Social science

On a number of occasions I’ve seen suggestions that those who want to communicate the seriousness of climate change, should aim to understand the social sciences and should listen more to social scientists. I’m well aware that there’s much about this general topic that I don’t understand and that there are many aspects that are more relevant to the social sciences, than the physical sciences. The problem I have is which social science should I aim to understand better and which social scientists should I be listening to.

Should I listen to those who think we should go beyond climate consensus, or those who think consensus messaging is a gateway belief? Those who think we should focus more on adaptation science or those who think we need direct action to stop climate change? What about those who think climate change is a wicked problem for which there is no real solution, or those who think that some areas of the social sciences should take credit for the post-truth world. Should I be listening to them?

Unlike the physical sciences, the social sciences doesn’t seem to develop obvious consensus positions. Given this, how do we know which social science we should be paying attention to and which social scientists we should be listening to? However, if there is a consensus position, then it would be very useful to know what it is. If there isn’t, but there are some positions that are stronger than others, then maybe this should be made clear.

Maybe rather than scientists, and science communicators, better understanding social science and listening more to social scientists, social scientists should be communicating in ways that make it easier to understand the relevant social science and who it is that we should be listening to.

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48 Responses to Social science

  1. Michael Lloyd says:

    Coincidentally, I have just been reading this:
    Post mortem for survival: on science failure and action on climate change
    https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-04-25/a-postmortem-for-survival-on-science-failure-and-action-on-climate-change/

  2. Michael,
    Actually, that did partly motivated this post. It has a section on “Take social science and system science seriously”.

    I’m also not quite sure what I think of that post. I think we may look back and regard ourselves as having failed to communicate effectively. However, it is such a difficult communication environment that it’s not obvious that the real problem has been poor science communication. If anything, some (much) science communication has been excellent, but has taken place in an environment where fake news is easier to present than facts.

  3. Michael Lloyd says:

    One aspect of the communication of the physical science of climate that I would criticize is the tendency of scientists to be conservative. If you have a scientific background you find that conservatism as a reason to worry. If you don’t have that background, you may be reassured.

    From what I can discover, we are facing a significant number of threats, global warming, resource depletion, water supply difficulties and soil degradation to name but a few. I am not confident our political systems are built to deal with these but we are going to have to try.

  4. Michael,
    It may well be that scientists have a tendency to be conservative, or to only present what they are confident they can defend. However, rather than expecting them to communicate differently and to find ways to convince society to take action, why not expect other people to take over and point out the implications of what the scientists are saying and present convincing arguments as to what should be done? These other people could be anything from researchers in other disciplines, to members of the public who have decided to become more politically active.

  5. Joshua says:

    Should I listen to those who think we should go beyond climate consensus, or those who think consensus messaging is a gateway belief? Those who think we should focus more on adaptation science or those who think we need direct action to stop climate change? What about those who think climate change is a wicked problem for which there is no real solution, or those who think that some areas of the social sciences should take credit for the post-truth world. Should I be listening to them?

    I think that the answer there is crystal clear and quite obvious.

    And that the clear and obvious answer is…”Yes.”

  6. Speaking generally, I don’t think there has been any failure of scientists to communicate climate science. The failure in some quarters has been in the willingness to take the science seriously. Social scientists should be studying and providing guidance in how to get people, and particularly politicians, to take climate change seriously.

  7. Steven Mosher says:

    speaker. audience. medium. purpose.

    when scientists write papers or reports to other scientists in order to explain or defend their science findings they generally know what they are doing and dont need any help.
    they do what works, what has proven over time to be succesful.

    outside of that rhetorical situation they should observe caution.

    un mapped mine feild.

  8. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    “If anything, some (much) science communication has been excellent, but has taken place in an environment where fake news is easier to present than facts.”

    I think it is worse than that.
    The Resilience article linked above has te right analysis, but reaches the wrong conclusion.
    The wrong conclusion is that the fault lies in how ‘science’ has been communicated by scientists.
    The right analysis is that Neo-liberal economics as the basis of our political/social system is unable to listen or accept the the science, and its implications.

    Scientists are in the same position in trying to convince Biblical literalist YECs of the accuracy of evolution.
    Or atheists trying to persuade the Catholic Church of the inconsistency, inherent contradictions and immorality of their faith.

    The article hints that its ‘solution’ to this fault of scientists is that they should not just ‘do science’ but also be political activists AGAINST Laissez-faire economics. Presumably you not only have to clearly communicate the scientific facts, but also be a hard-line Marxist or Anarcho-syndicalist, at the very least demonstrating every weekend…

    The past examples of political, institutional, and economic resistance to necessary change are telling. Lead, asbestos, CFCs, did get banned, once alternatives with no negative effects on the economy were available. The struggle continues with tobacco, sugar, agricultural use of antibiotics, etc.

    The push-back from fossil fuel enterprises and the claim by many AGW rejectionists that the science is driven by a desire for political control, increased taxes or a New World Government turn out to indicate that the opponents of action in response to the findings of scientists have a clearer view of the issues than science/scientists, or its critics in the social sciences, have achieved.
    It IS a partisan issue, it DOES oppose the fundamental elements of our present society that provide meaning and material benefits to the majority.
    And least acceptable to the Hayek/Friedman dominant school of economic ‘theory’ it directly undermines the market based thinking that accepts the growing inequality such Grooowwwwth economies create.

  9. Joshua says:

    Low probability, high damage risks are not concepts that humans are well constructed to work through, and they are not problems that our social institutions are well constructed to solve.

    Add to that, the partisan identity overlay within an increasingly partisan political landscape, and we have a mess.

    Blaming science communication for any lack of progress, and expecting a particular brand of science communication to overcome the structural obstacles, seems rather misplaced, to me.

    IMO, if there are any routes over short time horizons to significant action – before the physics result in clear climate impacts that unambiguously affect large numbers of affluent people (that have the wherewithal to take action) on an everyday basis – I think they can only be driven through by political agents of change. Action on climate change is a political problem, not a science communication problem, IMO.

    Just look at how stymied our societies are (or at least my society is) when dealing with far less technically complex, and less existentially framed problems, such as income inequality or gun control, or immigration.

    Perhaps optimal science communication strategies can influence progress at the margins, but even that seems to be a reach, IMO.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    Study what social science?

    Start with history.

  11. Joshua,

    Perhaps optimal science communication strategies can influence progress at the margins, but even that seems to be a reach, IMO.

    Yes, I agree. As Steven says, we can take into account the audience, etc, but I don’t think there is really all that much that science communication can do to really make substantial progress (by itself, at least).

    David,
    Yes, I did think that history would be a good place to start.

  12. izen says:

    @-SM
    “outside of that rhetorical situation they should observe caution.
    un-mapped mine field.”

    Not completely un-mapped.
    Here are some of the biggest blocks on political action in response to AGW in the US

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/04/22/reagan-trump-economy-226704
    “Those decades of free-market machinations are now paying off, as a quintet of Ronald Reagan administration alumni — Kudlow, Laffer, Forbes, Moore and David Malpass—united by undying affection for each other and for laissez-faire economics, have the run of Washington once more. Members of the tight-knit group have shaped Trump’s signature tax cut, helped install each other in posts with vast influence over the global economy, and are working to channel Trump’s mercantilist instincts into pro-trade policies. Blasted by their critics as charlatans and lauded by their acolytes as tireless champions of prosperity, there’s no denying that the quintet has had an enduring impact on decades of economic policy.”

    It may not be coincidental that the Ridley and Lawson and the GWPF are also advocates of this vision of unregulated capitalist voodoo economics.

  13. Everett F Sargent says:

    How about we just blame the scientists in general (social or otherwise)? :/

  14. EFS,
    Not so sure about blame, but I do think that the issue is much more than simply scientists haven’t communicated well. If there were (or, are) solutions to this then one could indeed suggest that maybe other researchers have failed to communicate this effectively.

  15. “Take social science and system science seriously”.

    I personally do; I recognise that the scientific aspects of climate change are in many ways the easiest to understand and the easiest to deal with. The behaviour of individuals and societies is much more fraught with uncertainties. The problem is what to do with what they tell us, especially when as ATTP points out much of it is contradictory (I suspect the reason is that they are all true, at least to some extent, but for different subsets of society).

    However, it isn’t clear that social science it taking the scientists seriously on the science. There seem to be plenty I have encountered on Twitter that seem happy to issue ad-hominems against scientists or suggest that they are biased or alarmist (which isn’t a social science issue).

  16. Joshua “Low probability, high damage risks are not concepts that humans are well constructed to work through, and they are not problems that our social institutions are well constructed to solve.”

    The insurance industry deals with these things routinely. We do know how to deal with these things, the problem is that the solutions are unpopular with the electorate and hence with the politicians who want to be elected.

  17. “outside of that rhetorical situation they should observe caution.”

    rather ironic that the reverse is conspicuous by its absence ;o)

    I agree with the observing caution, but the problem is that different communications experts will tell you different things. It isn’t difficult to find examples of e.g. politicians making factually incorrect statements about the science, so there clearly is a deficit. However that isn’t the only problem. It seems to me that multiple approaches are required and that there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach, even if that is the research hypothesis of some particular social scientist.

  18. Dikran,

    However, it isn’t clear that social science it taking the scientists seriously on the science.

    One I reason I didn’t want to highlight the post that Michael mentioned in the first comment is that the author is someone who is taking the science and scientists seriously, but I don’t really agree with their basic argument that science communication has failed. So, I think they are someone who is actually trying to do what I’m suggesting in this post, even if I don’t entirely agree with what they’ve concluded.

  19. Good to hear, my Twitter experience may be unrepresentative. Even if science communication has failed, that doesn’t mean that the scientists could have done better. You can’t communicate with someone that won’t listen, no matter how hard you try. Well, probably… ;o)

  20. Steven Mosher says:

    “@-SM
    “outside of that rhetorical situation they should observe caution.
    un-mapped mine field.”

    Not completely un-mapped.
    Here are some of the biggest blocks on political action in response to AGW in the US”

    maybe I should be clearer.

    Rhetorcal Situation:
    scientist to scientist writing paper to convince: well travelled, well understood, good standard
    practices that work. tested proven and ways to improve.

    Rhetorcal Situation:
    scientist to jouranlist explaining paper to inform: until recently scientists never went through media training. Letting them talk to the press would be like me allowing an engineer to talk to the press. Recipe for MISUNDERSTANDING. Examples abound of these interactions Not being
    as good as they can be. Take some stupid examples skeptics use: vinter on snow, a few guys
    on ice loss, the whole 12 years debacle. hansen and manhatten under water.
    Talking to the press takes some training because the audience may have a different intent than the
    speaker. the speaker may want to inform, the audience may be looking for a lede that bleeds.
    To illustrate: ATTP will always have more experience convincing his fellow scientists than he will have talking to the press. That lack of experience can lead to unfortunate consequences. Lets take another example, Gavin Schmidt, Roy and John Stossel in the non debate debate. Now ask yourself, do we have any long history with this type of situation where you could draw a set of guidelines ( instructions to authors) for how a scientist should handle that kind of interaction with journalists. Ya, ya ‘ll have opinions none of which are informed by experience. In scientists talking to scientists, we have mountains of practical experience, rules, tips, know how. The situation gavin faced? ya’ll have opinions on what the best strategy is. I love Gav, and he didnt do a horrible job,
    but notice what he said, basically : he is not interested in doing good TV.

    He wants the interaction to be “informing” Stossel wanted theatre. Lesson, learn to do theatre or stay off the stage.

    Rhetorical situation: scientist informing the public. unmitigated disaster in terms of message control.

  21. ” Lesson, learn to do theatre or stay off the stage. ”

    Unfortunately that is not a viable strategy as the “skeptics” are happy with theatre. I personally am happy for scientists to be clear about not wanting theatre (or climateball for that matter) and to inform/discuss. That is evidence of their reliability on the science and if they indulge in theatre they lay themselves open for the obvious ad-hominem counterattack. Unfortunately society seems to have decided to opt for a Idiocracy-style reality-TV approach to politics where it is all about theatre and not content, which is why we are likely to end up in a rather bad situation before anything changes.

  22. science is hard – conspiracies are easy

  23. From wuwt you see the real problem. This blog has a vast readership. This blog is happy posting real dross. This blog sees all things environmental as a left wing conspiracy. This blog in general seems to believe, like Spencer, in a higher beings creation that cannot be harmed by humans and these humans have dominion over the creation.
    From a recent wuwt post

    The Grauniad makes Pravda look like a newspaper.
    If you want to destroy something just get a lefty govt to run it.
    Everywhere the stalinists, troskyists, maoists and madoroists are crawling out of the woodwork.
    The idea that every living species currently on Earth has some sort of “right” to exist forever is ridiculous

    These are simply beliefs/political ideologies. It is very difficult to change such things even with rational argument but by ignoring these false beliefs the authenticity is not being challenged.in the minds of millions of readers.
    The really sad thing is that dissenting views have been banned, or disappeared on this site.

    But even a fly-by correction of facts could nullify the untruths.

  24. Everett F Sargent says:

    ATTP,

    If it isn’t a blame game, as your text clearly shouts out, to me anyways (social science or physical science apparent lack of communication skills, you get to pick the finger pointing vector), then what do you call it?

    From where I’m sitting, YOY (year-over-year) it is the same old same old. Soon, there will be more people to blame then there are people (living or dead).

    Regardless, others here have covered the subject matter quite well, with the exception of SM (that GS punch below the belt was totally pointless).

  25. EFS,
    I think in retrospect many will feel that they could have done better. I doubt, though, that it would actually have been possible to do so. I think there are so many confounding factors that effective communication (while still remaining consistent with the scientific evidence and acknowledging uncertainty) is very difficult.

  26. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    The insurance industry deals with these things routinely. We do know how to deal with these things, the problem is that the solutions are unpopular with the electorate and hence with the politicians who want to be elected.

    The insurance industry is one industry, specifically designed to exploit and make money off risk problems, not to create policies to address them. A good example in that regard would be health insurance, which routinely fails to provide access to healthcare to many of the people who need it most and yet is able to make money hand over fist. It certainly doesn’t solve the risks associated with a lack of Healthcare.

    Not to mention, an incompatibility in terms of the type and scale of the problem.

    The insurance industry process a way through solving a risk problem on an individual basis. It doesn’t provide a way through for society to solve global scale problems over long time horizons at a collective level. We can indicuallu have insurance to protect against our houses being damaged in a flood. That doesn’t address the risk problems of climate change. In fact, we could argue that individual flood insurance perpetuates the collective problem of societal cost from floods, and perhaps delays the adoption of policies to reduce flood risk.

    Flood insurance doesn’t deal with the risk problem of pumping ACO2 into the atmosphere. It hedges against those risks, for those people who can afford to pay for it.

    Social science documents the structural complications of getting people to deal effectively with risk, and in particular low probability, high damage risk, that largely exists as an abstract concept, and that plays out over decadal, if not centennial timescales.

    IMO, blaming the electorate for not wanting unpopular solutions is roughly equivalent to blaming scientists. There are structural problems here, that blaming will not solve.

    Again, there is a lot of social science on this. Approaches to the problem should, imo, incorporate that science.

  27. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “There are structural problems here, that blaming will not solve.”

    Well, … you could always blame the underlying structure.
    The WUWT viewpoint is that environmentalism is left-wing, or in the old phrase, “reality has a liberal bias.”

    This may not be quite accurate. But reality does have a bias AGAINST right-wing, free market growth capitalism, authoritarian, religious, hierarchical, belief systems.
    All the elements that WUWT and the political and economic elites in Western civilisation have come to adopt.

  28. “….the problem is that the solutions are unpopular with the electorate and hence with the politicians who want to be elected.”

    Let me fix that. ….the problem is that the (specific) solutions (promoted by advocates) are unpopular with the electorate (for really good reason) and hence with the politicians who want to be elected.

    Or to simplify, in 30 years Germany will be making and exporting automobiles and industrial machinery in a globally competitive world using a large amount of energy. No amount of social science has dented this fact in the last 30 years and none will over the next. The only question is the source of the energy. Get to work.

  29. Joshua: “The insurance industry is one industry, specifically designed to exploit and make money off risk problems, not to create policies to address them. ”

    Science is one industry, specifically designed to try and understand the world, yet that isn’t an objection to society learning from them.

    An insurance policy *IS* a policy to address risk, that is pretty much how mitigation works – risking a cost now to ameliorate the possible costs of adverse outcomes later. You appear to be missing the point, which is that we do have sensible means of dealing with decision making under uncertainty, and those tools are use routinely and effectively by the insurance industry. If society adopted a similar approach, I suspect “we” wouldn’t have insurance based medical care [I am a big fan of the NHS, which is apparently one of the more efficient health care providers]

    “IMO, blaming the electorate for not wanting unpopular solutions is roughly equivalent to blaming scientists. There are structural problems here, that blaming will not solve. ”

    Probably better to stick to “reasoning about causes rather than the more emotive “blame” – note I didn’t use that word.

  30. Let me annotate that for you

    “Let me fix that. ….the problem is that the (specific) solutions (promoted by advocates) [would you expect them to be proposed by people who didn’t advocate them? Or did you mean it as an ad-hominem?] are unpopular with the electorate (for really good reason) [well duh, if you don’t care about people elsewhere in the world and in future generation, of course you have good reason] and hence with the politicians who want to be elected.”

    Let me estimate the information content of your additions: zero.

  31. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Let me fix that. ….the problem is that the (specific) solutions (promoted by advocates) are unpopular with the electorate (for really good reason) and hence with the politicians who want to be elected.

    Again, consider health insurance. What is an isn’t “popular” isn’t based on some objective evaluation of the implications of policies. That’s why we get things like “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare.” It’s why we have very popular policies like protection for preexisting conditions combined with absolute hatred of the ACA.

    Politicization of solutions doesn’t make a positive contribution. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with playing politics, but you should at least be reflective about the fact that you’re doing so. That is assuming that your lack of accountability in that regard comes from a lack of reflection, rather than being deliberate.

  32. “Politicization of solutions doesn’t make a positive contribution. ”

    the solutions to climate change inevitably have a strong political dimension, there is no getting away from that. If it were a purely technical problem we would have sorted it out by now.

  33. Joshua says:

    the solutions to climate change inevitably have a strong political dimension, there is no getting away from that. If it were a purely technical problem we would have sorted it out by now.

    Well, I think that the way that various solutions get framed within a political matrix is basically arbitrary, IMO.. It starts with the polarization, IMO, and the accompanying identity associations, and the people place the solutions into a political framework to protect those identity associations. IOW, developing policies to address negative externalities could easily be seen as a classically “conservative” mindset. It’s like how an insurance mandate in the US switched from being a “conservative” concern about personal responsibility to being socialist/librual/Stalinistic governmental tyranny.

    Yes, the issue is politically framed at this point. It could be that attacking the problem through a political lens will bring about solution-orientated policies on an accelerated time frame.
    But I happen to think that the more likely way through, if it’s going to happen before the physics make delay practically impossible, is to de-politicize the solution space. Not that I think that’s a particularly easy task.

  34. “Yes, the issue is politically framed at this point. ”

    No, IMHO it is a political problem, it isn’t just framing. I’ve said it before, but David Hulmes book on why we disagree about climate change is well worth reading (although it doesn’t say anything new or surprising, it seems to me set the non-scientific issues out rather well).

  35. jeffnsails850 says:April 26, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Or to simplify, in 30 years Germany will be making and exporting automobiles and industrial machinery in a globally competitive world using a large amount of energy. … The only question is the source of the energy. Get to work.
    —————
    No renewable is currently capable of 24/7 suppling electrical energy. It is highly unlikely that battery storage will be able to provide a few weeks of electricity in depths of winter when uk has no solar and little wind. Wave seems to have taken a back seat, died?
    low co2 seems to be limited to nuclear. but you cannot control these to meet the peaks and troughs of demand (see http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk/france/ ) so still a problem (as is waste disposal).
    UK to continental links could help but then you have to deal with the losses in conversion and cables already near 10% for the grid as a whole (a lot lower than I thought https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmenergy/386/38607.html )

    fyi AC/DC/AC Conversion efficiency is high (about 98.5% excluding line or cable loss) http://www.eirgridgroup.com/site-files/library/EirGrid/Interconnection_Economic_Feasibility_Report.pdf
    cable loss may be similar.
    .
    So what to do???? Is it possible to get people to accept intermittency? do we flood a few (many) mountain valleys for pumped storage?

    going zero co2 emissions will be all but impossible in my opinion (no facts to support!)

    A further thought which no one has to my knowledge discussed.
    Lets go electric vehicle. BUT then there is no fuel tax income to most worlds governments (£27.9×10^9 in uk https://www.statista.com/statistics/284323/united-kingdom-hmrc-tax-receipts-fuel-duty/)
    This is a lot of income to loose. so put it all on roadfund license? (mine is currently £0!)

  36. izen says:

    @-Dikran
    “An insurance policy *IS* a policy to address risk, that is pretty much how mitigation works – risking a cost now to ameliorate the possible costs of adverse outcomes later.”

    That is not how the insurance business works. Follow the money.
    The insurance industry exploits individual risk to extract a regular ‘premium’ from its clients.
    That money is hardly ever used to pay out when an individual suffers the consequences of the risk. The regular income is invested in stock and bond markets.
    Payouts are made from the profits made from the financial market, not from premiums.
    That is why premiums go up when stock markets fall, they are much more closely correlated with stock/bond returns than risk probability changes.

  37. izen says:

    @-joshua
    “Well, I think that the way that various solutions get framed within a political matrix is basically arbitrary, IMO.. It starts with the polarization, IMO, and the accompanying identity associations, and the people place the solutions into a political framework to protect those identity associations.”

    IMO you have that exactly backwards.
    Why not take the statements of opponents of action/policy on AGW at face value ?
    They explicitly state that it is the prospect of increased taxes, government regulation and central constraints on individual consumption of energy that they object too, almost a perfect definition of the – right/capitalist – neo-liberal platform.

    The logical policy outcomes of responding to rising CO2 directly attack the largest and most profitable business enterprise on the planet. It directly threatens the wealth they accrue from the assets they extract, refine and sell.
    Those same ineluctable policies also contradict the central tenets of free-market capitalist consumerism. The precepts of which have been adopted, or imposed upon almost all the advanced technological societies on the planet.

    That is the ‘problem’ or reason for the opposition to the communication of the science, not some flaw in its presentational format or educational strategy.

    (but perhaps this analysis is too politically radical and Chomsky-ian to be acceptable in ‘polite’ society? grin)

  38. @izen sorry, ISTR you raising that point before – I bow to your superior knowledge. From the buyer’s perspective it is similar, even if the mechanism is different.

  39. The approach is to look at it from a mixed hard science and softer system science approach. The transition away from fossil fuels is best analyzed by looking at the hard geological and physical constraints of a finite and non-renewable FF supply, and then consider the economics and game theory behaviors. For example, as peak oil is becoming more obvious, demand destruction kicks in, which will further slow down the use of fossil fuels. The threat of AGW and pollution also serves to provide a rationale to transition away from fossil fuels.

  40. Joshua says:

    izen –


    Why not take the statements of opponents of action/policy on AGW at face value ?
    They explicitly state that it is the prospect of increased taxes, government regulation and central constraints on individual consumption of energy that they object too, almost a perfect definition of the – right/capitalist – neo-liberal platform.

    I think that your categorization of “opponents” is too circumscribed to be accurate. No doubt, there is some cohort of “skeptics” who make such arguments explicit. I would dispute the causal direction even in that group, just as for example I would dispute the causal mechanism behind why a largely overlapping segment of people explain their objection to the ACA; they say it’s based on principled viewpoints, but it looks to me more like its just identity-related politics. So we can go from an individual mandate being a key component of personal responsibility, to it being a perfect example of why Obama is a tyrant.

    We see many, many such issues – and climate change is just another. Evangelicals have gone from thinking that a politicians personal behavior are vitally important to thinking that they’re irrelevant in Trump. Libz have gone from being basically unconcerned about Russa’s influence to red-baiting.

    Yes, I don’t think we should take the putative principled reasons connected to how people state their ideological reasoning for their political views at face value.

    But more than that, I’d say that relatively very few “skeptics’ know much at all or even make explicit arguments about the real tax and/or regulatory and/or central planning implications of various climate policy proposals, such much as they know how the policies break out according to preexisting identity markers. At some point, climate change became a politicized issue, in contrast to other science-related issues where the scientific consensus remains relatively non-controversial.

    IOW, as an example, if someone is concerned on principle about centralized planning or increased taxes, they wouldn’t just pay lip service to nuclear energy as opposed to renewables, or even fossil fuels for that matter (given the degree to which they are effectively subsidized by their tax dollars).

    No, they’re more or less satisfied with the Chinese hoax explanation for their views, or the explanation that Al Gore is fat.

    The logical policy outcomes of responding to rising CO2 directly attack the largest and most profitable business enterprise on the planet. It directly threatens the wealth they accrue from the assets they extract, refine and sell.

    Again, I think this conflates a small group with the larger group, which will has to weigh in on policy implementation one way or the other.

    That is the ‘problem’ or reason for the opposition to the communication of the science, not some flaw in its presentational format or educational strategy.

    Well, I’m skeptical about that. I think that the “problem” isn’t so much either the presentational form or the reality of the policy implications w/r/t views on economics, but the distorted impression people have formulated about the economic implications or impose upon scientists efforts at communication, because they are filtering their access to information through self-confirming communication vehicles.

    “If libz think it’s a good idea, that’s good enough for me to think it’s a bad idea. And of course if libz think its a good idea, it means more taxes and less freedom, because liberals. And because liberals, more taxes and less freedom are bad, bad, bad.”

  41. izen says:

    @-Dikran
    “From the buyer’s perspective it is similar, even if the mechanism is different.”

    True, but it makes it a bad model for risk management in other matters like flood damage or environmental impacts.
    Consider the range of policy options that are used to manage health care risk/cost.

    1)- The US has a private insurance system with provision also private and not cost regulated. The result is a perverse incentive to maximise the return from premiums invested in financial markets, and the cost of treatment to increase the profit taken out of the system of healthcare provision. Result is the US healthcare is twice the cost of most.
    2)- The UK NHS, this uses an additional tax, to finance healthcare directly with no investment in financial markets, disguised with the fig-leaf of calling it a ‘National Insurance contribution’. That enables business to be exempt from any tax contribution to healthcare. The tax is regressive, that is the poorer you are the greater the proportion of your income you pay as a health tax. (unless you fall below an arbitrary poverty line)
    3)- Some governments have tried financing health care directly from their (progressive??) taxation system on individuals and business. So that it theoretically is free at the point of use and conforms to the old trope of ” from each according to their ability (to pay), to each according to their need.”

    These different ways of dealing with healthcare costs and risks are largely driven by ideological/political differences. It is one reason I find the idea of a ‘Carbon Tax’ dubious. It starts with the unspoken assumption that energy consumption is always a purely cost-driven choice by rational agents from a financially neutral supplier.

    A bad(?) analogy can be made between the provision of fossil fuel and opioid supply as has happened in the US. The obvious damage the sale of opioids has caused is ‘offset’ by the addictive consumption of the product creating large profits for the makers and the whole of the economic system of supply.

  42. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    ” I would dispute the causal mechanism behind why a largely overlapping segment of people explain their objection to the ACA; they say it’s based on principled viewpoints, but it looks to me more like its just identity-related politics. So we can go from an individual mandate being a key component of personal responsibility, to it being a perfect example of why Obama is a tyrant.”

    I agree that it is probably a small proportion who make the explicit connection with the underlying ideological/political conflict between neo-liberal economics and ‘socialist’ economic approaches. Especially in the US.
    For most it is a tribal alliance unexamined response, in the same way their acquiescence with religious objections to cultural change has been accepted.

    But it may be worth asking where those tribal alliance groupings and the underlying ideological justifications come from.
    And why government regulation of market economics and paying tax for the benefits of a stable social structure has become such ‘hot button’ tribal identifiers.

  43. Mitch says:

    From my perspective, the system has evolved since the 1970’s from one where the legislature would ask a question to a blue ribbon panel or the National Academy, and then use that information to develop a policy. Fundamentally, the right wing has eliminated the direct communication between the scientific community and the law makers. The legislature no longer asks true experts for an explanation of the science. Now, individual scientists must communicate directly with the public, most of whom are only mildly interested in the problem.

    Because the system has changed, there has developed a communication problem because the scientist must communicate effectively with the public such that it will make them communicate to their legislator that the particular issue is important to them. There are too many steps, and the process is deliberately gummed up.

    My fundamental point is that almost no level of good communication skill will overcome the inherent inertia of the current system. Perhaps the smartest approach is to work directly to elect politicians that understand.

  44. Joshua says:

    izen –

    But it may be worth asking where those tribal alliance groupings and the underlying ideological justifications come from.
    And why government regulation of market economics and paying tax for the benefits of a stable social structure has become such ‘hot button’ tribal identifiers.

    Sure. I’ll give that more thought. Just as a quick sketch, as to my current thinking out loud….that this is one of those issues that exist on a kind of spectrum of opposing positions that necessarily act in tension. Government overreach and the need for government regulation (or taxation) exist on a spectrum. It’s easier to pick one end of the spectrum and point the finger at those on the other end, than to deal more directly with the inherent unknowability of how to find the perfect balance.

  45. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “It’s easier to pick one end of the spectrum and point the finger at those on the other end, than to deal more directly with the inherent unknowability of how to find the perfect balance.”

    Agreed. There is a political ‘Newtonian’ process by which each (polarising) action elicits and equal and opposite reaction.
    But the idea of a ‘perfect balance may not be valid. half-way between atheism and religious fundamentalism is not a viable choice. Some things are either right, because they have a preponderance of good evidence, or are wrong.

  46. Joshua- let’s take insurance. Problem- some people contract diseases are injuries that are prohibitively expensive. Solution options- a. help those people b. transition everyone to single payer c. other.
    Let me use a different example: the claim “illegal immigration is wrong” is centrist, even bi-partisan. The proposal “Let’s deport 11 million people and build a wall” is radical and not bi-partisan. It’s entirely reasonable to both believe that illegal immigration is wrong and mass deportation isn’t the answer. In fact, it would be inaccurate and counter-productive to say “those who refuse to build a wall and deport 11 million people are illegal immigration deniers who reject action to solve a consensus problem, therefore we need better immigration communication.”

  47. mrkenfabian says:

    How did taking the top level expert advice seriously become an extremist political position? I don’t see that there has ever been a genuine problem with how the science on climate has been communicated; the problem is unwillingness to accept those communications, aided and abetted by deliberate and, over time, increasingly sophisticated and well supported counter-communication.

    It has never been a socialist vs capitalist issue, much as many seek to make it so; taking responsibility for actions, including for externalities, is not anti-capitalist and those who view regulation around those externalities as intrinsically anti-free-enterprise are misinterpreting and misusing free-enterprise ideology by leaving out that responsibility part, deliberately, for short term convenience and self-interest. Others on the conservative-right choose not to challenge an overly generous view of absence of regulation by free-market ideologues – for short term convenience and self-interest.

    I see it as principallly about responsibility avoidance – accepting the science meaning accepting responsibility, meaning accepting accountability and that accountability leading potentially to liability; and they don’t want that. Yet the willingness of those deeply concerned about the issues to compromise – to give up on liability for past actions as part of a transition – seems indicative of a lack of extremist ideological motivations. The solutions tend towards subsidy for the actions we want as more palatable than regulation of the externalities of existing activities, not out of ideological commitment to socialism or environmentalism.

    If the climate “movement” leans left it is mostly because those leaning right have mostly refused to participate. A lot of counter-communication on climate has become heavily invested in sustaining public perceptions of climate action being the realm of extremists; they need the public to think climate action means socialist/environmentalist/globalist agendas. The last thing they want is for the public to stop seeing the issue as partisan or to give up the idea that to join the climate “movement” means becoming a leftist greenie, with no room for other political views. Utter nonsense – the only requirement is to take the mainstream science seriously.

  48. jacksmith4tx says:

    Hard to tie this directly to the blog topic but it concerns a critical element of communicating knowledge; Social Trust in the 21st century.

    If you make to the end of the video pay attention to his warning.
    PS: Arun Sundararajan also wrote a book a few years ago called “The Sharing Economy”.- The Rise of Crowd Based Capitalism.

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