says:

    As verytallguy put it so well, this is the equivalent of “If you believe in AGW, then why do you still drive a car?”. That worn-out tu quoque fallacy really gets my hackles up. And you don’t hear that sort of thing only from the deniers. Most of the general public, being ill-informed about the main drivers behind climate change, think that way too. Like all we need do is replace all our light bulbs with low energy long-life ones and, hey presto, problem solved.

    Hint: if we could change the way we generate electricity to use 100% renewable sources of energy instead of fossil fuels, and then power our ground transportation off that clean electricity, then we would go a long way towards actually solving the AGW problem.

  6. snarkrates says:

    The best thing you can do for climate change is to vote for Team Reality whenever the elections come up. If Team Reality is not on the ballot, then vote for that which comes closest… Do I really need to spell out that The Donald and his Rethuglican cohort are not associated with Team Reality.

  7. Anthony Watts posting images of climate scientists’ houses is wrong. Originally he also showed many street names. But even without you make it clear to mentally unhinged extremists that it is possible to find these addresses with leads to more threats of physical harassments of scientists and their families. That in a week where a mentally unhinged extremist killed a member of parliament in the UK. Some fringe left-wing groups and neo-nazis publish each others addresses in Germany to intimidate each other. I do not know US law, but I would like Anthony Watt’s behaviour to be illegal.

  8. Bård says:

    verytallguy, I think you generally described the issue well.

    However

    Moralistic sermons will help noone except those wishing to avoid action

    who/what are we talking about? Wouldn’t people like James Hansen and environmental groups qualify here? They surely have their role?

    Sermons usually are listened to by people wanting to listen. Shouldn’t one want to embolden and make some clear demarcations on a few things to those so declined, also appealing to various governing bodies, like say “no coal”, “divest”, and other “moralistic messages”. This can also hold sway on individual/consumer level. In Norway there has been a big negative focus on palm oil in various products, and it’s been reduced by a whole lot, and various companies has pledged to discontinue using it.

    I can see how moralistic messages can backfire many times. (And who want to be a moralist, anyways.) But I don’t think we should take away from the potential of individual action to be (as you say) A) influential & B)marginal;my individual CO2 footprint is something I actually can have truly control over; also, the last emitted ton is probably worse than the first one

    The truth is that individual action can never suffice to impact societal emissions.

    what if we scale the prolem? Try this:
    national action can never suffice to impact global emissions
    this was actually a key point in a commentary of a top political commentator here recently pooh-poohing the importance of the national climate goals and the debate we were having about them.

    The odd person out or the dissenting voice can sometimes have an inordinate amount of influence.

    All of which is not to say that individual action suffices or that the problem should be reduced to this level.

  9. T-rev says:

    Would we listen to an anti domestic violence advocate who bashed their partner ? Rachel mentions the smoker researcher who smoked, would you listen to a doctor advocating you stop smoking while they were puffing on a cigarette ? Actions do matter.

    I also think VTG’s point is dis-indigenous. No one except deniers expect climate scientists to be wandering ascetics but there is only one solition to too many emissions and that’s less emissions. What is level we need to be at ? Good question, get cracking but I am aiming for 3t of CO2 per annum. We know who is causing the problem, the worlds richest billion or so people, wealth ties quite well to emissions. One thing we can surely agree on (I assume), more emisisons won’t help.

    I have great respect for Professor Kevin Anderson because he walks the walk… his bit on why here

    Hypocrites in the air: should climate change academics lead by example?
    http://kevinanderson.info/blog/hypocrites-in-the-air-should-climate-change-academics-lead-by-example/

  10. T-Rev,
    But a doctor isn’t the equivalent of a climate scientist. I think Kevin Anderson does walk to walk and anyone who openly advocates should – in my view – do so. However, I do not think it is fair to expect climate scientists to lead the way when it comes to finding solutions, either in terms of emission reductions or in terms of personal behaviour.

  11. verytallguy says:

    Bard,

    I’d agree with much of what you write. I would argue that individual actions are less effective than we think they are – if I use less fuel it will lower the price and encourage others to use more, absent a wider societal framework.

    National targets I think are conceptually different to individual actions in that they form part of a larger international framework. Also, they have value beyond co2 emissions per se – specifically on energy security.

    T-Rev,

    I think it’s much more nuanced than you suggest. Smoking is binary, CO2 emissions are not. Personal CO2 emissions are a strong function of the wider infrastructure we depends on, smoking is an individual decision.

  12. T-rev: “No one except deniers expect climate scientists to be wandering ascetics

    I know the mitigation sceptics prefer to blur all the lines, but could we at least here make the distinction between environmental activists, politicians and scientists?

    If a scientist would like to be a climate scientist, he should not feel forced to be an activist & otherwise do physics.

  13. Even in case of environmental problem, I think it is a bad idea to call people who would like to change things hypocrites if they do not set an example themselves.

    I do not own a car, I live in a walkable European city with good public transport and decent cycling facilities and do not live too far away from work. I fully realise that not everyone can do this. People may have kids, less good public transport, a harder time to find a house that is near the working place of all people in the household, whatever. I would very much like these people to also advocate for designing the public space so that walking and cycling becomes more attractive and kids can play on the street again. I would love these people to advocate for better public transport so that air pollution in the cities goes down. If we would fall in the right-wing purity trap, these people might not do so, we would not get these improvement after which these people would be able to change their life styles as well.

    Renewable energy starts to become so cheap that you could ask middle-class people to simply use it, but in the 70ies you would have gone broke if you used it exclusively. I am happy that since the 70s people have been advocating for renewable energy, even when they did not use it, that has allowed for the rise in its use, the larger markets have lowered the prices, which increases its use again. I use renewable electricity myself, but I would not condemn anyone not doing so. That is their choice and in the end the price should reflect the environmental damage and the green electricity should be the cheaper one.

    In case of environmental problems with typically have to change the system/incentives. It is wonderful if someone wants to set an example. This shows that the behaviour is possible, this clearly signals support for the political changes that are needed. But I do not think you should demand that people change their ways before the system is changed and otherwise start calling them names (or harass them like WUWT does).

    Be glad when people share your vision of the future, rather than scare them away with pure behaviour demands.

    I am happy to call Anthony Watts a hypocrite. Given that according to his political movement CO2 is life and society will benefit from higher temperatures. Given that according to his movement you should practice what you preach, he should walk the walk and only use electricity from coal and fuel from tar sands. Even if the solar energy was cheaper with federal subsidies, he should be wiling to pay that little extra for his ideals.

  14. Willard says:

    > A scientist who studies the impact of smoking on health can choose to smoke cigarettes. Does this mean we should disregard their research?

    Choosing to stop smoking is less easy and carefree than to choose to smoke. Because, nicotine. The success rate is quite low:

    CDC analyzed 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data to describe U.S. adult smokers’ interest in quitting, quit attempts in the past year, successful recent smoking cessation, and use of evidence-based cessation treatments and services by demographic characteristics. This report describes the results of that analysis, which found that 68.8% of current smokers want to completely stop smoking, 52.4% of smokers had made a quit attempt in the past year, and 6.2% of smokers had successfully quit within the past year. Further findings were that 48.3% of smokers who saw a health care professional in the past year recalled getting advice to quit and 31.7% of smokers used counseling and/or FDA-approved medications when they tried to quit.

    http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/mmwrs/byyear/2011/mm6044a2/intro.htm

    From less power comes less responsibility.

    ***

    > Isn’t this what Willard would call a tu quoque? [O]ur behaviour does not change the science.

    Indeed it is. Here’s a relevant bit from the main source I cited on that previous post that may not have been read much:

    Analogize the situation for Gore with the situation of a passenger in the midst of a train robbery. If all the passengers rush the robber, then they could incapacitate him and be out of danger. But if only one or a small few do so, they will be shot and considerably worse off. Someone complaining about the situation holding that we should all rush the robber is himself not a hypocrite if he does not rush the robber just by himself. The Gore situation is roughly similar in that if we all (and this includes governmental and industrial cooperation) effected a change, then we would not only address the problems on the table, but also maintain a reasonably good standard of living (there may have to be some sacrifices, though). However, if we do not have this widespread cooperation, then what do we do? Does not taking the proposed option, given lack of cooperation, amount to hypocrisy?

    http://ojs.uwindsor.ca/ojs/leddy/index.php/informal_logic/article/view/543/506

    As Eli would say, AGW’s a “we” thing, not an “I” thing.

    ***

    However fallacious they may be, appeals to hypocrisy just work. They work by transposing a theorical issue, over which contrarians have little control, into the ad hominem mode, their speciality. From questions of AGW we switch to questions of authority and credibility. It then becomes a PR matter more than a scientific one. Messengers get shot. Everyone has a ball.

    For a previous ClimateBall ™ episode that itself refers to a previous ClimateBall ™ episode, tune in to BartV’s bat channel.

  15. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Practice what you preach?

    The question is begging for a tu quoque.

  16. Jamie says:

    This idea that behaviour change does nothing / is impossible to achieve, and only low carbon infrastructure will work seems to be gaining currency at the moment (especially, and conveniently, in the US). It’s fundamentally wrong though. We need behaviour change *and* low carbon infrastructure because without behaviour change, the decarbonisation challenge will be made *a lot* harder to achieve and will come about later as a result.

    We, who grasp the scale of the problem that we face, should be doing what we can to progressively cut our own emissions as deeply and as quickly as is practicable within the context of our existing, high carbon infrastructure (our focus should be on cumulative emissions after all). In so doing we pioneer new, more sustainable ways of living our lives. It’s not about hectoring or trying to compel others to adopt these behaviours and technologies; it’s simply about normalising these practices so that others are encouraged and are in a position to do likewise.

    We have spent decades encouraging people not to chuck litter on the streets and have had some pretty good success. Some of it is down to better infrastructure (more bins, more opportunities to recycle etc) but a lot of it is down to behavioural choices and the normalisation of throwing litter in the bin. Why shouldn’t we also be encouraging reductions in the substantial component of our carbon footprint that depends on behavioural choices as well? It might be a big challenge but to say it’s pointless or will have no meaningful impact is just wrong in my view.

  17. Willard says:

    > Why shouldn’t we also be encouraging reductions in the substantial component of our carbon footprint that depends on behavioural choices as well?

    This presumes that we don’t, and it also presumes that individual behavior is crucial to the impact of AGW. Both are far from being obvious to me. In cases where individual choices could matter (e.g. eating less meat, buying solar panels, divesting), there may be better incentives than AGW: security, public health, economics, etc.

    OTOH, being able to “do something” about a problem is important. That’s the only way for stakeholders to reclaim agency. Talk is cheap, even compared to symbolic actions like recycling.

    ***

    To see AT’s point, look at it from the opposite end. Tony advertizes that he rides a Prius. How does it caution the concerns he raises on his website every single day?

  18. verytallguy says:

    Jamie,

    Reduction of waste to landfill is actually a very good example of how regulation and taxation can drive a dramatic change in outcomes.

    Imposition of EU targets and landfill tax has driven waste collection, segregation and processing in the UK to radically change waste disposal.

    Whilst some level of personal change may have helped foster the transition, it’s very clear what actually made it happen.

    A landfill tax was first introduced I believe in 1996 then ramped up. Here’s the outcome

  19. Magma says:

    Considering this from a purely empirical point of view, ‘skeptics’ have expended literally millions of words over the years attacking the perceived hypocrisy of Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Mann, James Hansen, David Suzuki and numerous other climate researchers and environmental activists regarding their lifestyle and travel ‘sins’, real or imagined.

    They would not have done so unless they thought it was an effective tactic. And, unlike their general incompetence on the science side, it is unwise to dismiss anger (especially if mixed with envy, fear or a sense of unfairness) as a a motivating factor in politics.

    Ideally scientists should strive to apply objective, data-based analysis even outside their own areas of expertise. Here we are dealing with a question of politics, psychology and persuasion in attempting to convince a majority of people, very few of whom are deeply knowledgeable about climate change, that it is in their best interests to shoulder tangible short-term costs for less tangible long-term gains. We might be more successful if we looked at the way such things actually work in practice, rather than the way we assume or want them to be. If rational fact-based argument isn’t reaching a substantial minority of people after years of trying, maybe more of the same is not the solution, at least not for those individuals.

    Full disclosure: I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. My default is rational fact-based argument and deniers and contrarians often annoy the he‍ll out of me.

  20. Marco says:

    Since Al Gore has already been mentioned – it isn’t hard to find pseudoskeptics who point out that Gore makes money from alternative energy sources and hence therefore thus they believe it is all a hoax.

    Watt’s behaviour can be aimed right back at him: apparently he believes CO2 emissions *are* a problem – why else would he have solar panels on his home and drive an electric car? (note, this is sarcasm)

  21. Steven Mosher says:

    “This presumes that we don’t, and it also presumes that individual behavior is crucial to the impact of AGW. Both are far from being obvious to me”

    Given that c02 stays around for a long time
    Given that its the total carbon that matters
    Given that every little helps…

    I am reminded of the “specious” skeptical arguments that the US should not nothing because
    When we calculate the effect of US emissions reductions they are minor in the big picture.

    This presumes that we don’t, and it also presumes that corporate level behavior is crucial to the impact of AGW. Both are far from being obvious to me

    This presumes that we don’t, and it also presumes that state level behavior is crucial to the impact of AGW. Both are far from being obvious to me

    This presumes that we don’t, and it also presumes that nattion state level behavior is crucial to the impact of AGW. Both are far from being obvious to me

    It look like this. When skeptics argue that US action alone will have little effect, we get our panties twisted in a knot. When it comes to us as individuals it seems like you want to make the same argument.

    Of course the rejoinder to the skeptics is that the US has to set an example ( go search and find this)

    And of course the skeptical argument here is that climate scientists should set an example.

  22. lerpo says:

    Environmentalists should set an example. Scientists should do science.

  23. verytallguy says:

    Steven,

    The analogy between personal and national co2 emissions is exactly as meaningful as that drawn between personal and national budgets.

    It’s also used with similar rhetorical intent. 

  24. Willard says:

    > This presumes that we don’t, and it also presumes that corporate level behavior is crucial to the impact of AGW.

    Not the pronoun trick again.

    What’s “this” we presume not have been doing in “When we calculate the effect of US emissions reductions they are minor in the big picture.”

  25. Marco says:

    “Of course the rejoinder to the skeptics is that the US has to set an example ( go search and find this)”

    Steven, and *why* do those who make this argument state the US should set an example? Leaving that part of the argument out is rather relevant to see how appropriate the counterargument of the pseudoskeptics is that climate scientists should set an example…

  26. Joshua says:

    Steve –

    ===> Given that every little helps…

    Only tangentially related, but Sam Wang discussing why cognitive and behavioral science might suggest that it is suboptimal to judge the science of climate science or large-scale policy recommendations on the basis of the behavior of individual climate scientists:

    Of course, such judgments will be made. As such, it makes sense to think about how to address how and when those judgments are made. But let’s not fool ourselves about who makes such judgements. Do people who are already concerned about aCO2 emissions judge climate science on the basis of the individual behaviors of climate scientists? I think not. Will those who dismiss concerns about aCO2 emissions increase their level of concern if individual climate scientists install solar on their rooftops?

    You make the call.

    Are those who aren’t particularly leaning in one direction of the other w/r/t concerns about aCO2 emissions likely to have their opinions materially influenced by the behaviors of individual climate scientists? Perhaps. But how, then, would we weigh that influence against the influence of “skeptics” who seek to exploit argumentative fallacies to sway public opinion?

    What do you think, Steven?

  27. JCH says:

    When I learned that Al Gore’s beach house is way up on a hillside I realized what a fraud he is as the surf will never get up there.

  28. Joshua says:

    ==> it also presumes that corporate level behavior is crucial to the impact of AGW. Both are far from being obvious to me?

    I’m hoping you could elaborate on how you “de-couple” corporate behavior from impact on AGW.

  29. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    ==> When skeptics argue that US action alone will have little effect, we get our panties twisted in a knot. When it comes to us as individuals it seems like you want to make the same argument.

    Of course the rejoinder to the skeptics is that the US has to set an example ( go search and find this)

    And of course the skeptical argument here is that climate scientists should set an example.” ==>

    ————–

    You seem to be assuming that changing individual scientist’s behaviors will have the same degree of influence on global energy policy as changing U.S. energy policy.

    I’d like to know what evidence you have to support such an assumption.

  30. Jamie says:

    VTG: My point is that the improvement in recycling rates in your example still came about predominantly through behaviour change. Taxation doubtless incentivised the change in behaviour but it at its core it was a largely non-technological, non-infrastructural change in what we do with our waste that brought about the reduction in waste to landfill. Similarly a carbon tax would doubtless bring about substantial changes in behaviour that reduce our emissions far quicker than (if not as comprehensively as) our infrastructure decarbonising.

  31. verytallguy says:

    it was a largely non-technological, non-infrastructural change in what we do with our waste that brought about the reduction in waste to landfill.

    Can’t agree. It was driven by the provision of segregated collection and sorting facilities by local authorities. Both are infrastructure. That change in infrastructure was driven by a combination of regulation and taxation.

    It was *not* driven by individuals taking it upon themselves to sort out their own recycling.

  32. verytallguy says:

    An analagous change for co2 would be utilities changing generation mix to low carbon driven by regulation and a carbon tax.

    Nothing to do with solar panels on scientists’ houses.

  33. Joshua says:

    Magma –

    ==> They would not have done so unless they thought it was an effective tactic. ==>

    I don’t tend to trust “skeptics” analytical skills, so I wouldn’t assume that it is effective just because because they think it is effective.

    I suspect that “skeptics” fallacious arguments are very effective at reaffirming their sense of identity as “skeptics,” but I tend to doubt that many people who weren’t already “skeptics” (in association with their political ideology) were persuaded that continued aCO2 emissions don’t pose a risk because of “But, Al Gore.”

    Of course, those views of mine run counter to the conclusions of the paper that is cited above…so I will spend some time looking at that paper to see how I can reconcile that difference.

  34. izen says:

    Of course scientists should practise what they preach if they are to have any credibility. IF 97% of scientists really think that AGW is a serious problem then they would act on that knowledge to do everything possible to reduce their own carbon footprint to zero. But given the seriousness of the problem they fail to be credible in their scientific claims if they are NOT advocating for local, regional, national and global action to reduce emissions. Every industry, organisation and government policy that facilitates further CO2 emissions should be the target of their activism. Full scientific credibility only comes from a full commitment to the necessary actions required to prevent further CO2 emissions. Hansen is probably the most credible scientist because he has been arrested for demonstrating against fossil fuel production, distribution and sale. However that was just a non-violent, sit-in protest, a token gesture rather than a real disruption of the institutions that cause CO2 emissions. Until there is are scientists prepared to engage in direct action to disrupt, derail and destroy the enterprises and infrastructure of the CO2 generating industry, no climate scientists can claim True credibility.
    (sarc/off)

    It is notoriously hard to change the behaviour of the mass population. Especially when the infrastructure to provide essential goods can only provide them in a sub-optimal manner. As willard’s picture of coffee cups indicates. Coffee is of course essential for the effective functioning of morning academia.

    Persuading millions of people to even reduce their use of a damaging source of energy is not possible when the infrastructure to provide it persists. I am dubious about the efficacy of a sugar tax, but I suppose it is a start. It must logistically be easier to alter the behaviour of a few major producers (however powerful) of a damaging product than modify the inevitable response of the multitude to its continuing availability.
    However shutting down Pepsi and all the other soda makers can encounter ideological opposition as well as financial resistance.

  35. Here’s a more constructive way to enjoy tu quoques:

    Another day, another bit of clickbait climate sceptic trash in the Times […] some of it is republished here and the underlying report (not peer reviewed) is on the GWPF site here. The basic premise is that if you fit a nonsense model with no trend or drift, you generate a forecast with no trend or drift […]

    I was interested in whether the author really believed it, whether he’d been conned or misrepresented by the GWPF, or whatever else his explanation might be. So I emailed him, proposing a simple bet: for every month where the temperature lies above the red 50% line, he pays me £50. For every month where the temperature lies below the line, I pay him £60. […]

    There followed a fruitless exchange in which he declined to comment on whether he thought the forecast was credible and refused to even discuss any possible bet. […]

    James’ fall, elided here, shows the power of symbolic gestures such as betting.

  36. Windchaser says:

    Meh. It’s perfectly reasonable, even rational, for a climate scientist to do little to reduce their own CO2 emissions in lieu of regulation.

    Let’s take it from a Game Theory perspective.
    1. If no one reduces emissions, we all suffer the costs of climate chagne.
    2. If I reduce my emissions and everyone else does nothing, I bear all of the costs, both of reducing my emissions and of the problems of climate change, and I gain very little benefit. This is my worst choice.
    3. If everyone else reduces their emissions, and I don’t, then I avoid the cost of reducing my emissions, while also gaining the benefits of avoiding climate change. This is my best personal option… but, it’s not practically achievable.
    4. If everyone reduces emissions, we all bear the costs of that, and we all gain the benefits of avoiding more climate change. This is the best collective choice.

    Personally, I want to enact a carbon tax that will push everyone to reduce their emissions. I’ll bear the costs of that tax, just like everyone else. If that’s hypocrisy, then you need to look the word up again. I’m not asking for special treatment here – quite the opposite; I’m asking that everyone be treated the same; that you not hold me to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

  37. Windchaser says:

    ^^A classic Prisoner’s Dilemma.

  38. Windchaser,

    I’m asking that everyone be treated the same; that you not hold me to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

    Indeed, that is essentially the point. Stoat highlighted this post which mentions the Prisoner’s Dilemma and also that climate change is essentially a collective action problem. It seems to be suggesting that we should look at this issue differently and that would help us to find solutions. I’m not sure I quite get it, but it seems worth some more thought.

  39. In the scheme of things any individual—scientist or not—who adopts a low carbon lifestyle, while being true to themselves, will be looked at by the rest of society as an odd-ball; and indeed they’ll make no appreciable difference to emissions as a whole. The move to a low carbon society will only occur when we all act together, en masse, because we’ve all become aware of the problem and we want to make the change.

    The aim of those scientists who wish to advocate should be to take everyone with them in the change, and I suggest they should explain that it’s pointless and ineffectual for society for individuals to act alone, except for personal satisfaction. Better to expend their energies on undertaking their research and then spreading the knowledge gained, with a view to society-wide action on carbon.

  40. Mal Adapted says:

    Previous comments have touched on this, but let me make it explicit: I preach a carbon tax on fossil fuel production at the mine/well/port-of-entry, together with a Border Tax Adjustment on imported goods based on their embodied carbon emissions. How do I practice that?

  41. Windchaser says:

    Mal:
    Spread the word, educate people, write your congressmen, etc.

  42. Willard says:

    > etc.

    Tweet:

  43. Willard, about that picture, yes, point taken. Personally, I would request people remove the lids and crush or nest the cups. But failure in the past and present is no excuse for failure in the future. I’m all for consciousness raising, but we have to find people as they are.

    I’ve been an anti-waste hound most of my life, but in the face of large projects I find I’m quite weak. Have you been in a hospital lately? The trend is to ever more disposables, and the clients would freak out otherwise. I fear institutional inertia is very strong.

  44. Andrew Dodds says:

    Susan –

    If you have items designed for single use and an efficient recycling system, that could end up better than multiple use with all the costs of cleaning and sterilizing, in a hospital setting. Plus the costs associated with longer hospital stays if the ‘reuse’ approach leads to even slightly higher infection rates.

    I think that there as a more general point here; we need, really, to decarbonise the energy system at the top level, rather than trying to make incremental improvements – which sometimes even backfire – the the lowest level.

  45. BBD says:

    Andrew Dodds

    <blockquote.I think that there as a more general point here; we need, really, to decarbonise the energy system at the top level, rather than trying to make incremental improvements – which sometimes even backfire – the the lowest level.

    Yes. Get rid of coal as step #1 of decarbonisation of the electricity supply. Attack the fundamentals.

  46. The insidious aspect of the ‘practice what you preach’ message (aside from the stalking, which is loathsome) is the fact that those who are vocally ‘contrarian’ like to paint climate scientists as environmental activists first and scientists second, whereas of course most climate scientists are not in any way vocal (perhaps put off by those very same contrarians from engaging publicly in ‘the debate’) on policy issues and perfectly competent at making the separation: science first, then policy.

    But of course that does not mean that individual action is unimportant. The Oxfam report on Extreme Carbon Inequality reveals that the top 10% are responsible for 50% of emissions. It is perhaps no surprise that high incomes mean bigger houses, bigger cars, more flights abroad, etc.

    https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/mb-extreme-carbon-inequality-021215-en.pdf

    Consumption absolutely is key particularly in this period of transition to a low carbon sources of electricity – infrastructure that will take several decades to match the demand. Hence Kevin Anderson and others calling for a managed recession. Action for those with high incomes is particularly effective (cutting down on holidays abroad a practical step with massive gains).

    The Centre for Alternative Technology’s report Zero Carbon Britain requires decarbonisation of energy, increased efficiency, improved public transport, etc., but also significant reductions in consumption, to square the circle.

    http://zerocarbonbritain.com/en/

    In the longer term, there is no question there is enough solar and wind to meet humanities needs many times over. No need for sackcloth and ashes then. The issue is one of timing and the transition to the future state.

    Kevin Anderson has stopped flying. I am a little in awe and admiration of him for doing this. I have massively reduced my flying but not to zero. With very close family in the USA, I need to budget some carbon to see them every few years. I am conflated about this of course, but I don’t expect to be harangued as a ‘hypocrite’. That might be justified if I was in the business of haranguing others, but I never do that. I expect a mature and open dialogue about navigating this complex and difficult transition.

  47. Mal Adapted says:

    Windchaser: “Spread the word, educate people, write your congressmen, etc.”

    So, pretty much what I’ve been doing, then. Good to know.

    Thinking about my own question, though: Any actions I might take to reduce my carbon footprint (e.g. install solar panels, or sell my house and move closer to my job) carry a marginal utility cost for me, equivalent to imposing a carbon tax on myself. OTOH, the goal of a national carbon tax + BTA is to reduce or eliminate the price advantage fossil carbon has WRT carbon-neutral energy, with the expectation that market forces would drive the development of a carbon-neutral economy to completion. ‘Taxing’ only myself wouldn’t help much with that, obviously. Am I off the hook, then 8^}?

  48. anoilman says:

    I have 2 rather large (50 feet) spruce trees in my front yard so I haven’t bothered to install solar. 1 is very near death so I may be removing that and opening the way for solar panels. I plan to plant a deciduous tree of some sort when I replace it. That way I can get natural air conditioning in summer and free heat in winter.

    In the mean time I’ve been going over the numbers to try and figure out what I want to do. I’ve been racking my head with a few people to build an automatic roof top solar panel tilt to compensate for seasonal variance. (I tend to view everything as a commercial venture, so the cost structure of this has to be pretty tight.)

    I also have a Garage with less than ideal orientation to the South, but its East and West space is excellent. it would shore up morning and evening power. Strictly speaking that’s not low carbon…

    Alternatively, I’ve been thinking of a minimal system because my house is a power hog. (I have a lot of computers.) So.. 2 panels would probably just get used up completely powering bibs and bobs in the house.

  49. Willard says:

    Tu quoques can backfire:

    Warmunists are so mean to Denizens.

  50. Greg Robie says:

    All civilizations collapse. All civilizations have an economy. The Catch-22 of CapitalismFail is that the Anthropocene and abrupt climate change are consequences of an economic meme that functions, thanks to motivated reasoning, as a planetary civilization. And I posit that what tends to trigger motivated reasoning is that which is one’s functional ‘religion’.

    CapitalismFail, as a bubble economy, is one that was blown with credit vetted by the existence of the energy equivalent slaves of fossil carbon. With these slaves we are all effete and elite. The “logic” CapitalismFail is predicated on is, simplistically, that infinite growth on a finite planet is rational. It is also a civilization that functions as a heat engine. The arrival of peak credit with peak conventional oil is a shock to this irrational physics-denying system that has us ‘religiously’ repeating history. If only its collapse could bottom out at a stone age!

    Moralizing is not something that only the “other” does. Isn’t it integral to human social intercourse? Has ‘moralizing’ always had the pejorative meaning it has for some? Sustainable social order is a matter of rational action/morays, and a dynamic social problem that a civilization fails to solve at the cost of its continued existence.

    Game theory math applies when the political goal is getting something you want. It is accomplished by making sure everyone gets something they want too. As many of the thoughts in the post and comments demonstrate by their arguments, wanting, within the Anthropocene, what physics dictates to redress our irresponsibility is not our condition. This particularly applies to the privileged who want their cake and to eat it too.

    Physics defines what we ‘want’NOT! As a conditional statement, and within a moral framework of equity, it is something to the effect of: an X°C average temperature rise that will likely not trigger a non-linear response in the climate system requires fossil carbon combustion to be zero by XXXX. The scientific X has gone from 1°C to a political 2°C over the past quarter century while emissions continue to rise non-linearly. Simplistically, 1°C required 1990 emission levels to be returned to by 2020. Instead, something approximating the reverse of the conditional statement is being trusted with, well, magical thinking/motivated reasoning. If by XXXX fossil carbon emissions are zero, what we’ve done to get there is X°.

    Motivated reasoning is ensconced in the Paris Agreement. Particularly, the US, does not want what conservative physics and math dictate for a–now–33% chance of _not_ triggering* abrupt climate change. Game theory is in play, but it is to maintain a position of privilege for the national elites (and the privileged’s retirement funds) within CapitalismFail. Such has a constituency and Paris, with or with out the 17 sustainable development goals, are boxed as new game theory tools. Geo-engineering is also waiting in the wings to be the next savior/tool when these gets mostly worn down.

    The metaphor of the bullet train, has been used to describe CapitalismFail in its global iteration. To the degree that freedom is, systemically, the right to be responsible, the energy powering this bullet train of CapitalismFail are the enabling limited liability laws of its financial markets. Or greed-as-go[o]d. For close to two centuries wealth has been divorced from responsibility. The right to be irresponsible is systemic. Did pervades our thinking. Is it any wonder, therefore, that it is so hard to imagine that moral integrity has anything to do with professional employment? Freedom as the right to be responsible, as another, if belabored, conditional statement, is now, in its converse form, embraced: I am professionally right, so I am responsible enough.

    The following is the comment I wrote before reading those here. I emailed it and the Internet, apparently, ate it … surely I was responsible and did what I was supposed to do! ;). Regardless, I’m posting it again because the comments, even the post, are great examples of how motivated reasoning keeps us enslaved and trusting a functional ‘religion’ … or is that complacent in our stoned age?!? 8|

    Within the field of moral psychology, walking your talk would be a conservative predilection, while talking about how right one is, irrespective of any integrity regarding ones lifestyle, tends to be a more likely behavior cluster on the liberal end of the moral continuum. The dictum, know your audience applies here. If moral conservative perceptions/psychology have been polled and measured, is the results eliciting the responses here because motivated reasoning has been activated … including the critiqued word shift made in the post. At the extreme conservative end of the moral psychology continuum, the differentiation between creditability and the perceived sort just isn’t there to make … especially here in the US (e.g. we’ve a preponderance of morally liberal light green clicktivist ‘climate hawks’, and our all volunteer military, is mostly morally conservative). For a moral liberal to try to make a differentiation regarding perception to moral conservative is, at best, Sisyphean.

    Were any morally liberal institution walking the talk concerning physics, would a different story be perceivable? That institution, to be the most persuasive to the conservative moray, would need to be the progressive church/synagogue/mosque/ashram. For the secular liberal such a social institution for mentoring behavior change might be our liberal academic institutions. These social institution could be rational examples of a moral integrity of the scientifically significant sort. They are, but only as part of the problem. There is a construction blue collar truism that those who can’t do, teach. Perhaps the same applies to preaching: those who can’t practice, preach.

    As Kevin Anderson often observes about the culture of CapitalismFail, economics trump physics. Only a functional religion can make a people, liberal or conservative, be as duped by complimentary iterations of motivated reasoning as we are; be as irrational in our actions as the affect that we devotees of CapitalismFail effect. By a myriad of other names, we are disengaged in a ‘religious’ war. http://opentoinfo.byethost7.com/VirtualTabling.html#10

    A couple of haiku to bracket the point I’m attempting to make:

    one’s walk names one’s god
    which ‘god arguments’ deny
    privilege deludes

    “As gods” we create
    Or, “If God did not exist …”
    & in our image

    Because we create
    In our own image, our gods
    G_d is creator

    * https://paulbeckwith.net/the-miracle-of-the-momentthe-terror-of-the-now/

  51. Steven Mosher says:

    “Previous comments have touched on this, but let me make it explicit: I preach a carbon tax on fossil fuel production at the mine/well/port-of-entry, together with a Border Tax Adjustment on imported goods based on their embodied carbon emissions. How do I practice that?”

    Simple. Don’t buy goods imported from China.

  52. Andrew Dodds:
    My language/writing is an imperfect vehicle. My health (problem long over) and caregiver responsibilities exposed me to hospital/nursing home settings for a good part of the last decade; of course what you say is true. But as this is institutionalized at scale, the waste and manufacturing involved is staggering. When I try to dispose of unused materials, I’m not allowed to do so. The trend over time has been towards more plastics, more packaging, more waste; yes, it’s partly about hygiene and occasionally about efficiency. But what I was talking about was in particular my own and in general our society’s reaction to waste. When it’s manageable I’m willing; when it scales up I can’t deal with it. (Though this is petty, I do wish people would leave caps off things they recycle in order to speed up the compression and where possible breakdown of materials.)

    So here are a couple of different examples. 1. When I was involved in constructing my loft, building materials and waste became more than an order of magnitude larger, and I gave up. My garbage bin, I could manage that. A dumpster load, not so much.

    2. I have a friend who is a senior electrician at MIT which has excellent environmental programs on the academic side. But in building construction and management he found the pecking order, the “way things have always been done,” to be insurmountable. He had ideas that could save them $millions, but the only way they would install environmental and cost economies was after the fact. He finally was able to retire, and apparently that got their attention; they are now in the process of adopting some of his excellent proposals. (On a smaller scale, the person who turns up the A/C when it’s hot and wears a sweater, and leaves it up over a long weekend without even noticing, gets angry if one mentions it, which treads on their “liberty”.)

    While all of this is a mite off topic to the attack on personal habits being a distractionalist tactic, and particularly nasty in the way Watts has chosen to personalize it, the carbon issue is one of scale and procedure. It’s that tricky area between knowledge and practice, between process and consequences, where we face a worldwide collapse if we don’t figure out a persuasive way to change people’s habitual perception of how to do things, and stop being so focused on personal liberty. This means they have to acknowledge that there is a problem that will affect them and people that matter to them.

  53. Steven Mosher says:

    “What do you think, Steven?”

    I dont think I’ve seen a cogent counter argument.

    This is a practical matter.

    We want to save the planet. We think the precautionary principle is a good one.
    The cost of stopping climate change is small compared to the risk.

    When we see people who believe this, hesitate to absorb the cost on a person basis
    we get to ask the question

    Why?

    If they say, well my small contribution will make no difference, and if we accept that basis for non action, then we will be hard pressed to explain to a nation state, pick one, that makes the same appeal…

    Who knows, maybe if you set an example others will follow. Game theory that out.
    Remember the cost to you is tiny, the potential reward is huge. why would not take a tiny risk
    for a potentially huge reward? and there is no downside to absorbing that tiny cost.

  54. Willard says:

    Sometimes, both sides of the tu quoque are speech acts:

  55. Steven Mosher: “If they say, well my small contribution will make no difference, and if we accept that basis for non action, then we will be hard pressed to explain to a nation state, pick one, that makes the same appeal…

    Part of the [[prisoners dilemma]] is also not being able to communicate. Nations can communicate. Either in international negotiations or by taking the lead (which is visible at this scale) and seeing it the other nations follow.

  56. izen says:

    @-Steven Mosher
    “When we see people who believe this, hesitate to absorb the cost on a person basis
    we get to ask the question – Why?”

    How much ‘cost’ do they have to absorb to be convincing?
    Merely avoiding air travel and plastic bags would clearly be tokenism.

    Is a zero carbon footprint sufficient or must they also be actively opposing fossil fuel use?

    @-“If they say, well my small contribution will make no difference, and if we accept that basis for non action, then we will be hard pressed to explain to a nation state, pick one, that makes the same appeal…”

    Not really, there are significant differences between an individual and a nation state. In the late 60s it would have been very costly for an individual in France to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. It would probably ‘cost’ going off grid and retreating to a bucolic agrarian lifestyle.
    A decade later because of a policy choice by the nation state based on long term energy security more than climate risks, that same individual had significantly reduced their carbon footprint, along with the rest of the population, without having any cost beyond an arguably insignificant hit to the economy from higher power generation costs.

  57. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    ==> “If they say, well my small contribution will make no difference, and if we accept that basis for non action, then we will be hard pressed to explain to a nation state, pick one, that makes the same appeal…”

    Hmmm..

    It seems to me that saying that the behavior of individual scientists will not have a significant impact on global climate change is not the “same appeal” as saying that the U.S. can play a leadership role in affecting global climate change on the basis of its policy implementation.

    The arguments may be similar in form, but I think that calling them the “same” argument is mistaken. Even if the behavior of individual scientists might have a material effect on climate policy implementation (I’m dubious but the acknowledge that the research cited is evidence that’s problematic for my opinion), there is a clear difference, IMO, as a matter of scale.

    I suppose that one could argue that individual scientists’ behavior might affect U.S. policy development, which in turn might significantly impact global scale policy implementation, so there could be a linking causal chain…but that still doesn’t make them the same argument.

    My view is that with respect to concerns about policy development in the U.S., the impact of fallacious arguments (such as that individual scientists’ behavior speaks to the veracity of the science of climate change, or that individual scientists’ behavior has the same scale of influence on global climate change policy as U.S. climate change policy), is greater than the impact of individual scientists’ behavior.

    Although it seems to me that there is some good and interesting work in the research cited, there are two aspects that I think are important to consider. The first is that even with the researchers’ findings, we don’t know that the effect they found explains much in the real world. I.e., we don’t know how the effect that they discuss plays out in the give and take in the real world politicization and polarization around climate change. The second is that even if the effect they found does have a meaningful impact in the real world, that impact should be weighed against the potential real world impact of fallacious identity politics, where “but Michael Mann flies to conferences” and “Al Gore is fat,” are rhetorical devices used to undermine the science of climate science.

  58. Joshua says:

    ==> “When we see people who believe this, hesitate to absorb the cost on a person basis
    we get to ask the question – Why?

    Yes, we get to ask the question – even when the question is a rhetorical question, that is asked to advance opposition to climate change mitigation policy development.

    In reality, there are many answers to the question. One answer might be that many people think that individual-level actions will not have a meaningful impact, where as large-scale policy implementation will have a meaningful impact.

    Another answer is that changing established behaviors is not something that humans do terribly well, but that doesn’t mean that people who don’t change their established behaviors shouldn’t or don’t advocate for collective action.

    So my rhetorical question in response to your rhetorical question would be, “Why do people who ask your question seem so uninterested in the full range of evidence that might inform answers to your question?”

  59. Willard,

    Warmunists are so mean to Denizens.

    They should expect no less from dirty thieving boat people. One marvels that they bother to get so riled up about being insulted by mere flotsam.

    BTW, nice work immortalizing the original before it was flushed down the memory hole — Freedom Fighters should be up in arms over such blatant censorship. My goodness, if one cannot rely on Judith Curry to allow otters to question the Integrity of the immigrant horde, nor on Denizens to protest her totalitarian control over what appears on her own blog — where will it end? Our Great Nation is clearly on the brink my friends.

  60. T-rev says:

    I came back to this post after rewatching Dennis Meadows 40yr anniversary lecture on Limits to Growth today, the entire lecture is worth a listen but in particular this part about actions is relevant…

  61. angech says:

    It’s not really about the climate scientists actions, is it?
    It’s about us. Doing things like walking off the plank ourselves.
    If we can excuse the scientists not doing it we can excuse ourselves as well.
    Seems about 50/50 in the comments here between the committed and the well you just go first brigade.
    Only thing I am not sure of is the electric car.
    Do not have one.
    Would accept one as a donation.
    But is it really eco friendly ?
    Despite all those ads for buying green electric power, shorthand for coal etc electric power but we can give some solar subsidies away I cannot see that it carbon neutral at all.
    Gotta make it In a factory, Gotta make the battery and later dispose of it. All that tar to make the roads and all that rubber burning away to be replaced.
    Still it’s cool, I guess.

  62. angech,

    It’s not really about the climate scientists actions, is it?

    When it’s not thinly veiled references to Lysenkoism or the size of Al Gore’s waistband, it’s about climate scientists taking planet-killing airplane rides to conferences in far-off exotic locations.

    I sometimes wonder if you and I are using the same Internet.

    All that tar to make the roads and all that rubber burning away to be replaced.

    If it would make you happier, we could always go back to shoveling horseshit off dirt roads. Doesn’t get much more recyclable than that.

  63. If we can excuse the scientists not doing it we can excuse ourselves as well.

    Yes, I think that is kind of the point.

  64. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “If we can excuse the scientists not doing it we can excuse ourselves as well.”

    yes, perhaps, however it is not a reason to disregard what the scientists say about the science (rather than the politics, sociology or economics of climate change).

  65. Greg Robie says:

    Lerpo says “Environmentalists should set an example. Scientists should do science.” Someone please explain how such specialized silo thinking is other than motivated reasoning. How is it rational that one can not be an environmentalist? How can one’s practice not preach?

    Steven says that Mal Adapted can have moral integrity of word and action by not buying Chinese relative to the study/advocation of a tax & dividend scheme to send the market a message regarding emission reductions. Someone please explain how, given that the US, in collaboration with China, got Wall Street and The Square Mile their wet dream of a yet-to-be-determined cap & trade scheme embedded in the Paris Agreement, this position is, on a simplistic level, other than wishful thinking and delusional. On a systemic level, where the unconstitutional debt-based Federal Reserve Note functions as the global reserve currency, please explain how not buying Chinese [but – implied – still buying] is not a futile exercise in trying to piously only be a little bit pregnant. Systemically, within the globalized civilization’ of CapitalismFail, isn’t ‘not buying Chinese’ still a ‘buying with’ – and within – or integral to the thinking that is the problem, i.e. little more than motivated reasoning?

    Motivated Reasoning is VERY foxy … and irrational … and ‘religious’-like. It allows the kind of “lazy” thinking talked about by Sam Wang in Joshua’s link.

    “If we can excuse the scientists not doing it we can excuse ourselves as well.” appears to be a conclusion to this thread that is making its way into the consensus position. Is this because, and implied, that since everyone is doing this, therefore it is moral/a pragmatic as-good-as-it-gets? If so, like a footprint stamped in a puddle, an RedPillReal opportunity is going away. It is Blue Pill ‘religious’-like thinking that allows for this; nurtures this; allows for a Steven Crane _The Red Badge of Courage_ like flight from the religious war that defines our time: a ‘Civil War’ between reason and magical thinking at the end of the Age of Reason; between faith-as-hope-acted-on, and the stoner behavior of hopium addicts with its muddled mystical thinking.

    What I deduce from this post and its comments is that physicists, to the degree those participating in this blog are a representative sample, know far more subconsciously than what is being owned up to consciously. Such is the psychological (and sociological) ‘value’ of motivated reasoning. We can play the game of life with less than a full deck of cards. Such mitigates the otherwise stress of standing naked in the bright light of truth to a manageable, if crazy, level: http://twitter.com/Soul_Tuning/status/728402159952240641/photo/1 ;). The intellectual acumen engaged here, and brilliant in its exercise, is making specious arguments … and finding comfort, therein. Copernicus-like, physics is defining continued human existence as integral to the Holocene. Motivated reasoning has academic physicists conspiring to pragmatically rationalize guano-crazy thinking about the unpleasantries of our Anthropocene. Have I mis-deduced?

    Except for downside of the periodic collapse of civilizations, motivated reasoning has served our species well … relative to the metric of sustained population growth. Call it intuition, if you like, but with honor all but expunged from liberal morays and liberal social institutions, what is left to comfort but pragmatism regarding klimakatastrophe and wishful thinking? For example, I challenged the guano-crazy motivated reasoning of the President of Yale here: http://climatecolab.org/contests/2015/harnessing-the-power-of-mit-alumni/c/proposal/1327121. The judging academics dismissed the proposal because the proposal didn’t conform to the [expletive deleted] rules! Fitting in trumps reason … or the psychology of the default position. For those who are employed in academia, consider stealing this idea.

    T-Rev, that’s a great link! But its argument is rationally irrelevant in a meme without an understanding of how honor ‘works’, systemically, in human psychology and sociology; how maturation, particularly male, can transform our fear of death: or the elephant in the room.

    I had the education of interring bodies in a small graveyard for a decade and a half. During that 15 years a single family exhibited behavior that suggested a healthy understanding of death; a rational relationship with death. Like Al Bartlett’s observations about how challenged our psyches are to grasp the exponential function; or Sam Wang’s summations of observations from neuroscience and Joshua’s link regarding the human’s psyche’s proclivity to think ‘lazy’ (perhaps another linguistic construct for motivated reasoning/confirmation bias/observer bias–and I found this article on the evolution of consciousness in The Atlantic interesting and informative: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/how-consciousness-evolved/485558/); or the factoid from the movie “Contact” that 95% of the human race believe in God (or as this can also be phrased, 100% walk in the essence (name) of the deity(ies) they hope in), a social integration of a rational knowledge of death is one of those wicked problems. Perhaps, until our god-like creativity and irresponsibility created the Anthropocene, it was an unresolvable problem that the very survival of the species has depended on remaining unresolved. I posit that our general gender-based neurological differences and motivated reasoning have been our means of maintaining our knowledge of death as a wicked problem; of being blissfully ignorant; of socially maintaining a trusted homeostasis.

    At ~4X the words most will read, this is cause to pause! 😉 And with a word correction made in the press release, why not name this an as-good-as-it-gets victory and allow the puddle of privileged complacency to still?

  66. Willard says:

    > Someone please explain how, given that the US, in collaboration with China, got Wall Street and The Square Mile their wet dream of a yet-to-be-determined cap & trade scheme embedded in the Paris Agreement, this position is, on a simplistic level, other than wishful thinking and delusional.

    At its simplest level, this amounts to mind probing.

    At a simple level, but presumably less simple than mind probing, it also amounts to a rhetorical question that reverses the burden of proof.

    It might be simpler to simply say that there’s no way to buy stuff in America that doesn’t come from China.

  67. Willard says:

    > My goodness, if one cannot rely on Judith Curry to allow otters to question the Integrity of the immigrant horde, nor on Denizens to protest her totalitarian control over what appears on her own blog — where will it end?

    The fight for freedom never ends:

    Driving is a right not privilege. The only thing that makes the DMV’s declaration that driving is a privilege and not a right is the voluntary contractual agreement people make with the DMV when registering their vehicles and obtaining licenses to drive.

    https://judithcurry.com/2016/06/15/u-s-presidential-election-part-xi/#comment-790397

    Challenge jurisdiction!

    Never consent!

  68. Quoting Willard’s libertarian friend:

    I live in California so let’s use their constitution to demonstrate that driving is actually a right.

    Their constitution. Their taxes to pay. Their civic responsibility to not recklessly endanger their fellow citizens, thereby infringing on otters’ natural rights under their constitution.

    Anti-social(ist)s like this could give separatists a bad name. Pass the ammo.

  69. Speaking of Cali, there once was a man who refused to supply his social security number to renew his driver license, because deeply held religious beliefs:

    Emphasizing the importance of automobiles in modern society, Miller contends that his right to interstate travel encompasses a fundamental right to drive a car.

    […]

    The plaintiff’s argument that the right to operate a motor vehicle is fundamental because of its relation to the fundamental right of interstate travel is utterly frivolous.   The plaintiff is not being prevented from traveling interstate by public transportation, by common carrier, or in a motor vehicle driven by someone with a license to drive it.   What is at issue here is not his right to travel interstate, but his right to operate a motor vehicle on the public highways, and we have no hesitation in holding that this is not a fundamental right.

    The case law to back this up is: Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 112-16, 97 S.Ct. 1723, 52 L.Ed.2d 172 (1977); Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 10, 99 S.Ct. 2612, 61 L.Ed.2d 321 (1979);  Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539, 542-43, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971).

    There are two main problems with a Freedom Fighter approach to the law. The first is that arguing using case law does not cohere with going back to the Magna Carta: the revisability of case law undercuts any quest for original rights. The second is that constitutionality tops due process: while challenging jurisdiction may be a right, the onus is on the claimant to substantiate the claims upon which the challenge is being made.

    This episode, while revelling in itself, is the perfect allegory for what ClimateBall ™ can become – a dystopian game where virtual agents indefinitely obstruct argumentative exchanges. If the Contrarian Matrix ever evolves into a virtualization of paper terrorism, I pity the scientists who will have to deal with these concerns.

  70. Greg Robie says:

    Does Cameron’s structured resignation come across to UK physicists as an act of ‘practicing what you preach’; an honorable action? If so, isn’t this an example of the behavior, which the polling measured as being viewed more favorably [trustworthy?], that has wider implication, such as the professional study of climate within the Anthropocene? Wouldn’t behavior that conforms to what the field of study, as opposed to siloed sections of the field, trump published papers, in terms of communicating substance regarding public policy? On a professional level, institutional behavioral changes could be advocated for within academia and one’s institution-of-employment. After all, as noted the responses, behaviorial changes related to what is being studied are social in nature.

    Anyway, it has been very much a slap-in-the-face to be reminded by this post and comments how insidious motivated reasoning is when it effects pragmatism concerning employment; how deep and irrational the devotion to CapitalismFail is, as a functional religion, among many participating in the blog. As I was closing up the foul house last night, I got to thinking of how CapitalismFail migh helpfully be considered an irrational belief in infinite credit growth on a finite planet. Or perhaps infinite clutter on a finite planet. Or an Orwellian doublespeak of infinite debt-enslavement as wealth and freedom.

    One of the sound bites I watched this morning relates to the latter. Someone was passionately preaching that the vote to leave the EU set the stage for regaining sovereignty as a nation. Like Wall Street here, the financiers of The Square Mile have the UK denizens by the short hairs. As the markets are preaching, this outcome will hurt The Square Mile’s ability to be as profitable as it has been within globalized CapitalismFail. In terms of a globalized response to abrupt climate change which some here argued is necessary before a personal practice is reasonable, did this get any easier with the pending independence … and/or did it get any harder? And from here in the Hudson Valley of New York it is easy to see that the UK just rejected Hillary and elected the Donald. Both are, in terms of physics and abrupt climate change within the Anthropocene, two sides of the same irrationally coveted coin.

  71. Greg,

    Anyway, it has been very much a slap-in-the-face to be reminded by this post and comments how insidious motivated reasoning is when it effects pragmatism concerning employment;

    TBH, I’m not really getting your point.

  72. Greg Robie says:

    I can see I am significantly challenged to communicate what is, from my perspective, glaringly obvious. That said, I can also imagine the disconnect. What I’m trying to share is complex, largely psychological and sociological, and counterintuitive. So, in any event, thanks for even bothering to try!

    Even though I’m a college drop out, I self-identify with Spiro Agnew’s “effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves intellectuals.” Though I am a life-time learner, I was a freshman at NYU School of Engineering and Science when President Nixon’s Vice-President made this assertion … and I had to look up three of the words to understand the ‘insult’/frustration. My interest in science and intrigue with engineering has its roots in my love of the pursuit of truth and excellence. What this country was doing in Vietnam, in truth, seemed wrong. It was an amazing time to be a young adult figuring out my world. It seemed we could change the world … and that the world needed changing. The idealism of the time matches my psychology.

    The slap-in-the-face/kick-in-the-gut/or whatever, is, relative to moral psychology’s conservative and liberal extremes, indicative of the strong feelings that consequence a systemic challenge to communicating feelings/logic across our ever widening moral divide; to the effecting of social change. One end of our moral continuum’s unconscious feelings ground a logic (effect a homeostasis; enable an iteration of motivated reasoning) that is offensive/idiotic on the other. Hence Agnew’s frustration and perceived insult. Your Twitter bio suggests you’ve a bit of experience of the frustration and feeling insulted that this dynamic generates on the liberal side. Anyway, as a consequence of this intractable dynamic it is really hard to see and grasp the disconnect, particularly if one is a male with a strong predilection to prefer thinking over feeling (within the Myers-Briggs model for thinking about psychological differences). It is really easy to have motivated reasoning affect observer bias. And, regardless of gender, the thinking predilection is strongly dominate within the meme of research science, correct?

    Assuming this thinking-over-feeling preference is a generalization that is accurate enough for this conversation to proceed, psyches that are strongly oriented toward thinking are going to be able to pull off threads like this one concerning standards earlier this year…a chorus of geek roosters busy out-crowing one another if ever I heard such! And another barnyard analogy – though my husbandry doesn’t include them and switching species – while being happy as pigs in [mud] in the process. Now the reason pigs wallow in __it is they don’t sweat. Perhaps the preferential disinterest in feelings is why thinkers cogitate and pontificate. Why spend time trying to do what you can’t do well, if at all?

    Regardless, neuropeptides and their receptor mechanisms are common to our neurological, endocrine, and immune systems. So we do sweat/feel. It’s the linguistic differentiations we have relative to rational thinking, emotions, and what is healthy that are, from the unifying perspective of the neuropeptides, fairly specious. The feeling I shared of the face slap relates to the cognitive dissonance I experience when my ‘heroes’, scientists, are un-heroic/pragmatic; love their tenured employment more than they love truth. I welcome the sobering up of experiencing the limits of such pragmatic thinking; how trusted feelings dictate what is reasoned thought. We truly are in a Catch 22 that is _also_ of our own making.

    Belatedly, I’m realizing the term “slap-in-the-face” could infer dueling and honor, especially since I’ve referenced the need to be more astute concerning honor and its emotional/psychological/sociological landscape. Inferring dueling was not my intent. My iteration of motivated reasoning includes assuming scientists will tend to be more logical than pragmatic. One of the challenges I grapple with is that once motivated reasoning is seen, it is seen everywhere. Soon you can’t not see its ubiquitousness. Keeping a foot in both worlds so communication remains as clear as possible becomes harder. It becomes easier to be lazy and say things as I see it rather than figure out if I can, and how to, say it for people not versed in the dynamics of motivated reasoning. I did not expect to see the support that was given here to rationalizing away the sapience of practicing what one preaches. It was like a bucket of cold water reminding me we are all human, and all not sapient.

    Clear as the [mud] pigs wallow in? 😉

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