Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Immense Good Will


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?

(Ad at top via The Guardian.)

17 comments:

xan said...

Oooohh...*fierce applause.*

No way I can match the rapier-wielding just displayed, so think of me as the schlub clomping in with broom, shovel and bucket to scoop up the remains off the floor...

If climate-change "believers" are wrong, and we spend lots of money converting (for the overdeveloped world ) or installing (for everybody else) renewable energy sources and generally transitioning off of carbon-releasing energy and activities, in 40 years we have, what exactly? A happier, more productive human race, a healing planet, and at least a smidge of hydrocarbons left over in case somebody finds a good and safe use for them.

If on the other hand the denialists are wrong but insist we wait 40 years for the absolute proof to come in, we're screwed. The seed corn is eaten, the field's a desert anyway (or flooded, depending), there's nothing left to build on. Technological civilization at a minimum is gone, along with 80-90% or so of the human race and most of the biosphere. done, fucked and ruined as they say.

I do not understand these people. Failure of imagination? It's easy to say pure greed, but how much money--or simply being used to making money in a particular way--does it take to get someone to kill their grandchildren? It has to be that they really believe their babble...but how can that be?

O well. You said it brilliantly to begin with so, speaking of babble, I should shut up. thank you.

Dash RIPROCK III said...

Anyone who rights off skeptics as being shills for big oil or coal while ignoring the financial windfall that Al Gore will experience if cap and trade become a reality in the U.S.A. isn't really applying the same critical eye to both sides. One also shouldn't discount the impact research dollars have had on this debate.

You also left out the harm being caused be alarmists policies now. As for the price of food continues to increase, fewer and fewer of the world's hungry will have access to afforable food.

I'd love for you to explain why we've actually had higher CO2 levels during an ice age than we have now. I'd also like to know what you think of regulating CO2 as pollution when commercial greenhouses keep the CO2 levels very high up to 1000 ppm in order to benefit plants?

The idea that there in no cost if the alarmist are wrong is pure nonsense. We're already paying a price now. Try not to be so one sided in the future.

Anonymous said...

Yay! Phila's back and in fine fuckin' fettle!

--unequal_monica_nyc

Phila said...

Anyone who rights off skeptics as being shills for big oil or coal while ignoring the financial windfall that Al Gore will experience if cap and trade become a reality in the U.S.A. isn't really applying the same critical eye to both sides.

Unless, of course, you look at which side has more scientific support, and you're capable of recognizing that this evidence doesn't stand or fall with Algore.

One also shouldn't discount the impact research dollars have had on this debate.

Yep. 'Cause as I've said before, the best way to earn lots and lots of research money is to declare that the science is officially "settled."

You also left out the harm being caused be alarmists policies now.

Anyone who complains about "alarmist" policies while ignoring the destructive effects of denialist and inactivist policies isn't really applying the same critical eye to both sides.

I'd love for you to explain why we've actually had higher CO2 levels during an ice age than we have now.

Here's one theory.

I'd also like to know what you think of regulating CO2 as pollution when commercial greenhouses keep the CO2 levels very high up to 1000 ppm in order to benefit plants?>

Since I have no idea what you think this is supposed to prove, or even to imply, I don't really know how to respond to it. I guess the simplest point I can make is that a greenhouse is not a planet. What's appropriate and manageable when you're growing orchids is not necessarily appropriate and manageable on a global scale.

Beyond that, I'll say the same thing to you that I say to every denialist who wanders over here: Unlike you, I don't pretend to know more about the climate than thousands of scientists who've devoted their lives to studying it. If you have solid scientific evidence against AGW, you should present it to the relevant experts and scientific bodies, and I'll change my mind when they do. The embarrassment I'd suffer would be nothing next to the relief I'd feel if the consensus view turned out to be wrong.

Failing that, you could provide compelling, verifiable evidence of an international multidecade conspiracy to falsify climate research. (Situational ad hominem doesn't count, sorry.)

If you can't do either of these things, then please refrain from wasting any more of my time with your harebrained horseshit.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Phila, you were way tooo nice to that shitwhistling denialist moron.

But you're a nice guy, I know...

Joe Blow said...

waaaaaayyyy too nice

grouchomarxist said...

They set themselves up ...

... and Phila knocks them down!

Glad to see you're back and in fine rhetorical fetter.

grouchomarxist said...

"Fetter"?

(sound of head banging against wall)

Fettle, of course. And no, I wasn't having a B & D daydream at the time.

Jazzbumpa said...

Actually, Manson WAS the dangerous lunatic-ish new Christ. He just hasn't yet gotten around to dying for our alarmist policies.

Which reminds me: Oh, what sad times these are when passing environmental alarmists can impugn at will the ethical sense of tapeworms.

Love, I mean really LOVE Dan's deconstruction of the Mockton- Malmsey graph.

Fine Rant, Phriend Phila.

Other than that, I got nuthin'.

steve simels said...

Anyone who rights off skeptics as being shills for big oil or coal while ignoring the financial windfall that Al Gore will experience if cap and trade become a reality in the U.S.A. isn't really applying the same critical eye to both sides.
Right. Al Gore is in this for the money.

Seriously -- to paraphrase David Huddlestone in "Blazing Saddles", the above is a perfect example of rightwing projection.

I can't think of a stupider argument, actually.

trittico said...

I'd also like to know what you think of regulating CO2 as pollution when commercial greenhouses keep the CO2 levels very high up to 1000 ppm in order to benefit plants?er, ah, um,

Is it because WE DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A FUCKING COMMERCIAL GREENHOUSE?

just sayin'

Anonymous said...

n95 surgical mask

Steve Gimbel said...

I could not be more pleased to see the phrase "civil fuckin' discourse" in use.

cavjam said...

Dash RIPROCK is neither brilliant Swiftian satirist nor ineducable protoplasm who doesn't know shift key from CAPSLOCK. He's somewhere in between.

(The whole "money to be made" schtick is pretty funny. A researcher who wanted more funding would actually invariably portray the question as not yet answered - "More research needed.")

Chris Tucker said...

OK, I have this REALLY BIG GROWTH on my chest. 50 different oncologists have diagnosed it as a cancer. Easily treatable with surgery and a short round of chemo and perhaps a session of radiation treatment.

1 holistic New Age healer, in consultation with his higher self and the Akashic Records, tells me that it's an imbalance of humors in my body. Too much black phlegm, and recommends a course of leeches, bleeding, crystal therapy, and perhaps some aromatherapy.

So, as a rational individual, who do I believe, which therapy to I choose?

The majority of educated and experienced experts in their field, or Moonchild Wolfspirit, Master Healer in Taos, New Mexico (Formerly Herschel Lipschitz, CPA, of Hicksville, Long Island)?

Which is the rational choice, based on my enlightened rational and, dare I say it, "Objective" self interest?

Thomas Fuller said...

Well, I don't know how far you've advanced the discussion with your rant, but I hope you feel better, at any rate.

I appreciate your putting your words into my mouth and, apparently, thoughts into my mind that I would never have considered without your assistance. But it looks like it pleases your fans and even inspired a troll, so I imagine it gets you through the night.

As I've had the opportunity to interview some of the more notable skeptics, I, at least, know that they do not match your description at all. As I have also had the opportunity to interview some of those who champion your point of view (I'm assuming), I can also take some comfort in the fact that they are not very much like you either.

Have fun

Tom Fuller

Phila said...

Mr. Fuller,

For the record, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth. I'm reacting (irritably, I concede) to what seem to me to be the practical implications of your stance, given that a lot of "skeptical" arguments are advanced in bad faith.

While I don't expect you to appreciate the tone, I do hope you'll recognize that there are serious concerns underlying it. I believe the planet's in danger, for one thing.

Thanks for the feedback!