Maybe a little science denial is actually in order?

I ended up in a brief discussion on Twitter with Matthew Nisbet, Professor of Communication, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, and Sander van der Linden, Professor of Social Psychology in Society at the University of Cambridge. Matthew Nisbet has been quite critical of consensus messaging and also of John Cook’s recent contrarian claims paper.

During the discussion, Matthew Nisbet suggested those involved in consensus messaging work needed a deeper understanding of climate history, science, social, political, cultural dimensions, and, in particular, should engage with the Science and Technology Studies (STS) literature and with post-normal science. Sander responded with

I find it hard to take some STS articles and arguments seriously. Some of it is just apologetics for outright climate denial, esp the anti-consensus stuff.

Although I appreciate that STS is quite a diverse field, I do largely share this view and thought I would illustrate why using one of the STS/post-normal articles highlighted by Matthew Nisbet. The article, stop treating climate denial like a disease, is by Dan Sarewitz and appeared in the Guardian.

I’m going to mostly ignore the author’s suggestion that [t]he effort to provide a behavioural explanation for why people might not accept the opinions of experts strikes me as not entirely dissimilar in its implications from the early ambitions for eugenics. However, I will say that this reminded me of Reiner Grundmann suggesting an eerie similarity between race science and climate science, and maybe also of Matthew Nisbet’s own suggestion that climate emergency thinking is enabling totalitarianism.

Let’s, however, get back to what I was trying to illustrate; why are STS articles and post-normal science arguments sometimes regarded as endorsing, or excusing, climate denial? Consider the final part of Dan Sarewitz’s article where he suggests that

much of science is on the verge of a crisis that threatens its viability, integrity, legitimacy and utility.

There are clearly many issues with how science is done today, and there are certainly some fields where there are concerns about the reliability of some studies and about the ability to replicate what’s been done. However, to suggest that much of science is on the verge of a crisis seems a bit of a stretch, and claiming that this threatens its viability, integrity, legitimacy and utility certainly seems to play into the hands of those who promote science denial.

However, it’s the suggestion that follows that mostly illustrates my point. The author argues that, since much of science is on the verge of a crisis,

[m]aybe a little science denial is actually in order these days?

So, Matthew Nisbet thinks that scholars who are actively trying to counter misinformation and science denial should engage more with a literature that literally suggests that maybe some science denial is actually in order.

Even if you happen to agree with the basic arguments being made in Dan Sarewitz’s article, it can’t be that difficult to also work out why some scholars might be reluctant to engage more deeply with disciplines that imply that their work is akin to eugenics and that suggests that maybe we should have more of the very thing they’re trying to counter.

I’ll finish by saying that I also find some of this a little ironic. It’s essentially critiquing the manner in which science communication is sometimes undertaken, but doing do so in a way that seems similar to the style they seem to be criticising. Also, if we’re at a stage where facts become soft, and values hard, have they considered that those they’re criticising have already made their value judgements? Similarly, if most of science is on the verge of crisis, why doesn’t this also apply to STS work and to post-normal science? Are they somehow immune?

Addendum:

After writing this post, I came across a blog post by Sylvia Tognetti called Revisiting Post-Normal Science in Post-Normal Times & Identifying Cranks. At the end of the post is a link to a much longer article which discusses how post-normal science either appears to have been made for the denialist crowd, or has been hijacked by them. It presents a number of examples where post-normal scholars seem to have either promoted arguments that are similar to those being promoted by the denialist crowd, or where post-normal science has failed to distinguish between those engaging in good-faith disagreements and those acting in bad-faith.

I don’t think this means that all of post-normal science is doing such things, but just that there seem to be examples where this is the case. Also, it’s clear that since science alone cannot tell us how to make societally relevant decisions, some kind of other framework is probably needed. However, this doesn’t mean that such a framework should be free from criticism, or that care shouldn’t be taken when thinking about how to utilise such a framework.

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140 Responses to Maybe a little science denial is actually in order?

  1. Everett F Sargent says:

    The jealousy of the so-called soft sciences is all too apparent here.

    “Also, it’s clear that since science alone cannot tell us how to make societally relevant decisions, some kind of other framework is probably needed.”

    Bit of a non sequiter as all decisions are social ones.

  2. EFS,
    Indeed, but a lot of PNS seems to involve repeating that science alone can’t tell us what to do, as if there are lots of people claiming that it can. I do realise that some people will say “listen to the science” but I think this is typically short-hand for something more like “The scientific evidence indicates that something bad will happen if we don’t do something to avoid this outcome. Hence, we should actively do something to avoid this outccome.”

  3. Jim Hunt says:

    For some strange reason Matthew never did get around to answering this recent question of mine:

    Perhaps “communications” Profs get to take longer Xmas vacations than “science” Profs?

  4. I would urge you to re-read the various articles you link to above. Remember that current use (for the past 10 years) of the word ‘denial’ is the political creation of members and advocates of the climate consensus. To those of us that have opposed the political advocates of the consensus, the word means something different. Appropriating your insult to answer some of your questions is more of a journalistic accession to the need for a shared vocabulary.

    Rejecting (not denying) the pseudo-scientific work coming from luminaries like John Cook and Stefan Lewandowski is a very good idea. Advocates of the consensus should try it. Oh, wait–those are your co-authors, aren’t they?

    But perhaps you will never see that embracing Cook and Lewandowski makes your defense of actual science less authoritative. Pity, that.

  5. Tom,
    I don’t particularly care what you think. In a sense, that’s my point. Just own your position. The issue I have with some STS and post-normal science is that it seems to basically do what they’re criticising others for doing, and seems to use scholarship to hide their value judgements. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it does seem inconsistent.

  6. Willard says:

    > the word ‘denial’ is the political creation of members and advocates of the climate consensus.

    Here we go again:

    In the sciences, denialism is the rejection of basic facts and concepts that are undisputed, well-supported parts of the scientific consensus on a subject, in favor of ideas that are radical, controversial, or fabricated. The terms Holocaust denialism and AIDS denialism describe the denial of the facts and the reality of the subject matters, and the term climate change denial describes denial of the scientific consensus that the climate change of planet Earth is a real and occurring event primarily caused in geologically recent times by human activity. The forms of denialism present the common feature of the person rejecting overwhelming evidence and trying to generate political controversy in attempts to deny the existence of consensus.

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

    Instead of saying stuff that can be refuted by reading a simple Wiki entry, I would urge to reread the appropriate Bingo square:

    “But Denier”

    We need to understand that phrases such as “deeper understanding of climate history, science, social, political, cultural dimensions” have first and foremost throat clearing value.

  7. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Matthew Nisbet has been quite critical of consensus messaging…”

    Does Prof. Nisbet (et al.) have an answer to the question “How should we address claims that there is no scientific consensus (which is known to be a successful strategy, c.f. Luntz memo, cancer-smoking link etc.), if not by demonstrating that it is factually correct?”

    I have asked several STS researchers that question when they have been critical of consensus messaging, but I’ve yet to receive an answer.

    STS is at least as socially constructed as science and I suspect there is little to be gained in STS by arguing that science is generally doing a good job and doesn’t really need much advice. It is deeply ironic that they should be arguing science needs more “deniers” (their term, not mine) when they are so resistant to engaging with questions about their work.

    I know this is quibbling about terms, but the last thing any field needs is “deniers” (TT,NM). What science wants is scientific criticism and genuine engagement with critical voices. For example, the IPCC reports have occasionally taken time to engage with skeptical arguments, such as. Starr’s claims that the rise in CO2 isn’t anthropogenic, bomb 14C or the [apparent] “hiatus” – I suspect there are others in areas I haven’t looked at.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    sorry, that should be “denial” rather than “denier”.

  9. dikranmarsupial says:

    and “if not by demonstrating that it is factually incorrect?”

    doh!

  10. Mal Adapted says:

    Tom:

    Rejecting (not denying) the pseudo-scientific work coming from luminaries like John Cook and Stefan Lewandowski is a very good idea. Advocates of the consensus should try it. Oh, wait–those are your co-authors, aren’t they?

    Ah, there’s the Truculent Tom we all know and detest. The professional peers of Profs. Cook and Lewandowski have judged at least some of their work sufficiently scientific to be published as such. Labeling it pseudo-science is a judgment you’re unqualified to make, and is a key sign of the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s right there in your words, Tom!

  11. dikranmarsupial says:

    From Dan Sarewitz’s article

    “that significant areas of research are driven by self-reinforcing fads “

    Good job that nothing like that could happen in STS! ;o)

  12. Brandon Gates says:

    Dikran,

    In this 2010 essay, Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter for Public Engagement, Nesbit advocates for three different message framings. The first should be familiar:

    In Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, environmentalists Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger advocate a move away from the “pollution paradigm,” which offers a familiar storyline of dire environmental consequences if greenhouse gas emissions are not radically reduced.39 They offer an alternative communication strategy, which involves turning the economic development frame in favor of action, recasting climate change as an opportunity to grow the economy. The two authors argue that only by refocusing messages and building diverse coalitions in support of “innovative energy technology” and “sustainable economic prosperity” can meaningful action on climate change be achieved. With this framing strategy, they seek not just to engage the wider public, but also catalyze a more diverse social movement—perhaps even engaging support for energy policies among Republicans, who think predominantly in terms of market opportunities, or labor advocates, who value the possibility of job growth.

    The second is to reframe the issue in terms of morality and ethics. For Christians, appealing to them as stewards of Creation is suggested. For the more secular demographic, he suggests framing climate change mitigation as a “solvable and shared moral challenge”.

    The third and final frame is public health, “stressing climate change’s potential to increase the incidence of infectious diseases, asthma, allergies, heat stroke, and other salient health problems, especially among the most vulnerable populations: the elderly and children.”

    I found nearly 20 publications on Google Scholar which might contain further suggestions, but this was the only one I had energy to review.

  13. russellseitz says:

    STS has spawned both amusingly bizarre PoMo journals, and seminar series that have been drifting in and out of politburo situation comedy for decades. At the top of their form, Bruno Latour’s traveling circus, they often achieve the clueless resonance of an Umberto Eco chamber.

    The genres common denominator is that it while it views itself as an historical force in American politicians, and has established itself as a science policy arbiter though long running White House and Congressional fellowship programs, the readership of its in-house journals rarely exceeds thethe number of those who submit papaers to them.

  14. mrkenfabian says:

    I thought “denial” was simply the word that best describes the rejection of the science on climate and of the expert advice and ethical/legal duties to act that come with it. The accusations of vile and deliberate connotations always made me think of football players faking being hurt, hoping the ref takes it out on the other bloke.

    As I see it the kinds of civic/societal duties of care that arise from climate science don’t support holding to personal doubts over expert advice where high levels of professional agreement exist; calling that scientific skepticism doesn’t stop it being from being, in the societal context, negligence. From a civics and society perspective the institutions governments commissioned to provide the expert advice ARE authoritative.

    You are in the wrong conceptual space if you think treating that kind of advice as wrong until you are personally satisfied has any validity. As for it being “scientific” – that kind of logic belongs in a different conceptual universe entirely.

  15. russellseitz says:

    Tell that to Naomi Oreskes , and the Bruce-free academics of the West Australian History of Science cohort whose STS fanzine launched her from obscurity into NPR fame .

  16. dikranmarsupial says:

    Brandon, I meant more a response to the specific strategy of claiming that there is no scientific consensus. A lot of the problem I have with some of the STSers I have interacted with online is that there seems to be a lot of “that significant areas of research are driven by self-reinforcing fads … , or to advance particular [academic] agendas; “. They seem to be arguing that there is one true strategy and there is no place for any other (IIRC Cook has explicitly argued against that). That seems to me to be unrealistic as the electorate far from homogeneous and multiple strategies are likely to be required. “There is no consensus” is a specific case. It is a highly successful contrarian strategy and to allow misinformation (which is what it is) to go unchallenged is going to prevent people from being interested in the potential economic or societal benefits (if there is no problem – there is no opportunity either).

    So they can argue for their strategy if they want, but if they ignore difficult questions (or at least questions which suggest their academic opponents have a point), aren’t they just guilty of the things they accuse science of doing wrong?

  17. Dave_Geologist says:

    Quick quiz:

    What do post-normal science, alternative medicine and the German Democratic Republic have in common?

    Oh, and a belated Merry Christmas to all.

  18. dikranmarsupial says:

    So, Prof Nisbet suggests van der Linden starts reading the literature with e.g. Hulme:

    van der Linden replies to say he is fairly familiar with Hulme’s work:

    Prof. Nisbet replies to ask if van der Linden has read .. even Hulme

    Sounds to me that Prof. Nisbet isn’t paying attention to what is said but is just pushing an academic agenda regardless.

    Hulme’s book on why we disagree about climate change is very good, but Hulme had no answer to the question of how to address claims that there was no scientific consensus on climate change either….

  19. Willard says:

    A tweet that followed that exchange was a true masterpiece. It introduced the fishing club that gets to own the PNS brand:

    – Matthew
    – Warren
    – Reiner
    – MikeH
    – Sylvio
    – Junior

    I wonder if Junior would consider Matthew’s advocacy for the BTI framing stealthy.

    One day perhaps our brokers will provide empirical evidence to support the concerns they raise.

  20. Willard says:

    Following Matthew’s advice to read about Jack’s Climateball contributions:

    Don’t try to be a positivist such as Jack!

  21. Willard says:

    As for Clark:

    Paying lip service is all well and good, but at the end of the day scholars need to adapt to the new reality whereby it takes seconds to double check the soft kisses they blow toward other researchers.

  22. Ben McMillan says:

    If would be helpful if, whenever this crew turns up to throw tomatoes at scientists, other humanities people got engaged to explain what a silly game they are playing.

    Otherwise they get to pretend that the whole study of science in society and politics can be encompassed by their small club of friends and their narrow range of views. Pretty sure that fewer than 97% of social scientists would be in consensus with Nisbet about the best way to communicate climate science.

    Others might have theories about why powerful monied interests would tend to push back on science that suggests they are hurting people. Historians of science might know something about big tobacco, for example. Or about AIDS denialism.

    The pearl-clutching when Sander vdL asks if there is any empirical evidence for the STS stuff is funny too: “oh, if we collected evidence for our position, that would just be horrible positivism!”

  23. Ben,
    Yes, I was thinking something similar. There seem to be a large number of social scientists who are actively trying to think about how to address climate change and probably see the consensus position as pretty obvious (e.g., Julia Steinberger, Kim Nichols,…). There are a number who think about why science communication has been a challenge (e.g., Naomi Oreskes). There are a number who are actively trying to help make science communication more effective (e.g., John Cook, Ed Maibach, Sander van der Linden, …). Then there seem to be this group who mainly criticise scientists and science communication without really providing much in the way of viable alternatives and who don’t seem to provide much empirical support for their views (e.g., Nisbet, Pearce, Hulme, Grundman, Sarewitz, ….).

    You’re probably right that the latter group is a minority. I suspect that one issue is that it can be more difficult for a consensus to emerge in the social sciences than in the physical sciences, so it’s harder to challenge views without it ending up just being people expressing their own preferences.

  24. Willard says:

    Since this has been cited a few times in our current Climateball episode, let’s count the number of references in this “article”:

    https://doi.org/10.1038/493007a

    I count zero. Can’t be positivist!

    Perhaps one day scholars will realize how silly it looks to whine about the D word and still label people as positivists, more so without ever really paid any due diligence to the label.

  25. Ben McMillan says:

    ATTP: I think the diverse opinions, and views in less-quantitative fields being strongly a matter of preference, are really a feature rather than a bug. Pretty much frees the scientists up to respond to constructive criticism, and not take too seriously those who are just spoiling for a fight.

    The STS people seem very tightly focused on the science-policy concerns of the political right (mostly in the US) but not terribly sympathetic to scientists, or the project of science itself. That is a rather narrow and somewhat fringe perspective, and we really need a more diverse and representative set of voices in discussions of science policy.

    On climate, that means people who are going to be facing the impact; those in less developed countries, the less well-off, and the young, and people with a wide range of political opinions.

    Instead of RPJr on auto-repeat.

  26. watched this doc on Amazon Prime last night: https://www.nfb.ca/film/metamorphosis/
    one takeaway: the impacts of climate change are already being strongly felt in some places. Something to mull when folks suggest we have time to reduce the impacts. Yeah, I think that means the speaker has not been impacted yet and thinks they won’t experience significant impacts for a decade or more. I think that is largely, but not exclusively, a privileged, first world perspective.

  27. russellseitz says:

    I should have done more research before running my intercomparison of cookbooks and IPCC reports.

    Nisbet’s 2,424 page $595 Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Communication
    is neck and neck with Myhrvold’s 2,438 page $600 Modernist Cuisine

  28. Willard says:

    The New Encyclopedists need to change the way they “deliver” information:

    But of course information can’t be free. That’d be too positivist!

    Matt appears in the other video on this page:

    https://oxfordre.com/climatescience/page/videos/

  29. Ben,

    On climate, that means people who are going to be facing the impact; those in less developed countries, the less well-off, and the young, and people with a wide range of political opinions.

    Absolutely. It often does seem as though the discussion is dominated by the global north and, in particular, the US.

  30. Willard says:

    Seems that our Science Communication editor-in-chief allowed this article:

    Individuals, both within and between different countries, vary substantially in the extent to which they view climate change as a risk. What could explain such variation in climate change risk perception around the world? Climate change is relatively unique as a risk in the sense that it is difficult for people to experience directly or even detect on a purely perceptual or sensory level. In fact, research across the social and behavioral sciences has shown that although people might correctly perceive some changes in long-term climate conditions, psychological factors are often much more influential in determining how the public perceives the risk of climate change. Indeed, decades of research has shown that cognitive, affective, social, and cultural factors all greatly influence the public’s perception of risk, and that these factors, in turn, often interact with each other in complex ways. Yet, although a wide variety of cognitive, experiential, socio-cultural and demographic characteristics have all proven to be relevant, are there certain factors that systematically stand out in explaining and predicting climate change risk perception around the world? And even if so, what do we mean, exactly, by the term “risk perception” and to what extent does the way in which risk perception is measured influence the outcome? Last but certainly not least, how important is public concern about climate change in determining people’s level of behavioral engagement and policy-support for the issue?

    https://oxfordre.com/climatescience/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228620-e-318

    After five clicks I lost interest in how to subscribe.

  31. russellseitz says:

    After five paragraphs of Nisbet’s Manufacturing Consent

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

    I read it to the end , and was astonished to agree that the most dystopic real-world avatar of Wainwright & Mann’s Climate Leviathan may be the top heavy Climate Newspeak campaign being waged by the Graun and the Nation Institute.

    Latour greeted the book’s climate history trajectories , from Climate Mao to Climate Leviathan , as playful examples of planetary futures , but irony is not Hertsgaard & Pope’s strong suit

  32. Chubbs says:

    I struggle with “cultural dimensions”, we don’t have experience with climate change so not sure we can lean on our cultural heritage to point us in the right direction. I suspect the opposite is true, our view of the future is clouded by the stable climate we have experienced.

  33. Chubbs,
    Yes, I struggle with that too. I understand that cultural issues, and differing values, can/will influence how we respond, or not, to climate change. However, a lot of the rhetoric around this seems to ignore that if we don’t act soon to limit emissions and, hence, climate change, the impacts are not just going to be inconvenient, they could be highly distruptive. No amount of cultural history, or shared values, is going to change that. This doesn’t mean that I know how we should respond, just that I think physical reality trumps political/societal reality.

  34. Ben McMillan says:

    A lot of cultures have seen pretty extreme environmental changes, because someone has come along and radically changed the natural environment around them.

    i.e., well-off people unilaterally deciding to change the climate is analogous in some sense to them colonising some place and reorganising the natural world.

    Amitav Ghosh’s “The nutmeg’s curse” has some thoughts along related lines.

    So I guess that kind of thing is what people are thinking of when they talk about culture and history shaping our response to environmental changes.

    Not that it alters the physics requirements… it does seem to change what people see as the main threat, though: as an extreme example, an ultra-individualist culture might deny that things like ‘society’ and the ‘environment’ exist at all, so the real problem is just people who aren’t letting them do what they want.

  35. Susan Anderson says:

    Apologies for being such a “helicopter” commenter. This continues to be one of the most rational and civil places to visit, and I needed comfort today (once again isolating from Covid hell central). I think this Westervelt article is useful. Not that science is wrong, or that critics are right, but that the problem is to get people to realize it’s real and dangerous. Arguing over science has become a distraction:

    The biggest success of the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long campaign to push doubt about climate science is that it forced the conversation about the climate crisis to centre on science.

    It’s not that we didn’t need scientific research into climate change, or that we don’t need plenty more of it. Or even that we don’t need to do a better job of explaining basic science to people, across the board (hello, Covid). But at this moment, “believe science” is too high a bar for something that demands urgent action. Believing science requires understanding it in the first place. In the US, the world’s second biggest carbon polluter, fewer than 40% of the population are college educated and in many states, schools in the public system don’t have climate science on the curriculum. So where should this belief – strong enough to push for large-scale social and behavioural change – be rooted exactly?

    People don’t need to know anything at all about climate science to know that a profound injustice has occurred here that needs to be righted. It’s not a scientific story, it’s a story of fairness: people with more power and money than you used information about climate change to shore up their own prospects and told you not to worry about it.

    That story is backed up by not only the internal memos of various oil companies, and the discrepancies between those internal communications and what they were telling the public, but also by their patents. In 1973, Exxon secured a patent for an oil tanker that could easily navigate a melting Arctic. In 1974, Texaco was granted a patent for a mobile drilling platform in a melting Arctic. Chevron got a patent for its version of a melting-Arctic-ready drilling platform that same year. Shell was a bit behind; it got its melting-Arctic drilling platform design patented in 1983.

    more at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/dec/28/follow-the-science-public-climate-crisis

    but … just watched press conference on latest research in Antarctica, and if that isn’t great science and reporting, I don’t know what is. However, once again, the careful reporting will leave laypeople executing that famous Go move, going elsewhere.

  36. Susan,
    Sorry to hear that you’re having to isolate again.

    I did see that article by Amy Westervelt and I do often like her writing. However, there’s something that’s never been clear to me about the general argument that Amy is making in that article. Many of those who largely dismiss the risk associated with climate change (Lomborg, Shellenberger, for example) often seem to make “fight for justice”-like arguments. For example, suggesting that the best way to help the developing world is to give them access to fossil fuels, or that the best way to become more resilient to natural disasters is to simply get richer, even if this involves using more fossil fuels.

    So, if you focus more on fighting for justice, and less on “believing the science” how do you avoid amplifying other voices that claim to be fighting for justice but whose arguments would probably imply more, rather than less, fossil fuel use?

  37. I would answer the question you pose this way: If we believe the science and are concerned for justice, then we would help the developing world develop the model for sustainable energy and systems that would allow them to reduce their already small use of fossil fuels rather than assist the developing world to make mistakes that are similar to the ones that have been made by the more developed economies.

    That’s not that hard, is it?

  38. small,
    No, in principle that isn’t hard. My suspicion is that, in practice, it is.

  39. It’s odd to me that you often start from the “no” position. You asked how to avoid amplifying voices that will suggest more fossil fuel infrastructure in the developing world and I gave you a very simple way of refuting that idea. You simply say, “No, we should not help the developing world make the same mistakes we made with fossil fuels. We must help them develop more sustainable infrastructure from this day forward. The world does not need more investment in infrastructure that pushes us forward in the great extinction that we have initiated.”

    Why do you harbor a suspicion that you can’t adopt that kind of message that refutes, rather than amplifies the disastrous argument that we should help them build the kind of infrastructure that we now have to dismantle and replace? How can it be hard for any of us to embrace both justice and a sensible path forward and express it in simple persuasive language.

    Try it on. Go stand in front of a mirror and say: “No, we should not help the developing world make the same mistakes we made with fossil fuels. We must help them develop more sustainable infrastructure from this day forward. The world does not need more investment in infrastructure that pushes us forward in the great extinction that we have initiated.” a couple of times. I believe in your ability to embrace a persuasive message that is quite similar to that one. Believe in yourself. Don’t think of elephants.

  40. small,
    I was going to respond in more detail, but since you’re misrepresenting what I’m saying, I won’t bother. Hope you have a good new year.

  41. Susan, sorry to hear you are quaratining. I haven’t had to do that formally yet, but I have cut back on social and community contacts greatly since covid in a manner that is not that different, maybe, from being quaratined. I assume that delta/omicron will break through my small circle sometime soon. I have a few vaccine holdouts in that circle and a number of children that are too young for vaccines, so covid continues to be worrisome. I think survival rates are better than early days as the medical system has tested and refined approaches over the past two years, but I still think contracting covid is a roll of the mortality dice to some extent.

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on ATTP’s concerns about amplifying the fossil fuel message that might come wrapped up in justice packaging. You tend to be positive, thoughtful and pro-active. I am always happy to see that you have left a comment in the places where we both do a bit of online reading.
    Cheers, stay well
    Mike

  42. Small,
    Just to be clear, I think there is potentially a difference between arguing that we should focus more on fighting for justice and less on believing the science, and an argument that we should actively help the developing world to develop in ways that don’t increase the use of fossil fuels, either by actually helping them, or by the developed world moving off fossil fuels more rapidly and by investing in the development of alternatives.

    I guess my general view is that it doesn’t have to be an either or. We can both fight for justice and believe in the science. I don’t think that Amy Westervelt’s article is necessarily suggesting otherwise, but I do still sometimes get the sense that some of these arguments haven’t quite addressed how to avoid generating a narrative that doesn’t end up playing into the hands of delayers who claim to be fighting for justice.

  43. Why does the climate community concern itself so much with what their opponents say and write? Why not focus instead on developing appropriate policy and communicating it clearly? I of course write as a lukewarmer, so my self interest certainly shows.

    But if you want to change the energy portfolio in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, remember that the successful energy solution is additive, not subtractive. Their energy needs are growing almost logarithmically. You can labor mightily to take fossil fuels off the agenda, probably without much in the way of success. Or you can work just as hard to add renewable energy as an option and use Western funding to make that option affordable.

    Your artificial deadlines and targets aside, which of those two policy options do you think most likely to succeed?

    I hope you all have a Happy New Year.

  44. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Their energy needs are growing almost logarithmically.”

    That is good news!

  45. russellseitz says:

    ATTP: I naturally agree with your understanding;” that cultural issues, and differing values, can/will influence how we respond, or not, to climate change. However, ” I also think it germane that in the course of recorded history, a lot more people have moved from Norway to Sutherland than from the Hebrides to the Faeroes.

    Whole wedges of fossil energy are expended annually to accommodate the voluntary migration of those who find tropical summers less problematic than northern winters. There’s more to this than America’s demographic shift to the sunbelt. The sign of problems arising from culture and climate may reverse in high latitude nations, witness the threat of a postmodern Crimean War arising from Russia’s refusal to get go of its least frosty imperial appendage

  46. Susan Anderson says:

    I’ve been a bit busy, sorry it took so long to get back. I didn’t read Amy Westervelt’s article as promoting fossil fuels for the poor, what I saw was that talking about justice does the job. The final paragraph from the quote I left in after some thought. It seems pretty clear that she’s not promoting the Lomborg / Pielke Jr., or even TW Fuller line, but talking about education and understanding. We need people to get on board. That means seeing the injustice, and using that for people whose training didn’t expose them to the deep history of how science works (the vast majority, especially where education is degraded (US, for example)). I don’t think people can be blinded by science, but they can come out of their foxhole if their interests are addressed.

    I’m not quarantining, just voluntarily isolating as much as I can. Y’all can see the numbers, so you know that the US has been Covid villain number one since forever. But in the places I live, masking and vaccinating are almost universal (also, nobody carries guns).

  47. russellseitz says:

    Susan, a Massachusetts political dynasty owes a lot of votes to decades of subsidized high sulfur home heating oil distribution to low income families in their state.

    Do you recall their party affiliation , and the politics of the nation whence it comes?

  48. Susan,

    I didn’t read Amy Westervelt’s article as promoting fossil fuels for the poor, what I saw was that talking about justice does the job.

    It seems that I always express my question poorly. Maybe I should stop asking it 🙂 I also didn’t see Amy Westervelt’s article as promoting fossil fuels for the poor, or promoting a Lomborg/Shellenberger type narrative. What I was asking was that if the narrative focuses primarily on fighting justice, how do you avoid then validating other narratives that also focus on justice but that would lead to more fossil fuel use (i.e., how do you distinguish between this narrative and those promoted by Lomborg/Shellenberger?). It seems to me that even if fighting justice becomes a key part of the narrative, it’s still important to focus on the scientific evidence so that it’s still in the context of reducing fossil fuel use.

  49. Russell,
    Do you mean that cultural values can also exacerbate climate change through people moving to areas that require more energy use?

  50. Ben McMillan says:

    Aren’t the arguments by Lomborg/Shellenberger just transparently insincere though? i.e. I doubt anyone actually interested in justice would be convinced, this seems mostly about “owning the libs”. If there is a strong “justice case” against climate action, why are their arguments so weak?

    It isn’t just that the arguments are unconvincing: those two play-acting as advocates of justice is deeply inauthentic. People who traditionally work in this space strongly disagree with them.

    I think there are better arguments: for example, giving the developing world access to clean cooking facilities using fossil fuels seems desirable. But those who care about justice/equity issues have a tendency to actually yield to good arguments, which neutralises them as an issue.

  51. Ben,

    Aren’t the arguments by Lomborg/Shellenberger just transparently insincere though?

    Indeed, but they still seem to appeal to some.

    I doubt anyone actually interested in justice would be convinced

    Sure, but as I understand Amy Westervelt’s article, it’s suggesting that focusing on justice will somehow be more effective than focusing on the science. What I guess I’m trying to understand is why this would be a better focus and, if it is, how it avoids appearing to legitimise other arguments that have a “fight for justice” component, that might be insincere, but will still appeal to some.

    It isn’t just that the arguments are unconvincing: those two play-acting as advocates of justice is deeply inauthentic. People who traditionally work in this space strongly disagree with them.

    Sure, but changing the focus of the argument is presumably based on a sense that it will be more effective outside this space.

    I think there are better arguments: for example, giving the developing world access to clean cooking facilities using fossil fuels seems desirable. But those who care about justice/equity issues have a tendency to actually yield to good arguments, which neutralises them as an issue.

    Indeed.

    Again, maybe I’m not expressing myself clearly and maybe my question is ill-posed. My concern is mostly that if you focus mostly on a fight for justice, this would seem to be a strongly value-based argument. So, how do you then appeal to those who might have a different set of values, or who might also want to fight for justice but have an alternative sense of how to do so?

  52. Ben McMillan says:

    I think of the ‘climate justice’ stuff as a bit like going after the Mob for tax evasion.

    The bad behaviour (lawbreaking/lying/corruption) of the groups who are trying to delay climate action is as a result of not being able to pursue their aims through legitimate means, because the science is against them. It is fair game, and possibly a better strategy, to go after them for lying to everyone and trying to corrupt the political and legal process, rather than argue with them about science. (as another example, if your opponents stage an insurrection, point-by-point rebuttal of their talking points is a bit irrelevant)

    I guess this is uncomfortable as a strategy for scientists, who see a focus on the underlying correctness of the argument as a fundamental principle, and an attack on the integrity of your opponent as dirty pool. If your opponent has little shame about repeatedly making misleading arguments, then strategy has to adapt somewhat.

    Clearly people have values that would lead them to oppose climate action: that is why the hyper-individualists mostly are in the way, not because they have come to a different scientific conclusion. You need enough people to oppose them, and those actively engaged and well-informed about climate probably aren’t going to be enough.

    Assembling a coalition of those who are motivated by science impacts, and those who see scientists are generally trustworthy, but your opponents as lying cheating scumbags make sense to me. i.e. they just need to respect the values of science, rather than know the details.

    I’m not totally convinced by Westervelt’s argument that what it needed is just to focus on “climate justice”, partly because just tearing down the bad actors isn’t enough. Also, I’m more of an “all of the above” person. Other stuff, like pointing out that fossil fuels are a profoundly uncool old-hat stranded asset, also seems worth a try.

  53. dikranmarsupial says:

    I guess this is uncomfortable as a strategy for scientists, who see a focus on the underlying correctness of the argument as a fundamental principle, and an attack on the integrity of your opponent as dirty pool. If your opponent has little shame about repeatedly making misleading arguments, then strategy has to adapt somewhat.

    This is a tricky one as one of the reasons why we have the politics that we currently do is that “dirty pool” goes down very well with the electorate in a way the correctness of the argument does not, which is not something we should pander to. We need to find a way to make the “underlying correctness of the argument” entertaining.

    It ought to be possible to point out that someone is repeatedly making misleading arguments without it being an attack on their *integrity* – not thinking of any blogs in particular that have repeatedly suggested the rise in CO2 is natural and then complained about being labelled as a “misinformer” (I am a bit uncomfortable about “labelling”, but in this case, not on the grounds that it is factually incorrect. ;o)

  54. Pingback: 2021: A year in review | …and Then There's Physics

  55. Ben,
    Thanks. I don’t actually have a problem with going after those who are delaying climate action and I can see how it might require doing more than simply arguing about the science. I would argue, though, that doing this in a way that is legitimate would still require at least a focus on the science, even if it can’t be only about the science.

    Your final paragraph probably roughly highlights my position. I’m not convinced that focussing mainly on climate justice will somehow be more effective. I think we do need a bit of “all of the above”. However, I do think that a focus on climate justice is important. It’s going to be very challenging to keep total emissions low enough that we have a reasonable change of meeting some of the targets and I think it’s important to think about how to do this in a way that is fair and that also tries to consider various societal issues (inequality, justice, etc). I just tend to think that it is still key to stress the scientific under-pinnings of what is motivating this even if they, by themselves, can’t tell us what to do, or how to do it.

  56. Ben McMillan says:

    DikranM: To be clear, I don’t think that the scientists should fight dirty. Just that repeatedly fighting cleanly against an opponent who is punching below the belt is not by itself that useful.

    What you really need is for the onlookers/referee (i.e. the non-scientists) to notice that your opponent is a cheat.

    ATTP: Yes, I essentially agree. Hopefully some of the calls to reduce the focus on science are a result of this no longer being as contentious; that the difficult questions are how fast to respond and who has to do the bulk of the work.

  57. Ben,

    Yes, I essentially agree. Hopefully some of the calls to reduce the focus on science are a result of this no longer being as contentious; that the difficult questions are how fast to respond and who has to do the bulk of the work.

    Yes, I think some of it is indeed because of a sense that the science is no longer contentious and we can now move on to finding solutions. I’m just not convinced that this is necessarily true. I also think that one reason we have made some progess is because of a very explicit, and quite clear, scientific consensus. Also, some of the scientific positions have become much clearer in recent years (net-zero, carbon budgets, etc). There would seem to be a risk that if we shift focus too much, we could end up losing sight of these pretty clear goals and could play into the hands of those who are promoting delay. As usual, I could be wrong and I’m also not suggesting that we shouldn’t stress the importance of fighting for justice and fairness. I just think it’s also important to still keep stressing the basic scientific message.

  58. Mal Adapted says:

    TW Fuller:

    Why does the climate community concern itself so much with what their opponents say and write?

    Susan Anderson:

    It seems pretty clear that [Amy Westervelt]’s not promoting the Lomborg / Pielke Jr., or even TW Fuller line, but talking about education and understanding.

    aTTP:

    I also didn’t see Amy Westervelt’s article as promoting fossil fuels for the poor, or promoting a Lomborg/Shellenberger type narrative.

    Heh. Tom goes with a classic strawman argument. As if there’s such a thing as a political “climate community” that speaks with one voice. OTOH, we know there is organized political opposition to the consensus of the international peer community of working climate scientists. Individual opponents of climate science can be named, and their funding traced to identifiable carbon capitalists, although we have to dig deeper to obtain their full employee rosters. By naming himself a lukewarmer, Tom explicitly associates himself with other named lukewarmers, who are recognized advocates for little or no collective action on climate change. Dissecting just what Lomborg, Pielke Jr. and Shellenberger get wrong, and the economic privilege they speak for, is a different comment, but Ben has already summarized their positions succinctly:

    Aren’t the arguments by Lomborg/Shellenberger just transparently insincere though?

    Well, yes. I, for one, concern myself with lukewarmism because it’s dishonest, and hinders global decarbonization, for the benefit of the world’s wealthiest people. I think the three named authors all unjustly dismiss or devalue the uncounted individual tragedies resulting from AGW to date. I’m baffled by Tom’s willingness to defend such unabashed callousness. Have a Happy New Year anyway, Tom.

  59. I think that our success with addressing climate change will be primarily driven by our messaging and framing. I think the proponents of fossil fuel profits have done an amazing job of framing the debate and limiting the global response to climate change. I think when we play on their “home field” of arguing about climate justice or whether the science is believable, we are likely to be pretty ineffective. I think a positive messaging/framing is required if we want to see significant and meaningful change on climate change.

    When republicans want to cut taxes, they don’t talk about cutting taxes. They talk about tax relief or doing away with the death tax. The framing and positive, if insincere, messaging is very effective.

    We need to talk about rescuing human civilization, or loving our lifeboat planet, or something pithy and persuasive if we want to move the needle on public support for the changes that the science says we need to make. I am not sure if pushing “climate justice” is the strongest message that we can address, but it might be better than going with “believe the science” as a message with traction. It’s pretty easy to frame scientists as elites, as ivory tower thinkers, etc. I think arguing with the “go slow crowd” on terms that are not likely to produce significant change is a mistake that we should not continue to make.

    With lomborg or those types, it’s not hard to come up with a simple response that might neutralize their impact, but it needs to be done with an ear to how persuasion actually occurs. We might want to develop careful and effective language/memes/labels that blunt these voices and then quickly switch to our own positive/effective/well-constructed message and language.

    Look at the fires in Boulder over the past few days and get ready to say, hey, it’s time to take care of our lifeboat planet. Hey, it’s time to act to save ourselves now. Climate change is real and it’s a disaster. The time to act is now.

    The messages\phrases that we might want to employ are not the typical nuanced language of careful scientists. If you can’t change your messaging and framing, please don’t be surprised if your messages do not create as much change as you desire. If you won’t take off your gloves and truly join the framing battle, please don’t be surprised if you continue to get pummeled by the lomborgians.

    Cheers
    Mike

  60. Susan Anderson says:

    @Russell: Quite right. Privilege and wealth so often make people callous to the interests of the community at large. Human history is made up of people willing to climb to power and wealth in unscrupulous ways. Sadly, their lack of empathy is a feature, not a bug.

  61. Susan Anderson says:

    @aTTP: I need to read and think a bit more, in the meanwhile a quick response is that there is a lot of excellent current material on climate injustice already available. One propaganda success is the claim that poor people “need” fossil when in fact they are vastly more vulnerable to its harms. I keep going back to Schopenhauer/Rove(/Socrates?) in looking at how the arguments are twisted. It’s so easy to grab hold of a talking point rather than looking at reality. I admire your efforts to stick with this, please keep it up. But the quantities are distorted on purpose, not by accident.

    Unrelated, but just watched a US public TV offering, “Climate Emergency” which ends with a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg. I hadn’t before seen what kindred souls they are: a moment of delight!

  62. Susan Anderson says:

    @Ben M: Thank you, good stuff!

  63. Mal Adapted, thank you for your holiday wishes. I come away from your comment thinking that you understand neither Lukewarmism as a concept nor this particular Lukewarmer or my actual positions.

    However, I highly doubt that our hosts consider this the appropriate time and place to discuss. So I will just repeat my Happy New Year’s message to you specifically. Happy New Year!

  64. Susan,

    there is a lot of excellent current material on climate injustice already available.

    Indeed, and I’m certainly not suggesting that this isn’t the case or that fighting for climate justice isn’t important. It certainly is.

    One propaganda success is the claim that poor people “need” fossil when in fact they are vastly more vulnerable to its harms.

    Absolutely, but this is why I think it’s important to not push the climate science narrative too far into the background. It’s key to motivating arguments about the harmful impacts of climate change.

    TBH, I think I sometimes push back against suggestions that some alternative framing will be more effective even if I agree with what’s motivating the suggestion. I do think it’s key to stress the importance of fighting for climate justice, but I tend to think that it’s important to do this in a way that’s complements, and adds to, the narrative that have already developed and that are under-pinnned by our scientific understanding. That’s my simple view, at least.

  65. Tom,
    I would argue that you don’t get to decide how others judge your preferred narrative.

  66. Susan Anderson says:

    In making one point, because language and people are “imperfect”, particularly in the format of a comment, one leaves out other points. I don’t see Westervelt or myself arguing against science, only making a specific case for a personal interaction that was more successful in rousing her subject about justice than about facts and reason (see my note about including her paragraph on big fossil’s hypocrisies). She and I, I believe, are “all of the above” people.

    It’s sad that has to be so, but we need all hands on deck and so many people have been misled or don’t/can’t understand. I keep saying this, and few arguments acknowledge, for example, that I wrote this: “people whose training didn’t expose them to the deep history of how science works (the vast majority, especially where education is degraded (US, for example)) … can come out of their foxhole if their interests are addressed.”. I have come to dislike the word “framing” which to me looks like jargon for a particular type of communication skills.* Of course science is important; in addition, new developments such as attribution studies, Jennifer Francis (et al.) on distorted circulations, or the example I provided about the Thwaites AGU presser and appearing at speed. And the weather has weirded so fast that the connection is getting scary obvious.

    My mother and father used to argue about the uses and ethics of science at the dinner table when I was a child. She was an ardent ecologist (starting in the 1930s, & was a fan of Rachel Carson) and often pointed out that science doesn’t always help (see nuclear weapons), so for me this is a lifetime observation/pursuit. My father proved to his own satisfaction that global warming is real in the 1970s. He was, however, inclined to dampen my ardor in social interactions in his final decade, being somewhat embarrassed by my passion. Go figure!

    For an example of the success simplistic sloganeering and out and out lies, see Boris J.

    * A kind of bullying of scientists, or a new complex intellectual “game” (wrong word, please try to understand).

  67. Susan Anderson says:

    “presser are appearing at speed.” aargh

  68. Susan,

    I don’t see Westervelt or myself arguing against science, only making a specific case for a personal interaction that was more successful in rousing her subject about justice than about facts and reason (see my note about including her paragraph on big fossil’s hypocrisies). She and I, I believe, are “all of the above” people.

    Apologies if I made it seem that you, or Westervelt, were arguing against science. That wasn’t my intent. I do agree that the point about rousing subjects was a good one, and it may well be a much more effective way to engage people and to develop effective climate action. I’ll have to think about this a bit more myself, and may also have to think a bit more about how I’m framing my question 🙂

  69. Susan Anderson says:

  70. Susan Anderson says:

    @aTTP. It’s not either/or, or better. Just a useful tool for the toolbox, for those who are capable of using it.

    Re hypocrisy, Lomborg et al. (and Koonin) are making a lot of money, and Judith Curry is also not free of bias (her husband’s business). Taking them at their surface self valuation gives them credibility that they have not earned. See what happened at RealClimate from the DDOS during “climategate”, and subsequent arguments that empowered vast numbers of scientifically illiterate people to think there was something hinky about climate science.

    [please, people, don’t go off on climategate. I did consider leaving that out just because, but it’s a good example of how to derail positive momentum and accredit those whose arguments are far from honest.]

  71. Susan Anderson says:

    OK, I’ll stop after this, but I found the xkcd Twitter cite in this excellent article that contains massive lists of useful resources.
    https://mashable.com/article/how-to-spot-climate-change-misinformation

  72. Susan,

    It’s not either/or, or better. Just a useful tool for the toolbox, for those who are capable of using it.

    Indeed, I agree. I think it is important to recognise that there will be different strategies for different situations and for different people (both in terms of who is communicating and in terms of the target audience).

    See what happened at RealClimate from the DDOS during “climategate”, and subsequent arguments that empowered vast numbers of scientifically illiterate people to think there was something hinky about climate science.

    Absolutely.

  73. Susan,
    Ahhh, I hadn’t realised my tweet made it into that article.

  74. Willard says:

    Small world:

    Marc Alexander Thiessen (born January 13, 1967) is an American conservative author, political appointee, and weekly columnist for The Washington Post. Thiessen served as a speechwriter for United States President George W. Bush from 2004 to 2009 and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from 2001 to 2006.

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

    Speaking of Dubya advisors, and to connect with the quest to frame things properly:

    Luntz came to the hearing prepared to share advice for people pushing for action on the climate crisis. He offered a chart of “words to use and words to lose” based on what he’s learned from focus groups:

    USE: Cleaner, safer, healthier. LOSE: Sustainable/sustainability.
    USE: Solving climate change. LOSE: Ending global warming.
    USE: Principles and priorities. LOSE: Values.
    USE: Reliable technology/energy. LOSE: Ground-breaking/State of the art.
    USE: New careers. LOSE: New jobs.
    USE: Peace of mind. LOSE: Security.
    USE: Consequences. LOSE: Threats/Problems.
    USE: Working together. LOSE: One world.

    https://grist.org/article/the-gops-most-famous-messaging-strategist-calls-for-climate-action/

  75. ATTP, when I advance a similar argument about the use of the epithet ‘denier’–that users of the term are not the best judges of its appropriateness or impact–people on your side of the fence push back. Hard.

  76. Tom,
    I think you have this the wrong way around. My point was that people don’t get to decide how others should judge them, not that those who make judgements have no right to do so. If you don’t like the way Lukewarmers are perceived, you can either not care, consider if maybe the critics have a point, or stop associating with the term.

  77. Willard says:

    [POZZO] Why does the climate community concern itself so much with what their opponents say and write?

    [ALSO POZZO] when I advance a similar argument about the use of the epithet ‘denier’–that users of the term are not the best judges of its appropriateness or impact–people on your side of the fence push back.

  78. ATTP, it’s more that people don’t understand what Lukewarmism is, including many who have appropriated the title.

    You are a Lukewarmer if you think that atmospheric sensitivity falls below 3C. That’s all. It doesn’t mean you advocate or oppose this policy or that. It doesn’t mean you are for or against mitigation or adaptation. I doesn’t mean you side with any tribe in the conversation.

    Pretty simple, really.

  79. Tom,
    Again, I don’t think you get to determine how other people judge a label. Firstly, your very definition (atmospheric sensitivity falls below 3C) means that a Lukewarmer dismisses about half of the possible climate sensitivity range. Also, just because being a Lukewarmer might not mean that you advocate or oppose this policy, or that, doesn’t mean that there aren’t self-declared Lukewarmers who do advocate, or oppose, certain policies. If people you don’t agree with take over a label you identify with, you can’t really blame others for then judging that label on the basis of what those people advocate for, or oppose.

  80. I think “climate justice” is going to appeal to the same folks who are moved when they hear “black lives matter” and is likely to stir pushback from the same population that responds “all lives matter,” which is to say, I don’t think that argument is going move the needle on public opinion, understanding and support for significant climate action. I think we have to come up with a more effective presentation. If you don’t want to think about framing an argument, then maybe think about your vision for communicating the need for change to folks who are not convinced that we need to make a significant course correction.

    Maybe it makes sense to speak to the other side in terms of how all lives matter with climate change. We have no way of knowing whose life will end or be destroyed tomorrow by global warming. It might be people struggling with a typhoon in the Phillipines, or it might be people getting battered by tornadoes in Kentucky. This is the random and catastrophic nature of climate change. It puts everyone at risk. Truly, all lives matter.

  81. Willard says:

    > That’s all.

    Tell that to Mall King Coal:

    Many have begun to adopt a so-called ‘lukewarmer’ position, which means they now accept the basics of some since but don’t think it’s worth investing heavily today to prevent or limit a problem that will increasingly hit home in the decades ahead

    https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2015/05/14/lukewarmers/

    If I ripped off my shirt every time Climateball players misrepresented “Climateball,” I’d have no shirt left.

  82. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ben “What you really need is for the onlookers/referee (i.e. the non-scientists) to notice that your opponent is a cheat. ”

    Absolutely agree. Pointing out the rhetorical tricks your “opponent” is using is not playing dirty. I’d rather be discussing the substantive issue (whether it is science or values), but misinformation and rhetoric (in the pejorative sense).

    I skimmed an interesting looking article on the BBC website on three ways to be more rational this year, the bit that caught my eye was:

    Whenever we engage in an intellectual discussion, our goal ought to be to converge on the truth. But humans are primates – and often the goal is to become the alpha debater.

    Which sums up much on-line discussion.

  83. Willard says:

    > Truly, all lives matter.

    Repeating Freedom Fighters’ memes might not be the best way forward:

    The All Lives Matter slogan is typically associated with conservative views, and a rejection of the ideas supported by proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged in response to police brutality and ethnic violence.

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

  84. dikranmarsupial says:

    sorry, got distracted “but misinformation and rhetoric (in the pejorative sense)” should be “but misinformation and rhetoric (in the pejorative sense) is the last thing we want policy to be based on [ironically]”

  85. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I doesn’t mean you side with any tribe in the conversation.”

    Are “lukewarmers” not a “tribe” then?

    Not so much climateball as climate-Mornington-Crescent? ;o)

  86. russellseitz says:

    ATTP: Russell,
    Do you mean that cultural values can also exacerbate climate change through people moving to areas that require more energy use?

    Climate impacts cultural values to some degree. Visiting Siberia , I found the sign of the climate problem to be inverted in that Siberiaks complain less of the cold, than their whinging heating bills. In Soviet times , moving was not an option but Russians have been emigrating en masse since the 90’s , and as in America and Canada, those who can double down on their energy consumption by becoming snowbirds. The unifying cultural principal is simply a human dislike of outdoor temperature extremes.

    I’m surprised The Guardian hasn’t quantified the increase energy consumption arising from economic immigration from temperate climes. Tens of millions fleeing poverty have left the perpetual spring enjoyed in the highlands of Africa and Central & South America , to find employment in nations with real winters.

  87. Susan Anderson says:

    “All lives matter” is a useful illustration of rhetorical cheating. If it were honest, it would include black lives matter (lower case intentional). In fact, it is used in the good ole (in the pejorative sense of consciously or unconsciously racist) sense as a vehicle for attack. Same thing with “denial” and Luntz/Rove (see Schopenhauer (38 ways to win an argument) whom I have been informed was preceded by Socrates). Words are always an imperfect representation. Populist leaders and profiteers use them to cheat (consciously or unconsciously) and punters buy the slogans because they don’t have the time or energy or desire to figure out the source of the problems that make them resentful, and play follow the leader to whoever makes the most primitive appeal (see Aesop’s frogs who wanted a king). Since I don’t want to be misunderstood, I use “skeptic”, or unskeptical “skeptic” (sometimes simultaneously pointing out that hardworking scientists are the true skeptics: I’m a fast typist and frustrated/angry with word games that mislead).

    Rage over words is a terrible distraction. Replying to the unrepentant unskeptical “skeptic” only gives their arguments oxygen.

    @smallbluemike: The meaning of climate injustice can be trimmed and exploited too, but it’s useful Try Greta Thunberg, for example. [lovely clip of her chatting with the Dalai Lama in recent public TV show, now that is justice, and I’d include EO Wilson and The Ministry of the Future as good examples.

    @TWFuller: it is perfectly clear to anyone paying attention that 1.5C is already catastrophic. Try the weather and use a little imagination about what happens to poor people who are all too often caught living in places that are dangerous. Many Harvey victims, for example, were refugees from Katrina. And the well off are not immune (suburbs of Colorado).

  88. Susan Anderson says:

    “frustrated/angry” … “rage over words” – you could say I’m my own worst enemy. And so it goes …

  89. Susan,

    but it’s useful Try Greta Thunberg

    Yes, I think Greta Thunberg does a great job of communicating in a way that acknowledges both the scientific evidence and highlights the importance of fighting for justice.

  90. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > Sure, but as I understand Amy Westervelt’s article, it’s suggesting that focusing on justice will somehow be more effective than focusing on the science. What I guess I’m trying to understand is why this would be a better focus and, if it is, how it avoids appearing to legitimise other arguments that have a “fight for justice” component, that might be insincere, but will still appeal to some.

    Above is a discussion is whether this isn’t an either/or situation. I’d go a bit further.

    I’d say neither.

    I think if there’s an optimal approach, it’s to take step back and look at how this discussion has largely become a proxy ideological battle. In that a sense there’s not a real difference between a focus on justice or a focus on the science, as both get reduced to polarization and tribalism.

    Bringing this back to STS and all of that…and the use of “denier,”…the use of that term, like the use of “alarmist” is, imo, mostly an reflection of the underlying dynamic, where labeling and pejoratives serve an identity-defensive/identity-aggressive function.

    In a sense, I think, the STS folks are right in looking at how the communicative approach functions (productively or unproductively?) within the socio-political context even if, imo, their conclusions are mostly very wrong (and their public advocacy lacks insight when applying their theories to their own communication efforts).

  91. Joshua says:

    > I was going to respond in more detail, but since you’re misrepresenting what I’m saying, I won’t bother. Hope you have a good new year.

    Perhaps in that comment lies a prescription for a good new year’s resolution.

  92. Willard says:

    And then they do not move.

  93. believe the science or climate justice?

    Joshua says: “I’d say neither.

    I think if there’s an optimal approach, it’s to take step back and look at how this discussion has largely become a proxy ideological battle. In that a sense there’s not a real difference between a focus on justice or a focus on the science, as both get reduced to polarization and tribalism.”

    I agree with this analysis 100%. I love Greta Thunberg’s work, but she is easily reduced by polarization and tribalism, as well.

    If we want to see dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, we will need to communicate in a manner that reaches folks and is not easily reduced by polarization and tribalism. That is a tall order and one that the reactionary right has mastered much better than the scientific community or fact-respecting lefties have done to date.

    I think this is largely a struggle over the belief systems, polarization and tribalism of middle America. A similar struggle probably exists in most developed nations. Climate changel, and addressing climate change, appear to require that this slice of the global population will have to give some things up. They don’t want to do that generally. We need to formulate and engage in messaging that is direct and persuasive and cuts through the polarization and tribalism and that helps this population understand that in giving some things up is better than having everything taken away from you suddenly and disastrously, in a random manner.

    Fires burning through Denver suburbs and tornadoes ripping through Kentucky communities are opportunities to work on messaging and reach some folks, but the messaging regarding the role that climate change plays in these events needs to be unequivocal, gentle and wrapped in compassion for the losses that folks have suffered. I think of something like this:

    Global warming and extreme weather events can take away everything you care about in the blink of an eye. This can happen to you. You and your family can lose your lives in storms supercharged by global warming. This can happen to any of us. It’s time to act to stop global warming. We need to stop arguing and work together to reduce the dangers we face from global warming. We are all in this together.

    No mention of justice or science is needed. In fact, mentioning justice or science is probably counter-productive. I think these approaches have no traction outside the tribes where they are already popular and persuasive.

  94. Joshua,

    In that a sense there’s not a real difference between a focus on justice or a focus on the science, as both get reduced to polarization and tribalism.

    Yes, that’s probably true. It’s maybe a reason why the optimal stratgegy is for an individual to focus on what they regard as the right focus and not be too bothered by what others have chosen to focus on.

    I think one reason I get frustrated by some of what I see coming out of STS is that I think that it is important to consider the various issues that they consider. It’s just a pity that some of what they conclude seems unfortunate. For example, I don’t object to scholars studying the impact of Climategate, but it might be nice if they didn’t repeat “skeptic” myths when doing so. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with critiquing various science communication strategies, but maybe they should take more care when criticising ones that highlight things that are true.

  95. As long as you all are STILL arguing about the proper language/linguistic framing strategy of convincing others about the realities of near term climate change (e. g. the next several decades), let alone the long term realities of climate change, you have already lost the net zero by 20XX deadline.

    I start my argument by assuming all the White people of Planet Earth (including the Russians) have gotten the realities of climate change, are willing to do the necessary renewable buildouts starting today and are willing to make the deep financial and personal choices necessary for the non-White people of Planet Earth to actually understand that the Whites are really serious about taking active and massive engineering efforts as at the same time the Whites see the dynamics of a southeast Asian world dominated economy.

    Not a very good rant/screed/manifesto, even by my relatively poor standards, but there you have it, and it is about all the time I have to waste TALKING about climate change once more. Something along the lines of doing the same sting (should be thing but sting fits better here) over and over again.

  96. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua – “In that a sense there’s not a real difference between a focus on justice or a focus on the science, as both get reduced to polarization and tribalism. “

    It is almost as if people didn’t want to reach agreement and were using any opportunity to further polarize the discussion (in which case, it arguably isn’t the focus that is causing the polarisation).

  97. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    > It is almost as if people didn’t want to reach agreement and were using any opportunity to further polarize the discussion (in which case, it arguably isn’t the focus that is causing the polarisation).

    That’s consistent with my view.

    That’s why I think the optimal approach in a theoretical world would be to focus on the process by which (and the reasons why) the discussion gets polarized. I even have ideas for how that might be done.

    But in the real world I don’t see that happening in any realistic sense (at least until the impact of climate change is unambiguously threatening in the everyday lives of majorities in first world countries) – as people are too wedded to the ideological struggle.

  98. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua, I am not too sanguine. The reason the discussion gets polarized is very simple, which is that none of us in the developed world want to give up our standard of living. Polarizing the discussion is a means of preventing this from happening. Likewise arguing about the science is a means of avoiding discussing values (which is where we really disagree). There is nothing that can be done in terms of communication strategy that will overcome this, because the aim is to avoid communication. Until, as you rightly say “the impact of climate change is unambiguously threatening in the everyday lives of majorities in first world countries” at which point people will move to regretting not having sacrificed some of their lifestyle.

    I have tried to keep my discussion on the science and being reasonable (as I can) in discussions with skeptics and avoiding labels and politics. It doesn’t make any difference (except that some acknowledge you were polite while still not accepting very well established scientific facts).

    It is Mornington-Crescent – arguing about the rules and strategy of a game is the major part of the game now that it is clear that the science aspect is essentially over.

    I agree with ATTP, use what strategy seems right to you (preferably involving honesty and factual correctness etc.) – you can’t make someone agree with you, no matter how good your argument is, it simply isn’t under your control.

  99. russellseitz says:

    Dikran : ” The reason the discussion gets polarized is very simple, which is that none of us in the developed world want to give up our standard of living.”

    Corollary to which ,there is a strong desire to emulate that standard , and, as for the first time in history, the poor are increasingly in the minority an anti-Malthusian increase in CO2 supply is one result.

  100. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    > The reason the discussion gets polarized is very simple, which is that none of us in the developed world want to give up our standard of living.

    Could be, but I think it’s a bit more complicated.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/01/03/how-politics-got-so-polarized

  101. Willard says:

    FWIW, what we expect in the anglosphere does not exactly work the same outside of it:

    Among countries with a low human development index (HDI), the effects of education on climate change beliefs were positive for both those identifying with leftist ideology and those identifying with rightist ideology. For countries with high HDI, these effects were still positive for both leftists and rightists but were weaker for those with rightist ideology.

    In other words, rightist ideology appeared to weaken the positive effect of education on pro-climate change beliefs, but only in more developed countries. This effect was strongest when looking at respondents’ support for policies to mitigate climate change. As Czarnek and colleagues note, “This confirms previous findings indicating that when it comes to issues such as climate change, what is most divisive is not the characterization of the problem itself but the proposed solutions associated with the problem.”

    Only a few highly developed countries, such as the United States, showed a negative effect of education on climate change beliefs for rightists. The authors press the need to, “embrace non-US-centric approaches” to such large-scale issues carrying worldwide relevance.

    https://www.psypost.org/2020/10/the-link-between-education-and-support-for-climate-change-is-weaker-among-right-wing-ideologists-in-developed-countries-58330

    I suppose this is good news?

  102. Ben McMillan says:

    As usual, the people who can be convinced are not usually the ones scientists end up arguing with online. Getting the unengaged people in the middle, who are mostly not disputing the science, to actually pick your side and do something about it is crucial. And this is where I think Westervelt is hitting the target.

    And as Willard is noting, things are very different outside the Anglosphere. Indeed the politics are even very different between the US and the UK and Australia, or at different levels of government within these countries. There are also legal and financial levers on power (like divestment and consumer choice). We might just need to work around places and levels of government where the problems are intractable.

    I think this is largely a matter of time for certain issues: the places that are making progress are deploying enough clean technology that fossil fuel starts to look like the past. Various companies are now abandoning research and development on oil-powered cars.

  103. Ben,

    I think this is largely a matter of time for certain issues: the places that are making progress are deploying enough clean technology that fossil fuel starts to look like the past. Various companies are now abandoning research and development on oil-powered cars.

    Yes, I agree that this is becoming a matter of time for certain issues. One thing I’m finding is that I seem to swing from being quite positive about things (we do seem to be moving in the right direction) to thinking that we’re still not doing things fast enough and still not taking this as seriously as we probably should be (cumulative emissions are a key factor).

  104. dikranmarsupial says:

    Interesting article Joshua. I think in the U.K. the situation is rather different. The “great sorting” in British politics seems to have been there at least from the inception of the Labour party over a century ago, but in the last few decades the policy differences between them and the Conservative party seem to have considerably narrowed (starting with “New Labour”?). We have also shown that political divides can be overcome by self-interest, as demonstrated by the loss of “red wall” seats to the Conservatives over Brexit. So we have gone in the opposite direction, where party politics has become, if anything less polarised, but are still capable of being very highly polarised on specific issues.

    Of course social networking and the media feed polarisation and vice versa, but as the article says, a lot of this is false-polarisation caused by a lack of visibility for the majority who hold much less extreme positions (on climate change, I suspect mostly head-in-the-sand apathy because they have other concerns, such as keeping a roof over your head and having enough to eat, and so are keen to find reasons for climate to be a non-problem, or somebody else’s problem). So I fully agree with Ben up-thread, which is that we should speak to them when discussing climate rather than trying to convince the unconvinceable.

  105. Ben McMillan says:

    Outside the US, some of the climate justice stuff looks like the following:

    ATTP: I probably sound more optimistic than I really am, but I mostly just want to highlight areas where progress can and is being made. Reducing the damage as much as possible depends on everyone continuing to push on the levers that haven’t rusted into place.

  106. Ben,
    Yes, that’s a good example. However, I have also seen what seems to be valid criticism of the ways in which some are being exploited so as to mine minerals for renewables.

  107. Susan Anderson says:

    Deeds not words, but how can we get there? I recently read some descriptions of what it was like during World War II in England. Talk of a new “space program” looks at more, but in fact we need to face less. But how can the world be persuaded it’s that serious? The haves don’t want to see the have nots, because it might make their(/my) poor little consciences hurt. We’ve spent the last few years enabling the wealthy and powerful in a massive takeover, and most people want to join them (and think that’s possible), not stop them. And that’s just the beginning.

  108. Susan Anderson says:

    Clarification: addressing climate change as if it were like a space race, what I meant.

  109. Ben McMillan says:

    It isn’t that the inactivists have no moves at all in the domain of ‘justice and equity’, just that I think their position is pretty weak (and they look insincere suddenly trying to play this game).

    Also, getting the renewables industry to use, e.g. less cobalt, and clean up where they source it from, seems like a win to me…

  110. Ben,

    It isn’t that the inactivists have no moves at all in the domain of ‘justice and equity’, just that I think their position is pretty weak (and they look insincere suddenly trying to play this game).

    Indeed. Their concern for those who are living in poverty, or those how are being exploited, never seems to involve actually doing something to help them.

  111. I will pass on quote from Ray Ladbury in comments at Real Climate:
    “I believe the situation with folks posting bullshit to blogs and social media can be likened to a statement of the 2nd law of thermodynamics I like:

    If you add a teaspoon of wine to a gallon of sewage, you get sewage.

    If you add a teaspoon of sewage to a gallon of wine, you get sewage.

    Bullshit/disinformation/flak is not merely deceptive, it is extremely disruptive.”

    I think the lomborgians are aware of these formulas and the impacts.

    Cheers
    Mike

  112. ATTP, your cynicism is showing. I’m sure of course that you’ve actually looked at the humanitarian efforts, or lack thereof, of your opponents in the climate conversation, and can produce volumes of evidence of our heartlessness.

  113. russellseitz says:

    “If you add a teaspoon of wine to a gallon of sewage, you get sewage.

    If you add a teaspoon of sewage to a gallon of wine, you get sewage.”

    Thank’s Mike. Ray must have tasted Chateau Musar

  114. Willard says:

    > I’m sure of course that you’ve actually looked at the humanitarian efforts

    Beware your wishes:

  115. mrkenfabian says:

    “The reason the discussion gets polarized is very simple, which is that none of us in the developed world want to give up our standard of living.”

    The depth of the reliance on fossil fuels for economic prosperity looked a lot more absolute when the climate issue emerged into prominence – we’ve come a long way that governments can even bring themselves to say we are able to commit to energy abundance without them.

    Economic fear that addressing the issue in any substantial way – strong climate policy – must result in loss of prosperity looked reasonable, were widely held as unassailable and was promoted in support of inaction. A lot of activist rhetoric worked (and still does) on assumptions that using less must be the principal response and was about getting people to act responsibly and make do with less, reinforcing perceptions that to be effective climate action means being poorer. It may not have begun as an intrinsically alarmist economic argument – it was a concern with real basis – but it has become much more of an alarmist (false fear) argument as renewable energy began to be taken up seriously at larger scale.

    The fear of commitment to clean energy leading to economic harm – “worse than the problem” – has been such an effective use of alarmist fear that it is a clear counter-example to assumptions that the rhetoric of alarm is intrinsically counterproductive. But it is a fear that has an immediacy about it that concerns about climate impacts don’t. Despite global warming looking like it will hurt prosperity a LOT more in the long run – slowly, but a lot more thoroughly – the use of that fear in combination with an abundance of counter-messaging and misinformation that has an imprimatur of credibility works better against action than for it.

    For fear of global warming to be effective we need top down unequivocal messaging that supports the reality of those fears – which looks to me like it was always an obligation for our governments based on duty of care; making the issue about elected leaders doing the popular will of the (uninformed and misinformed) electorate and not about the responsibilities and duties of those holding positions of trust and responsibility has been a profound abrogation of that responsibility – and looks to me like serious negligence. Through another lens that would be criminally negligent.

    I think people will willingly give up a lot when the messaging from top down about the need is clear and unequivocal – and those holding those high positions of trust make clear they have no tolerance for those who are deliberately misleading the public.

  116. Joshua says:

    > Indeed. Their concern for those who are living in poverty, or those how are being exploited, never seems to involve actually doing something to help them.

    I will actually say, I think that statement should be held to a standard of evidence.

    It threatens to run afoul of the fundamental attribution error unless it is further justified.

    Pesonally, I’d say it’s complicated to draw a through line from views on climate change to levels of concern about people who live in poverty or actions to help them. Maybe it can be done, but I think it wouldn’t be straightforward and there’s that whole “more diversity within groups than there is comparing averages across groups” thingy.

  117. Joshua,
    You’re right, I should have been more circumspect. I’m sure there are some who are genuinely concerned about helping those in poverty. However, my impression is that some of this kind of rhetoric is aimed more at protecting their own privileges than actually helping those who are less advantaged than they are.

  118. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Sure. But that’s pretty much what “they” day about “us.”

    “Think of the poors” is a regular at WUWT and a staple of RPJr. and the eco-modernist manifesto crowd.

    I do think that there’s an argument to be made there, particularly with the involvement of the fossil fuel industry (and negative externalities) but it has to be made and not just assumed, imo. It’s just too easy to assume (speaking for myself).

  119. Joshua,
    Yes, I agree that there’s an argument to be made. I even partly agree with it and I’m sure some who make it are doing so out of genuine concern. I even think some of the ecomodernist arguments may well be genuine. I do think, though, that quite a lot of the “think of the pools” type arguments are not.

  120. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Here’s a take.

    I’m pretty sure when I make an argument in the vein of “think of the poors” I’m actually expressing concern about the poor.

    I often think when I read that argument being made at some place like WUWT, it seems to me cynical and exploitative. It usually seems to me essentially like when “skeptics” exploit “censorship” or “authoritarianism” (e.g., “But Lysenko!”) to justify hating on “alarmists.”

    I generally assume that most people are actually concerned about the poor even while having varying views about how to best help the poor; but substantively driving the conversation (in contrast to people’s underlying “motivations”) is a reflexive desire to denegrate the “other” and feel a kind of self-satisfaction by elevating “us.”

    I can often see such mechanisms at play in myself – generally when I apply standards to “others” and go a little lighter on the trigger against one of “us.”

    I see good reason to think those are basic human cognitive and psychological patterns. And I think that when I see “but think of the poors,” at WUWT there’s a high probability that someone there saying “think of the poors” thinks they really mean it and thinks if they see me say “think of the poors” I’m being cynical and exploitative of poor people so as to leverage tribal antipathies.

    So I guess when I see “think of the poors” at WUWT I see a cynical and exploitative argument being made by someone who probably really does care about the poor but disagrees with me about how to best help them. I’m not sure that the two positions are mutually exclusive, and maybe that’s an important thing to keep in mind.

    So then, am I also someone who cares about the poors AND who leverages poor people to score points in ideological warfare? All I can say is that I like to think not, and I work hard to examine for that mechanism in myself. In contrast, if I raise this with someone from WUWT, I will virtually always get a facile argument where whomever I am discussing this with uniformly distinguishes “us” from “them” in a way that just screams fundamental attribution error. So that is where I can draw something I’d what I tbink is a legitimate distinction. I’ll say, “Yup, these patterns do play out on both sides” wheras my interlocutor rejects that reality flat out.

    So imo, a flat rejection that it’s a “both sides” reality can be ruled out. Anyone who holds to that view just isn’t willing to really grapple with these issues in a deep way, imo.

    So that, imo, gives me a leg up in a sense. But it doesn’t really give me evidence that “they” actually care about the poors any less than “we” do.

    But given that I’m making an argument that’s grounded in what I consider a reality and they’re making an argument that I tbink is a fantasy, probabilities suggest that in general I’m closer to being able to recognize and account for my own hypocricies where they exist.

    Now some people who research this stuff say that no one can really affect any real influence over their own hypocrisy. Could be. But I don’t think that’s a lock and I’m willing to leverage the possibility that there’s enough wiggle room to be meaningful.

    I know…too long and tutored to probably follow… but thought I’d give it a shot.

  121. Joshua,
    I can’t quite tell if you’re suggesting that even if WUWT arguments about the poor sound disingenuous, they might not be, or if you’re suggesting that they clearly are and that you can identify this.

  122. dikranmarsupial says:

    “So then, am I also someone who cares about the poors AND who leverages poor people to score points in ideological warfare?”

    I don’t think anybody does anything for pure (in the sense of unalloyed, rather than good) motives, and I don’t think we are consciously fully aware of our motivations. Whether this is a bug or a feature is to some degree under our control. Having said which, arguments that are correct and consistent remain good arguments even when used with questionable motivation. I think it is better to focus on the content of the argument rather than the motivation. At least the content of the argument ought to be openly available to us, I for one certainly can’t read minds.

  123. I may express this poorly, but how I judge an argument depends somewhat on whether or not they’re actively arguing for doing something, or arguing against doing something. In other words, I’m more positive towards those who seem to be arguing for us actually doing something to help people, and less positively inclined towards those who seem to be arguing against doing something because of some supposed harm that this activity would incur. Clearly, there will be exceptions, but I tend to think that if you really care about an issue you should be promoting arguments that would actively address that issue, rather than simply opposing arguments that you suggest would do harm to those you supposedly care about.

  124. I should probably add that there will clearly be cases where it is the case that some proposed activity will do more harm than good. However, even in this case, an argument against this would seem more reasonable if a viable alternative is offered, rather than simply opposing the proposed activity.

  125. Ben McMillan says:

    As usual, CarbonBrief do a great job explaining some of this:

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-qa-what-is-climate-justice

  126. Ben,
    Thanks, I had seen that but had forgotten about it.

  127. I just read the Carbon Brief piece on climate justice https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-qa-what-is-climate-justice
    It is an impressive presentation and makes me think Westervelt is correct. Climate justice as explained in the CB piece is not a meme or jargon, it assumes the legitimacy of the science and suggests/demands real and consequential actions in the world. This has been a really interesting discussion to follow. Talking the talk. The day may come where we begin to walk the walk described in this Carbon Brief article. A lot of the “haves” and “have mores” will continue to resist joining the walk. I understand their reticence.

  128. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > I can’t quite tell if you’re suggesting that even if WUWT arguments about the poor sound disingenuous, they might not be, or if you’re suggesting that they clearly are and that you can identify this.

    Ha. Good response. And your next one.

    Dikran, yours too. Have to think about them.

  129. Bob Loblaw says:

    I am surprised that nobody has linked to this XKCD cartoon yet.

    https://xkcd.com/2368/

  130. Bob,
    Yes, that is quite a good illustration of what the issue sometimes seems to be. One reason I tend to sympathise with classical environmentalists is because they seem to be genuinely trying to solve some important issues, even if I disagree with some of their methods, or with some of their preferred solutions (I don’t think their tendency to oppose nuclear helps). On the other hand, I find the hippie-bashing coming from some on the ecomodernist side of the debate particularly unhelpful and, often, disingenuous.

  131. Susan Anderson says:

    Sometimes I find myself wondering if any of you know any people stuck on the treadmill of low pay and substandard housing. These are the people who live within the ambit of toxic emissions from extraction industries, in the flood zones that those with money can move away from, in the crowded less appealing places where they can get to work. Public transit is more expensive than cars, and it keeps getting less funds than roads for the privileged. They get the worst schools, the least access to affordable healthy food, right down the line. In the UK, that’s supposed to be “leveling up” but mostly it’s turning a blind eye.

    One common climate justice effort is upgrading existing housing in less privileged communities.

    I’ve been hearing about UK subsidies for improvements which mostly benefit the haves.

    It’s not an abstract concept, and it affects most people everywhere. Fracking is known to damage the water supply. Flaring is an abomination. In the US right-leaning authorities save money by defunding clean water for communities which don’t have the power to demand better. Nobody wants to know. Hide the suffering, quick! Get rid of the homeless, so we don’t have to see them.

    I sound sour even to myself, but can we please have a bit more honesty about how most people live?

  132. Susan,

    Sometimes I find myself wondering if any of you know any people stuck on the treadmill of low pay and substandard housing.

    That’s a fair point. I probably don’t, even though I’m aware that we often don’t appreciate how difficult some people’s lives are.

    I sound sour even to myself, but can we please have a bit more honesty about how most people live?

    Indeed. One problem I have is that I realise that I don’t really understand how many people live, even though I’ve travelled quite extensively and have lived in many parts of the world. Consequently, I feel uncomfortable commenting on this because I realise that I probably don’t understand this well enough to make an informed comment. It’s not because I don’t think about this, or don’t care about this. It’s because I don’t really know what to say.

  133. Thank you, Susan. My partner and I have numerous young friends who really struggle to avoid homelessness. One of these people has been living in her car now for several months. We have taken people in for months or years at a time over the past 15 years, but this young person has mental health issues and won’t get vaccinated and I don’t think we can take a chance with covid, so we are paypaling a few bucks from time to time. I think we are lucky that our children and grandchildren are all healthy and doing pretty well these days.

    I have a brother with mental health issues that lives in a house that I hold in trust for him from my parents’ estate. When he is delusional he tends to take the house apart. Right now it has no kitchen sink and he has disconnected the hot wires on the hot water tank because the idea of having two hot legs, a neutral leg and a bare ground wire does not make sense to him. I pay folks to go and try to fix things from time to time, but they sometimes show up and get directed to other weird tasks. I did manage to replace the ancient hvac system last year with a nice, efficient heat pump system, so the house is warm and will be cool next summer. This long distance “brother’s keeper” thing is a real grind. I was younger and more energetic when I set up this arrangement for my brother a couple decades ago. I anticipated more help and support from other family members and that has not panned out. It’s just me and my spouse scratching our heads and trying to determine how to make our help count. I prefer spending time with my grandkids. That arrangement wears me out, but it has functioned as it was meant to: my brother has never lived on the street.

    Yeah, it sounds sour. It’s easy for others to talk about tough love, etc. I am simply inclined to help my friends and family if they ask for help. The question I ask myself is: will this help really help? Folks can fail with or without my help. I try to make sure my help helps.

  134. russellseitz says:

    Never underestimate the importance of homelessness in the Climate Wars.

    In Thank You For Not Smoking, Christopher Buckley, no stranger to K-Street , observed that what keeps such wars going is that PR flacks left, right, and center have mortgages to pay and etended families to shelter

  135. Susan Anderson says:

    @Russell – yes, pundits gotta make a living, and they’re not about to give up the gravy train. Whether I like them or not, they do tend to go on and on because that’s their “job”. Redesigning occupations takes time and initiative, and the “rent” gets in the way.

  136. Susan Anderson says:

    aTTP, yes, you are thoughtful and compassionate, and I appreciate that. It was more the general drift of the rather highfalutin’ nature of the extended discussion that got me so irritated … and not just here. If only we all were more imaginative and treated others as we wish to be treated more. Once piece of my experience is that I have been forced to be in close quarters with a number of black and brown people over my lifetime, and it took me a long time to appreciate the perils of living while Black. It’s daily, not just once in a while, particularly for “uppity” young Black men. The ghettoization of entire populations has gone on for so long, and is so pervasive, that those of us on the outside tend to miss how bad it is.

    One extreme example: Obama was targeted by police in the parking lot when he was a senator. [Traffic court in New Jersey was a revelation to me: debt is used to keep people down too, with fines piled on fines for people barely making a living wage. And not all those “offenses” were real either; I don’t get stopped for speeding very often (of course, I don’t normally overdo it), and I can see the police looking at a white woman and deciding to ignore me as long as I don’t cross the line.] This is somewhat OT, but I just don’t think people realize how common and how bad it is unless they are stuck in a situation where it’s impossible to miss, like I was.

  137. Susan,
    Thanks. I think it was Season 3 of the Serial podcast (which I listened to some time ago) that highlighted some really disturbing ways in which the US justice system can sometimes work.

  138. Susan Anderson says:

    A practical illustration of the costs involved (there’s a list near the end of areas with similar problems). Interesting that residents want to use the law to enforce the building of roads where they shouldn’t be built, too.

  139. russellseitz says:

    yes, pundits gotta make a living, and they’re not about to give up the gravy train.

    CFACT, the GWPF and the Heartland Institute seem united in the defense of a single principal:

    Don’t Give Up The Grift.

    After witnessing Marc Morano’s patter in the company of Andy Revkin, I told the next environmental foundation executive I met that the most cost effective way to undo the damage to climate policy he and his minions have done would be too offer to double their long-term compensation packages if they did a 180 degree turn

  140. I listen sometimes to the Philosophize This podcast. I thought the podcasts on Francis Bacon and one on Thomas Hobbes had a lot to say about the language we use.

    I also liked the Hobbesian Leviathan idea that somehow would enforce various social contracts. I am mulling the Leviathan idea as I watch the GOP in US try to enthrone an anti-science leviathan alternative to overturn/re-interpret or replace various social contracts that have existed in the US for decades or longer. Here are the links for those who want to listen to the episodes.

    https://www.philosophizethis.org/podcast/thomas-hobbes
    https://www.philosophizethis.org/podcast/francis-bacon-scientific-method

    Cheers
    Mike

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