As all good centrists know, extremism in defense of moderation is no vice. If I call Charles Manson a dangerous lunatic, and Squeaky Fromme calls him the new Christ, sensible people will naturally stake out the middle ground while awaiting further evidence.
As Thomas Fuller reminds us, the same logic applies to climate change:
The question before us all today is whether global warming is the major challenge confronting our generation or is it a chimera, a ghost story to be told around a campfire?Fuller says that we'll know which of these claims is true in thirty years. Which is very judicious of him, God knows. It's ever so balanced and measured and nonpartisan and objective to treat the IPCC reports and The Great Global Warming Swindle as equally plausible interpretations of climate data.
I'm tempted to argue that Fuller is being disingenuous. But according to him, I can't do this without committing a grave sin against Civility. Although we differ strongly on the likelihood that AGW will turn out to be a "ghost story," we must each acknowledge the other's basic honesty and good will.
People are not campaigning for reductions in energy use as a hobby. They do it because they believe the planet is in danger. Scientists do not enter a career with the idea that they will perpetuate a fraud on an unsuspecting public. They are trying to explain the data they find. On the other side, skeptics are not protesting because they like being trashed in the media. They do it because they believe we should be solving other problems. When people of immense good will are calling each other names, there is something badly wrong with the way we are conducting the discussion.Fair enough. If Lord Monckton's detractors stop calling him a fraud and a fool, and he stops calling them socialist bedwetters, we can all get on with more important things...like admiring the colorful new graph he cobbled together over a bottle or two of Malmsey.
Notice that Fuller doesn't say "skeptics are not protesting because they're bought-and-paid-for industry shills with the ethical sense of a tapeworm." Instead, he tries to disabuse his readers of a nonsensical opinion that none of them actually holds. If I weren't convinced of his immense good will, I'd suspect that he's trying to advance the denialist myth that the mass media have been inhospitable to skeptics, while passing himself off as some sort of modern Socrates.
On the bright side, Fuller supports cap-and-trade, space-based solar panels, raising CAFE standards, improving public transportation, and all sorts of other potentially admirable things. He also wants us "to bring the poorest third of the world's population onto the grid -- converting them from reliance on wood and animal dung for fuel to available electricity powered by natural gas." Apparently, once we've filled the exosphere with solar panels, there'll be none left over for the poor.
Electrifying the developing world with natural gas isn't mere humanitarian busywork, by the way; it's also good PR.
This would...prove that our concerns about climate change do not amount to little more than an exercise in vanity.The only alternative, I guess, would be to ask the poorest third of the world's population to take our immense good will on faith. And that'd be dumb.
Fuller has a special closing message for skeptics (who, you'll recall, aren't yelling "it's the sun, stupid!" because they enjoy being seen as invincibly ignorant loudmouths).
Above all, to the skeptics I say, first and foremost remain skeptics--there hasn't been enough skepticism on this issue yet, and it sorely needs it.Arise, take up thy bed, and walk! Just don't accuse people who disagree with you of being "demons or conspirators," when they're far more likely to be garden-variety dingbats and hysterics who'll look ineffably silly in thirty years. As for you dingbats and hysterics, stop calling the skeptics names. After all, their immense good will is a match for your own. At the very least.
We can only hope that from this day forward, climate scientists, erratic British peers, faux-populist Fox News hosts, retired petroleum geologists, and undistinguished economists from conservatarian thinktanks will put aside all the name-calling and conspiracy theories, and meet each other as equals on the field of sober scientific inquiry. What could they possibly have to lose?
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