Declaring a climate emergency?

Matthew Nisbet, Professor of Communication, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, has a new article called Manufacturing Consent: The dangerous campaign behind climate emergency declarations. It makes similar arguments to those made by Mike Hulme in an article called Climate Emergency Politics Is Dangerous.

The concern expressed by Nisbet and Hulme is that by declaring some kind of Climate Emergency you give governments an opportunity to impose all sorts of authoritarian policies under the guise of dealing with this climate emergency.

I do sympathise with the concerns; I think we should be careful of giving governments carte blanche to impose policies without some kind of democratic oversight. However, I didn’t really agree with the implication in Matthew Nisbet’s article that authoritarian policies were already being implimented in the name of dealing with the climate emergency. That an authoritarian government may pay lip service to climate change doesn’t necessarily imply that the climate emergency is a cover for authoritarian policies.

Also, neither Matthew Nisbet nor Mike Hulme seemed to provide some kind of viable alternative, at least not one that I could see. If we should avoid acknowledging a climate emergency, what should we do instead? How do we deal with a serious global problem in a way that is effective, but doesn’t provide cover for authoritarian policies?

Nisbet also criticised the science says this is an emergency type narrative. Of course, strictly speaking he’s correct; we can’t use science to determine if something is an emergency. However, I think that this narrative is mostly a shorthand for we’ve looked at the scientific evidence and, in our judgement, this is an emergency.

Additionally, under what conditions would it be acceptable to declare some kind of emergency? If changing the climate of the only planet on which we can live doesn’t qualify, what does? How would we determine when something justifies emergency status? In some sense, Nisbet and Hulme’s arguments against declaring a climate emergency are as much a personal judgement as the arguments of those in favour of doing so.

Anyway, this is getting rather long, and I need to get ready for a barbecue (braai, for those who know my origins). I do share some of the concerns of those who argue against climate emergency declarations, but I would have more sympathy if they were to present viable alternatives, rather than appearing to simply be arguing against this framing.

As I tried to explain in this post, I do think climate change is a different problem to almost anything else we face today and if we do want to limit the impact of climate change, I do think we need to take some fairly drastic action. I do agree that we should be aware of the possibility that governments could use this as a cover for implementing unpopular policies that have little to do with climate change, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t got to the point where climate change has become an emergency

Links:

Manufacturing Consent: The dangerous campaign behind climate emergency declarations – article by Matthew Nisbet.
Climate Emergency Politics is Dangerous – article by Mike Hulme
The benefits of acting now, rather than later – post I wrote about why climate change is different to the other problems we face.

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57 Responses to Declaring a climate emergency?

  1. Tragedy of the commons
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

    “In economic science, the tragedy of the commons is a situation in which individual users, who have open access to a resource unhampered by shared social structures or formal rules that govern access and use, act independently according to their own self-interest and, contrary to the common good of all users, cause depletion of the resource through their uncoordinated action.”

  2. Just replace the word “resource” with the word “Earth” above.

  3. Thomas Fuller says:

    As someone who also thinks we should be acting to mitigate coming climate change and pre-adapt to what we cannot mitigate, I gotta say that the various declarations of climate emergency don’t seem to be helping. Nor do they seem demonstrably true…

    I think more restrained language would actually enlist higher levels of support and offer less opportunity for distortion and ridicule from political opponents.

    Anthropogenic contributions to climate change pose a pressing problem. Prompt action to address it will make the lives of our children and grandchildren much easier. It’s a complicated problem and one we need to work on carefully, but we should start now.

  4. Mitch says:

    While I agree that declaring that there is an emergency doesn’t seem to be getting attention from the appropriate people, that doesn’t mean there is not an emergency.

    The global community is like a supertanker–there is a large turning radius. The change has to happen long before the change is apparent. Unfortunately, large groups are able to maximize their own benefit by trying to play down the problem. We need decades to build an adequate response to climate change, and the first need is to minimize greenhouse gas release.

  5. Russell says:

    The manufacture of political machine tools to reshape the media is hardly a postmodern occupation it began with Presidential Press Secretary Bill Moyers persuading his boss Lyndon Johnson to emulate the BBC by chartering the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the parent of PBS. It was Moyers who , half a century and innumerable hours of prime-time television alter, kick started Climate Desk with a million dollar check from the foundations that nurtured PBS in the first place

    It took half a century of activism and semantic agression for that ostensibly non-partisan body to decay into its present ground state, which combines contempt for popular culture and red state politics with enthusiasm for the progressive fashions of the day, There are few sounds more predictable than its news anchors mouthing the mantra The Nation and The Guardian grind out in the course of imposing a compulsory vocabulary on climate journalists.

    While the narrative arc of establismentarian climate rhetoric was rudely interrupted by Trump’s election, it is swiftly returning to the course laid outduring John Podesta ‘s tenure as White House Chief of staff and Counselor under Clinton and Obama. Much as BBC English used to be a thing, today’s Climatespeak is a product of his poltical atelier.

    Meanwhile, back on the playing fields of Climateball

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2021/06/wii.html

  6. jacksmith4tx says:

    Building on the insight of Daniel Kahneman and his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” our species is predisposed to discount long term problems which leads to reliance on technology to avoid perceived negative outcomes. The pandemic was a real immediate emergency. System 1 thinking kicks in and we need a solution ASAP!! Enter the mRNA vaccine. Synthesis was in completed in weeks and given FDA emergency authorization by Dec. 2020. So far the results are impressive and long term significant side-effects appear minimal but time will tell. Saved by technology! (Not to discount we may have had a hand in the origins of the virus to begin with).
    Now let’s look at last weeks WHO statement on genetically modified mosquitoes but substitute “mosquitoes” with “targeted species”
    https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210528/WHO-releases-new-guidance-for-deployment-of-genetically-modified-mosquitoes.aspx
    We now have the outline of a plausible Plan B for future generations.
    B.1 Genetically modify homo sapiens to adapt to a more challenging climate and biosphere. This would assume we also might modify our genome to enhance intelligence, fertility and lifespan not to mention human-machine augmentation like Neuralink.
    B.2 In parallel with plan B.1 we will restructure the biosphere by re-engineering segments of food web. Mosquitoes are just the tip of the iceberg. The real power will come from modifying the largest biomass on the planet ie. using algae and bacteria to alter the chemical composition of the soil, atmosphere and water.

    Hi Russell:
    China’s new AI is now sporting 1.75 trillion parameters, Wu Dao 2.0 is roughly ten times the size of Open AI’s GPT-3.
    https://www.engadget.com/chinas-gigantic-multi-modal-ai-is-no-one-trick-pony-211414388.html

  7. Eli Rabett says:

    The more the world changes the more it remains the same. Both Hulme and Nisbet have always pushed against taking significant action on climate change and they continue to do so. Of the two, Nisbet is the most amusing, his argument being don’t be scared of climate change let me scare you about Modi and India.

    Hulme’s argument is more interesting, and especially so since it is couched in the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, without, somehow, missing the point that stabilizing climate is an integral part of those goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals) as well as a specific goal. Hulme’s criticisms of climate action and the Green New Deal rest on his readers not knowing very much about them except that they hate everything calling for cooperative action. Well, at least Nisbet is on his side.

    GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation – Ensure availabio
    GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
    GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
    GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
    GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
    GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
    GOAL 13: Climate Action
    GOAL 14: Life Below Water
    GOAL 15: Life on Land

  8. wmconnolley says:

    I agree with MN that “today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached” is bad. Because it is either meaningless rhetoric, or it actually means what it says – declare a state of emergency – which is manifestly the wrong response. I also agree with him that having climatologists lend their support to arbitrary govt rule – which is what SoE is – is bad.

  9. WMC,
    At least I know what your preferred option is — CARBON TAX NOW! 🙂

  10. Thomas Fuller says:

    WMC at least offers a partial solution that can be implemented and will have a material impact on human contributions to climate change. In fact its biggest drawback only manifests itself if it works too well and reduces carbon emissions.

    ATTP, I do not see anywhere a definition of what a climate emergency is. Nor what a climate emergency does. I have read a lot but perhaps I have missed it. It isn’t in any of the Assessment Reports.

  11. Tom,

    ATTP, I do not see anywhere a definition of what a climate emergency is. Nor what a climate emergency does. I have read a lot but perhaps I have missed it. It isn’t in any of the Assessment Reports.

    I’m pretty sure we’ve had this discussion before. Assessment reports by definition will not define catastrophe, or emergency. Similar, science – by itself – cannot indicate if something is going to be a catastrophe, or an emergency. These are judgements that people can make on the basis of their assessment of the scientific evidence. In the same that science doesn’t really say that something is an emergency, it also can’t say if it isn’t.

  12. Willard says:

    > a partial solution

    As if it won’t be arbitrated by governments and backed up by scientists.

    Anyone who’s against empty rhetoric should keep their invisible hands away from luckwarm playbooks.

  13. TYSON MCGUFFIN says:

    Is it appropriate to declare a climate emergency now? If climate scientists have enough evidence to make such a declaration then, they are obligated to do so; otherwise they shirk their responsibility under the Duty to Warn doctrine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duty_to_warn) which applies to them as much as it applies to any professional entrusted with stewarding the safety and well being of others.
    Many are making such a declaration albeit to varying degrees:

  14. Joshua says:

    I will say, I think Tom has a point here:

    > ATTP, I do not see anywhere a definition of what a climate emergency is. Nor what a climate emergency does.

    I think there is an element here like with other “crises” we see these days, such as the replication “crisis.”

    I doubt that declaration of “emergency” has a particularly big impact in any one direction – be it towards implementation of policies to mitigate ACO2 emissions, or towards empowerment of authoritarian governmental tendencies, or towards empowerment of climate change “skeptics.” To the extent that there are impacts, IMO, my guess is that in aggregate, they effectively balance each other out.

    IMO, impact of the declaration of “emergencies” is basically surface noise above the underlying signals of large-scale societal trends. People invested in the climate world, IMO, tend to overestimate the impact of somewhat academic variations of different climate war pathways.

    Larger scale, IMO, climate change is just one of many battlefields in a larger ideological warfare arena.

    Smaller scale – to the extent that something is going to make a significant change in climate change policies as distinct from the larger ideological struggle – it will be when/if the impact of climate change is felt unambiguously in day to day life by a critical mass of people in powerful countries such as the US.

    IMO, arguing about the nuances in how climate scientists or “skeptics” communicate their beliefs has a angels dancing on the head of a pin quality – where people particularly invested see an outsized effect resulting from their area of interest.

  15. Joshua says:

    I will note, my comment above isn’t about how one determines what comprises a “climate crisis,” which I think is basically a separate issue from discussions of the impact of the rhetoric being used w/r/t climate change.

  16. Willard says:

    Speaking of empty rhetoric, Matthew’s fall is a thing of beauty:

    Climate change is an important and complex story, and news organizations need help in producing sustained, quality coverage. But the main challenge for a new generation of climate change journalists is not to hype the threat level on behalf of climate change, but to identify for their audience the flaws in conventional narratives about climate change, holding all sides accountable for their claims and actions.

    https://wealthofideas.substack.com/p/manufacturing-consent

    Raising concerns the way Matthew and Mike do will be (and in fact *is*) used by authoritarian regimes all over the world.

  17. Joshua,

    I doubt that declaration of “emergency” has a particularly big impact in any one direction – be it towards implementation of policies to mitigate ACO2 emissions, or towards empowerment of authoritarian governmental tendencies, or towards empowerment of climate change “skeptics.”

    Yes, I tend to agree. I don’t see much evidence that authoritarian regimes are using a climate emergency to implement restrictive policies. Those who want to do so, will probably find some reason to do so, irrespective of climate emergency rhetoric. I also don’t entirely agree with WMC’s “it’s meaningless rhetoric”. I think a lot of it is rhetoric, but I don’t think it’s entirely meaningless. You can disagree with it’s use, but I do think that – in a societal/political sense – it has some meaning.

    I don’t know if it’s having a meaningful impact on the implementation of effective climate policies (as measured in terms of reducing emissions, or developing resilience), but I do get a sense that there has been shift towards taking climate change more seriously, even if this hasn’t yet translated into meaningful action.

    One thought I do have is that we do seem to be moving in a more suitable direction in terms of dealing with climate change. So, maybe we should trust that we’ll continue to do so and tone down the rhetoric. One the other hand, it seems unlikely that we’re going to get close to something like halving emissions by ~2030, so maybe that’s wrong. Given that achieving some of our stated targets will require some pretty drastic emission reductions, maybe it is justifiable to argue that we should treat this like an emergency (something that could well be dangerous and that requires immediate action).

    As usual, I’m just confused 🙂

  18. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    Raising “concerns” on substack can be quite lucrative.

  19. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > maybe it is justifiable to argue that we should treat this like an emergency

    Sure.

    I’d also say it’s justifiable to argue that calling it an emergency will set back policy adoption. It may even be justifiable to express concernthat calling it an emergency will…authoritarian something or other.

    Hmmm. Well, actually, this is worse than I thought:

    > Climate emergency thinking has become a collective delirium, eliminating essential habits of mind related to self-doubt, skepticism, self-questioning, and accountability.

    I just heard that “image emergency thinking” is responsible for the heartbreak of psoriasis.

  20. Joshua says:

    …”climate emergency thinking”

    I love it when people invent shit and explain how what they invented explains all sorts of other shit.

  21. Willard says:

    > Raising “concerns” on substack can be quite lucrative.

    For any PR mission, one might follow Mike Hulme’s Champion Model:

    1. Pick a Champion. This will be your “vision” person.

    2. Important: that Champion should be appointed, not elected.

    3. That Champion should take a lead in awareness raising, promoting the mission in all its forms and initiating activities.

    4. That Champion will be responsible for making sure the support people know what their jobs are, are fulfilling those jobs; this would require meeting regularly with them.

    5. That Champion acts as the known and visible contact person to whom the wider congregation can make representation and suggestions regarding Mission activities.

    6. The Champion and his role must be widely publicised.

    (Source: #0079)

    So I’d say that Mike and Matt are on a mission.

    Climateball – Choose your Champion.

  22. Bob Loblaw says:

    Shouldn’t “Choose your Champion” be “Appoint yourself Champion?” Much more lucrative on the talk show circuit.

  23. mrkenfabian says:

    It seems like Hulme & Nesbit’s arguments evade notions like duty of care in those holding positions of trust and responsibility and seek to frame the climate issue as about advocacy and populism. With an unhealthy serving of what-about-ism in rejecting the qualitative difference between most big problems and a global problem that is both cumulative and irreversible. Political leaders have duties of care to their constituents above and beyond doing “the will of the people”.

    They are clearly not mere passive victims of popular opinion, they are influencers of public opinion as well. I suppose my view of this simply bypasses views like H or N’s; that duty of care ought to override populism and part of that duty includes getting informed and passing accurate information to the public.

    I’ve watched the politics of Doubt, Deny, Delay shift from using the previously widely held belief that nothing humans can do can change weather and climate to support inaction – will of the people – into claiming popular belief that climate change is serious is inspired by alarmist rhetoric by extremists (like the Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences?) and should therefore be ignored by political leaders, ie the should NOT be doing the will of the people after all.

    There is some movement on recognising there is such a duty of care – Australia’s High Court decision that ruled Australia’s Environment Minister has such a duty of care to young Australians with respect to the impacts of global warming. Still way short of ruling the coal mine proposal that was specific to the case should not go ahead, but it is movement in the right direction imo.

  24. Russell says:

    “claiming popular belief that climate change is serious is inspired by alarmist rhetoric by extremists (like the Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences?) ”

    It can be intellectually and morally hazardous to elide polarization and extremity.

    The RS became the epitome of a Whig institution in the decades following the French Revolution, and though the NAS was chartered by Abraham Lincoln, it has not elected a Republican to executive office in this century. The political polarization of recent decades has afflicted public perceptions of scientific institutions as much as those of political bodies , a tendency the recent unification of social and scientific rhetoric on the left has amplified, witness the growing alienation of social conservatives and evangelicals from science communication in general and climate communication in particular.

  25. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, obviously if you are allergic to any kind of collective action at all, then you see government action as generally a bad thing, and that is within the bounds of sensible debate. But it is ridiculous hyperbole to talk about “authoritarianism” in the context of a legislative response to climate change. Restrictions on polluting the sky are, at worst, annoying and inconvenient, and perfectly compatible with a normally functioning democracy.

    Disruption due to climate change, like crop failure and potential large-scale migration, seems much more likely to lead to authoritarianism, especially if there is armed conflict involved.

    Democratic processes being disrupted by violence is what people with concerns about authoritarianism should be looking out for.

  26. Chubbs says:

    Ben, Yes, conservatives could come up with climate solutions that would use market incentives to drive change without any change in the size of government. The articles were missing some basic information about climate science. For instance, no mention that net zero is needed as a target to halt warming, or that several climate-system tipping points cluster around 2C of warming. Without this background the “climate emergency” does appear to be unwarranted.

    Also ignored by the articles is the rapid progress made by solar/wind/batteries with government help to tilt the economic playing field in their favor. Every time government incentives have been provided, solar/wing/battery production has responded rapidly with increased market scale and lower costs.

    We are headed to both climate and energy system tipping points. I would rather have a climate emergency now; vs waiting for the climate tipping points to fall and/or till solar/wind/batteries have clearly won and less is gained by government intervention.

  27. Chubbs,
    You highlight something I’ve wondered. Do those who argue against deadlines, or climate emergencies, actually understand the scientific evidence well (that we need to get to net-zero, that overall warming will depend on how much we emit in total, that it’s probably irreversible on relevant timescales,…..) and are making this judgement in an informed way, or do they have an incomplete understanding of the situation? Sometimes I get the sense that climate change is seen by some as simply one of many problems we face and it shouldn’t have some kind of special place. In some sense this is true (I don’t think dealing with climate change should involve ignoring all the other issues we should deal with, especially they’re often inter-connected). However, changing the climate of the only planet on which we can live would seem to be something that deserves special consideration.

  28. wmconnolley says:

    > Do those who argue against deadlines, or climate emergencies, actually understand the scientific evidence well
    Speaking for myself, yes.
    > However, changing the climate of the only planet on which we can live would seem to be something that deserves special consideration.
    You’ve segued from disagree-with-emergency to implying-no-action at all, which is obviously wrong.

  29. Ben McMillan says:

    If you don’t like the idea of governments acting urgently now to mitigate (declaring a metaphorical state of emergency), you really aren’t going to like it when they are forced to declare a literal state of emergency to respond to the crises caused by climate change.

    Nobody is sending in the military. Except, you know, after the floods and fires. Or when displaced people are coming over in boats.

    The real risk is anarchy, where people fail to act in the collective self-interest.

  30. WMC,

    Speaking for myself, yes.

    Yes, I realise :-). I’m not convinced, though, that this is generally the case. I may be wrong of course. I have, however, had discussions with people who seem to object to framing climate change as an emergency (and who also seem to object to deadlines) who don’t seem to get some of the more subtle aspects of this issue.

    You’ve segued from disagree-with-emergency to implying-no-action at all, which is obviously wrong.

    No, I haven’t. The context was whether or not it is simply one of many issues we are facing and should deal with, or something that should have some kind of special relevance. I tend to think the latter, given that changing the climate of the only planet on which we can live would seem to be something we should take particularly seriously. Especially given that it’s cumulative (it’s not just that there’s this thing called climate change, it’s that it will continue to change until we get (net) anthropogenic emissions to ~zero) and that it’s probably irreversible (without some kind of negative emission technology). This doesn’t mean, though, that I think we should ignore all other issues and focus only on climate change.

  31. Russell says:

    Ben, autoritarians may view things that are “, annoying and inconvenient, and perfectly compatible with a normally functioning democracy.” as programatically compatible means to totaltitarian ends.

    This includes wannabe Green New Deal playbook contributors as well as social conservatives, academic politicians , and third grade hall monitors.

  32. Willard says:

    Authoritarians have been borrowing Freedom Fighters talking points since at least Nixon, Russell. That does not seem to have influenced your editorials.

  33. Ben McMillan says:

    Chubbs: it would indeed be helpful if conservatives (in e.g. US/Australia) were talking about what kinds of measures they support, rather than claiming the problem doesn’t exist and is just a way to impose a totalitarian state.

    Apparently, some people have a philosophy that views, e.g., requiring people to use a sewage system rather than dump waste in the river as an assault on liberty. That isn’t really compatible with a functioning modern society.

  34. wmconnolley says:

    > I’m not convinced, though, that this is generally the case
    Likely not. But then again, I doubt it is GTC for those pushing for an emergency: most of them don’t “understand the scientific evidence well” either; they merely passively accept it.
    > special relevance
    I’m not sure, FWIW.

  35. But then again, I doubt it is GTC for those pushing for an emergency: most of them don’t “understand the scientific evidence well” either; they merely passively accept it.

    That’s a fair point.

    I’m not sure, FWIW.

    To be fair, I’m not entirely sure myself. I partly agree with the concerns about framing this as an emergency (giving governments power to implement policies in the name of a climate emergency). On the other hand, the cumulative nature of this issue, and that it’s likely irreversible, makes me lean towards doing more now, rather than less. If there’s a way to do this without climate emergency rhetoric, I’d probably be all for it. I do, though, acknowledge sympathising more with those who are promoting that rhetoric, than with those who oppose it.

  36. Russell says:

    Willard, could you please be more specific ? I wrote my first editorial leaders four presidents after Nixion resigned.

  37. Willard says:

    If we’re serious about raising concerns about the appropriate conditions to declare states of emergency, we might as well look at historical cases. Here is one:

    Margaret Thatcher came close to declaring emergency in 1984 in the wake of the miners’ strike in Britain and considered passing a new law giving extra powers to soldiers, according to government documents.

    Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, considered ordering an emergency recall of Parliament to pass the new law, giving extra powers for soldiers to replace striking workers, newly-released documents by the National Archives show.

    The then US President Ronald Reagan, one of Thatcher’s closest allies, sent her a private cable of support at this point.

    https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/margaret-thatcher-came-close-to-declaring-emergency-in-1984-documents-546708

    This did not happen presumably because Maggie’s ministers would “show weakness.” We’re far from Matthew and Mike’s “insurrection, war, and terrorism.” How would an authoritarian justify a war out of climate change exactly?

    If catastrophization is a Very Bad Thing, then it is to wonder why Matthew wrote the piece the way he did.

  38. Joshua says:

    Russell –

    > The political polarization of recent decades has afflicted public perceptions of scientific institutions as much as those of political bodies..the recent unification of social and scientific rhetoric on the left has amplified, witness the growing alienation of social conservatives and evangelicals from science communication in general and climate communication in particular.

    There’s some (what seems to me to be) high quality evidence that in the US perceptions of scientific institutions hasn’t actually changed (or been amplified) that dramatically – except perhaps among a subset of conservatives (Tea Party types, religious Christian types).

    But assuming for the sake of argument that your characterization is accurate. What has “caused” that shift? Lefties saying there’s a “climate emergency?” a more general feature where lefties claim that conservativea “don’t listen science?”

    Or maybe Donald Trump saying that climate change is a “Chinese hoax?” Or Republican legislators saying that women who are raped don’t get pregnant or that sexual orientation is a “lifestyle choice”?

    I dunno. Seems pretty chicken-eggy to me. And it seems to me to be inextricable from a larger phenomenon of increased tribal antipathy as expressed through a whole raft of issues that are heavily polarized.

    I notice that people have a tendency to attribute cauation here w/o accompanying their conclusions with actual evidence so as to support a finding of cauality. They make sweeping statements about vast socialial phenomena, such as:

    Climate emergency thinking has become a collective delirium, eliminating essential habits of mind related to self-doubt, skepticism, self-questioning, and accountability.

    > a tendency the recent unification of social and scientific rhetoric on the left has amplified, witness the growing alienation of social conservatives and evangelicals from science communication in general and climate communication in particular.

    Do tell, how do you reach such a firm conclusion there about the direction of cauality?

    Be leary of “they made us do it” reaoning. A hallmark of conservatives is supposed to be an insistence of personal responsibility and a dislike of victim-whining.

  39. Willard says:

    Russell,

    I don’t think I need to be very specific. Freedom has been a dominant theme touted to justify most of American military interventions in foreign countries during the last century. Does that imply freedom should never be used to legitimate one’s action?

    A little common sense would help here. Policies are judged more directly than that. Whatever the rationale, terrorism is terrorism.

    You know, authoritarians are no dummies. They don’t advertise the details of their worst policies. To take Nixon again:

    Speaking on television on Sunday, August 15, when American financial markets were closed, Nixon said the following:

    The third indispensable element in building the new prosperity is closely related to creating new jobs and halting inflation. We must protect the position of the American dollar as a pillar of monetary stability around the world.

    In the past 7 years, there has been an average of one international monetary crisis every year …

    I have directed Secretary Connally to suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold or other reserve assets, except in amounts and conditions determined to be in the interest of monetary stability and in the best interests of the United States.

    Now, what is this action—which is very technical—what does it mean for you?

    Let me lay to rest the bugaboo of what is called devaluation.

    If you want to buy a foreign car or take a trip abroad, market conditions may cause your dollar to buy slightly less. But if you are among the overwhelming majority of Americans who buy American-made products in America, your dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today.

    The effect of this action, in other words, will be to stabilize the dollar.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon_shock

    Quite innocuous, don’t you think?

    A political success. More freedom. Then economic stagflation. And then, by serendipity, the rise of more authoritarian leaders during the 80s.

  40. Joshua says:

    The reasoning is unfalsifiable. If a non – rightwing government joins an international treaty, it’s a sign of authoritarianism. If a rightwing government pulls out of said treaty, it’s a pushback against authoritarianism.there is nothing that can’t be attributed (evidence free) to leftwing authoritarianism.

    Hippie-punching is the ultimate all purpose tool.

  41. Joshua,

    Be leary of “they made us do it” reaoning. A hallmark of conservatives is supposed to be an insistence of personal responsibility and a dislike of victim-whining.

    Yes, I’m not a fan of the idea that a group should be cautious of what they say in case they alienate another group. We should all aim to say things that we believe to be true, that reflect our own beliefs, and that are – ideally in my view – decent things to say. I would distinguish though between us thinking about what we say on the basis of diversity/inclusion (i.e., don’t say things that are racist/sexist/homophobic/transphopbic/….) and saying things that are “true” but that might challenge another group’s beliefs. Hope I’ve said that in a way that makes sense.

  42. Thomas Fuller says:

    Depending on your definition of emergency you can declare that the planet is facing a range of between zero and a hundred emergencies. Is Covid-19 an emergency? It depends entirely on your opinion of 1% mortality (or whatever the ultimate percentage proves to be).

    Are anthropogenic contributions to climate change an emergency? The IPCC listed projected impacts back in 2014 and they seemed surprisingly modest, perhaps explaining why they are not often referred to in discussions like this.

    Greta Thunberg believes we are facing an emergency due to climate change. Marc Morano does not. I think it would be worthwhile examining the information that shaped their points of view. Superficially and from a great distance, I would give a preliminary characterization of both sources of information as less than optimal. Thunberg’s sympathizers spend a lot of time attacking Morano’s sources of information and the reverse is also true. I submit that the critics on both sides are right more often than they are wrong. The quality of information regarding climate change falls off dramatically when it is released into the wilds of public discussion.

    As I have written repeatedly, I think that current climate trends and their undoubted human influences pose a problem that does not rise to the level of emergency, but is sufficiently grave to call for the commitment of sufficient resources to mitigate where possible, adapt where not. But my opinion is not formed by either Marc Morano and his sources nor Greta Thunberg and hers.

  43. Willard says:

    > Greta Thunberg believes we are facing an emergency due to climate change. Marc Morano does not. I think it would be worthwhile examining the information that shaped their points of view.

    “But Greta” might need a different packaging:

    “I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists,” Thunberg told the US lawmakers. “I want you to unite behind the science and I want you to take real action.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/sep/18/greta-thunberg-testimony-congress-climate-change-action

    As for Marc, he sometimes gets his information from the likes of Junior, so.

  44. Joshua says:

    > As I have written repeatedly, I think that current climate trends and their undoubted human influences pose a problem that does not rise to the level of emergency,

    How do you define “emergency” in this context? How is your definition different from Greta’s? Is it a similar definition as Mark’s?

  45. Willard says:

    Here would be a good way not to sound alarmist:

    Humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075. If they all come from coal we’re ruined.

    https://3000quads.com/

    After all, ruin is no biggie. Take Northern Rock. Take Nic.

  46. Willard says:

    According to the online calculator I just found, 3000 quads is 108 gigatons.

    That’s more than what Justin finds implausible.

  47. Tom,
    Technically, an emergency might be regarded as something unexpected, dangerous, and requiring immediate attention. COVID would seem to qualif. Climate change might not on the basis of it not really being unexpected. However, it certainly be described as “dangerous” and limiting the impact would require immediate attention. I would probably agree that this doesn’t mean that governments should be encouraged to institute multi-decade states of emergency, but treating it with a bit more urgency might seem warranted.

  48. Thomas Fuller says:

    Hi ATTP, most Western countries have devoted considerable resources to dealing with climate change and seem more than willing to do more. Many large corporate entities seem willing to do… well, something to address the issue, such as Ford releasing an EV version of its most popular vehicle. Citizens seem more than willing to do… well, something, given the large number who put solar panels on their rooftops and EVs in their garage.

    Urgency turns into a disbelieved emergency when messages are accompanied by arbitrary deadlines that have to be repeated upon expiration. The Millenium Goals had a 15-year horizon for achievement–climate activists are urging dramatic reductions in CO2 in less than 10, although to be fair, they started urging it beforehand.

    I would suggest (hesitantly) that moving the goalposts from 2C to 1.5C and from 2050 to 2030 was not wise.

  49. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    > I would suggest (hesitantly) that moving the goalposts

    I would (not so hesitantly) suggest that assertions of bad faith (moving goalposts) is not wise. Perhaps you might point out from your experience where accusations of bad faith have been productive in negotiation contexts?

  50. Russell says:

    ATTP.
    Having taken sides in the war against cliche’, my primary objection to the rhetoric of emergency is that it has long been part of the rhetoric of motives Kenneth Burke sought to define as ranging:

    ” from the bluntest quest of advantage, as in sales promotion or propaganda, through courtship, social etiquette, education, and the sermon, to a ‘pure’ form that delights in the process of appeal for itself alone, without ulterior purpose. And identification ranges from the politician who, addressing an audience of farmers, says, ‘I was a farm boy myself,’ through… the mystic’s devout identification with the sources of all being.”

    That clearly include Climateball. but “emergency’ is be definition sudden, and no matter how true its believers may be, to sustain it an object of belief for fifty solid years somewhat strains the elasicity of the English language, as H.L. Mencken began making fun of ” the continuing crisis” a century ago in The American Language; An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States,

    The deadpan refusal of public broadcasters to acknowledge their buzzword barrage as ClimateSpeak antedates Climate Desk– Cordelia Dean of the Timesstarted to evangelize journalistic vocabulary building at Harvard’s Center for the Environment years before writers from The Nation Instutute and CJR got together to advance the rhetoric of emergency beyond the pages ( and covers) of Vogue and Vanity Fair.

  51. Willard says:

    Some Montréal news:

    By November, the Habs were playing well, and journalists held them as a Stanley Cup contender. By March, they were not doing well, so journalists were hesitant to say that the Habs would make the playoffs. By April, the Habs were really not playing well, but other teams were worse, so journalists predicted a short stint during the playoffs, against either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Edmonton Oilers.

    I kid you not – there’s a hockey team called the Oilers.

    Habs meet Toronto first round. Every prediction is at best Toronto in six. They win the first game by the skin of their teeth, as we say around here. Then they lose three games. Journalists start the post mortem.

    They win the series. Then they meet Winnipeg, another team that was not expected to win. They skunked Edmonton 4 games to 0. Many lucky bounces, but they played well.

    Same predictions: Winnipeg in 4, 5 or 6. Some say in 7.

    Habs eliminated the Jets 4-0 yesterday. The first team to qualify for the final four. Their sequence is the second most outstanding of all of NHL history: 437 minutes without trailing. The only team who did better was the Habs in 1960:

    ***

    Now, when the Habs were leading 3-0, the betting sites changed their tune. Their odds swung in their favour. Now to the point: does it mean the bookies were “moving the goalposts”?

    Hell yeah. When things get better, I become more optimistic. I pity the fool who would not.

  52. Russell,
    Yes, I kind of agree that there are aspects of climate change that don’t satisfy the conditions for an emergency (it’s not exactly unexpected). However, if we do want to limit the impact then we do need to act now and probably also need to do some things that are relatively unprecedented. Simply changing our entire energy infrastructure on the timescale of decades is itself pretty unprecedented.

  53. Bob Loblaw says:

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/emergency

    Noun
    emergency (plural emergencies)
    A situation which poses an immediate risk and which requires urgent attention.

    No requirement for “unexpected”. Does require some agreement on the meaning of “immediate” and “urgent”.

    To me “urgent” probably coincides with with the concept “if you don’t act now, it will probably be too late”. For climate, waiting sure makes it a lot harder to deal with.

  54. Bob,
    Fair point. I found a definition that included “unexpected”, but immediate/urgent/dangerous could probably all qualify.

  55. gator says:

    Another perspective on “emergency” from the US federal perspective.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_emergencies_in_the_United_States
    We are currently living through 34 national emergencies, the oldest of them going back to 1979 and Jimmy Carter!
    So from a government point of view, it would certainly not be unprecedented to declare climate change a national emergency.

  56. Bob Loblaw says:

    Well, waiting until it is almost too late and something has become an emergency is a lot more likely if the circumstances come on rapidly and/or were not foreseen. Ignoring the warning signs and not taking action as something slowly develops can also lead to an emergency once the penny drops.

    The “oh, my, we have to act now!” reaction is more easily understood when the situation was unexpected. “Oh, my, we have to act now!” is a harder argument to shift to after decades of “look, we’re eventually going to have to do something – this is going to keep getting worse”.

  57. Russell says:

    Joshua asks:

    What has “caused” that shift? Lefties saying there’s a “climate emergency?” a more general feature where lefties claim that conservativea “don’t listen science?”

    The answer is less “that conservatives “dont listen science ” than that most don’t speak enough of its language to understand what the arguments are all about. I have long editorially complained about this , but to no avail,.

    Many backers of social conservatoism in America anathamatize and seek to deconstruct the theoretical basis of anthropogenic climate change, because its conclusions contradict the Biblical literalism to which they viscerally subscribe. It is in my experience hard to explain the basis of long term sea level rise to those who , quite literally, beleve it cannot be happening , because God told Noah it would never happen again. Their metaphysical obsessions should not be confused with the politics of Cold War conservarives ( and Tories like MacMillan) who realized that materialism was too important to be left to the Marxists, and listened to what their science advisors said.

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