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Archive for May, 2011

BPSDB Disempowering ourselves again

It’s unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction,” Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.

Disaster Needed for U.S. to Act on Climate Change, Harvard’s Stavins Says

The argument that people will not do anything until it starts to affect them has probably been around for all of history. Certainly it is an old one with respect to climate change. The most recent iteration by Harvard economist Robert Stavins.

I was not able to find  much response to Stavins in the climate science blogosphere, perhaps because we have repeatedly been here before. However, there were two which illustrate several of the false assumptions that tend to get associated with this argument:

  1. What do we mean by “affect”?

  2. “Act” or react?

  3. Why catastrophe? Why Wait?

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Let’s start by noting that what is being referred to is what is known as “trigger events” in discussions of political activism. Trigger events are things that spike public awareness of a particular issue, for good or ill.

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BPSDB

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Hat tip to Magnus and Gareth

The F-bomb again, sigh. Maybe Tobis really has fundamentally altered the tone of climate science discussion? OK, they are climate scientists, there are actual facts and some legitimate political commentary in there, enjoy.

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BPSDB

Nothing New Under the Sun

Science in the days of John Tyndall, the man who in the mid 19th century identified the greenhouse gases (the greenhouse effect itself was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824) certainly had to deal with Deniers.

After all, it was a period of great scientific discovery, including Darwin’s Evolution by Natural Selection. Scientific discoveries that threatened orthodoxy and ignorance.

Tyndall knew the consequences of Denial and the measure of the people who wallow in it:

It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our taste.” ~ John Tyndall

He also knew how much point there was to presenting them with facts and reason in the hope that they would assess the facts fairly and objectively:

Religious feeling is as much a verity as any other part of human consciousness; and against it, on the subjective side, the waves of science beat in vain.”

So it’s no surprise that Tyndall took the time to try and help educate a broader public about science and scientific matters (“Fragments of science for unscientific people“). Those were simpler times when gentlemen wrote books and gave public talks for other gentlemen. Now with dozens of different types of media and instant global communication that can potentially reach almost any inhabitant on the planet the art of communication has become mind boggling.

Actually it’s not particularly any more complicated or difficult than it ever was, it’s just more incoherent and bewildering. What could and needed to be done was easier to discern then, now it is not so obvious, but the fundamentals remain the same.

In an earlier post I spoke of the need for a coherent, proactive media strategy. It is not my intent to lay one out, but rather to talk about what a media strategy is and what some of the options might be for implementation.

Further, as I stated in another earlier post: “Granted the climate science community is a loose network of a broad spectrum of individuals and groups, with occasional nodes that might be described as coalitions and the like, so I am not suggesting a unified strategy. It’s not only impractical, it’s probably impossible.

Even so, it is possible for us to have a loose strategy that is constantly discussed and reviewed, and which many in the network implement in ways that are suited to their strengths and abilities.

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As long as we’re on the topic  (for the last time, at least for a good long while) I decided to move this post up (and several others still to appear).

The context is this video by Katie Goodman of Broad Comedy. It’s a little ditty that uses “f**ked” as a hook and to entertain, but that nonetheless touches on some important points relevant to mobilizing the public.

For most of the points I am going to do no more than note them in the expectation of returning to them at some later time. You may argue that I read too much into a comedic song, but I think that the lyrics resonate with the audience because they touch on truths regardless of the light nature of this particular context.

OK, that’s understated. In a microcosm it pretty much sums up where we are and why we are stuck here.  Kudos to Katie for raising those points, but the really scary interesting  scary thing about this video is the comments people made about it.

First watch the video if you care to (and are not too offended by the F-word) and then we can get to my points.

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When I first saw the video my immediate thought was that it should be the anthem for the youth climate justice movement. Let’s take a quick walk through some of the lyrics:

There’s never been a time
as fucked up as this

No argument there, not for humans anyway. Maybe the Toba eruption, and I understand the PETM was pretty nasty for most species, but that’s pedantic quibbling.

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BPSDB

Yes, yes, naturally I realize that it isn’t actually meant as praise, it is clearly meant to be an insult.

However, Dr Curry really needs to actually read what she praises and what she condemns (like that was news).

What Dr Curry has done is cite “Science Abuse” on the site “Muck and Mystery” and say “the best way I can characterize this is the “anti-Greenfyre.

The piece “Science Abuse” alleges to critique Chris Mooney’s recent Mother Jones piece “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science“. What M&M actually does is:

  • make many frankly ridiculous and idiotic claims (all unsupported).
  • make almost no reference to actual facts, and none for the important points.
  • cite & misrepresent popular media articles as evidence of problems with the scientific literature, and relies on a source that repeats (is the source of?) those errors
  • is rife with logic failures: Straw Man, Red Herring, False Analogy, Circumstantial Ad Hominems, Hasty Generalizations (to name but a few).
  • etc

About the only bits that make for semi-coherent reading are cribbed from this piece, which in turn bases it’s entire case on some Cherry Picked examples and a single study which in turn, if you actually read it, is a work that uses modeling (the irony), basing it’s work on three studies from the rather narrow sub-sub-sub-discipline of Genetic Associations.

I guess the blog “M&M” got named for consisting largely of a soft, brown substance coated with a colourful, nutritionless veneer? I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions from the fact that Dr Curry seems to think the M&M piece is worth reading.

So in summary, if we flip those around (ie M&M is the anti-Greenfyre), then what Dr Curry is really saying is that she is characterizing Greenfyre’s as:

  • having coherent, logical arguments
  • being evidence and fact based
  • claims made are substantiated with credible sources
  • is accurate, relevant and rational

I don’t know what to say. Thank you Dr Curry, thank you, but really, there are so many out there who are just as, if not much more deserving. Many, many good people who write coherent, fact based blogs, and who richly deserve the high compliment that being casually dismissed by you truly is. I wear it as an expletive of honour.

In it’s short life this blog has received

The Woodie Gutherie Award for a Thinking Blogger

The Tea Bagger Bury List of Achievement

The PopTart’s Incoherent Slander Campaign of Merit

and now, the much coveted

Ass Backwards Terminally Bewildered Curry Prize

I’m blushing … it really is all too much.  I’d like to thank Mom …

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ALERT! The climate change Deniers have acquired a powerful new skill! Apparently they are now able to actually use a search engine!

What do you suppose tipped them off? the pictures on my FaceBook page? the articles I’ve written about it? the radical new concept of actually looking for information?

The delicious irony of discovering this immediately after writing a post about how the climate change Deniers are completely incapable of discerning what is relevant from what isn’t is just too funny.

Well this sure puts the lie to my claim that the Deniers wallow in irrational ad hominems rather than try to cope with the fact that they have absolutely no science or evidence to support their delusions.

However, the seemingly random way in which Deniers process the world is truly scary. On the one hand you have the apparent inability to recognize the simple causation chain of CO2 = GHG, humans add CO2 to atmosphere, Earth warms.

On the other hand you have the belief that bandying about totally irrelevant nonsense about people who are able to make the simple association given above is somehow relevant to the science, or that it in some way affects the facts.

What do these people do when they need a clean shirt? put the cat in the oven? plant onions? No wonder these people are frightened. How terrifying would it be to live in a world where you cannot cognitively connect relevant information and instead just randomly associate things and events?

What next for the Deniers ? basic literacy?

Hey Poptart … I also used to collect stamps, liked trout fishing, was really into reading Faulkner (although I did have a SciFi phase in my teens), and made my own sour dough bread for years. There you go, run wild!

Is there any hope that they will ever figure out that the way you discuss science is by actually looking at the science and discussing it? It sure doesn’t look promising.

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BPSDB

Fuddle Duddle

Chamberlain, Trudeau or … ?

Flotsam

A couple of weeks ago Michael Tobis shocked the delicate, refined sensibilities of the climate change Deniers by stating unambiguously what is at stake and what he felt were the unhelpful contributions of Steve Mosher.

Michael was blowing off some steam and may have used some language that he generally doesn’t. The incident would warrant only passing remark except for some of the fall out and follow up.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Getting past the irrelevant, the incident raises some important questions about how we engage in the debate, what our goals are, and what the implications are for our struggle, as individuals and as a collective.

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Fuddle Duddle

Text of what Tobis actually said

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake. And if we narrowly fucking miss pulling this out, it may well end up being your, your own fucking personal individual fucking self-satisfied mischief and disrespect for authority that tips the balance. You have a lot of fucking nerve saying you are on my “side”.

Unless and until you find it within yourself to understand that you have major fucked up, big time, by throwing big juicy meat to the deniers to chew on and spin paranoid fantasies about for years, even decades,”

What I heard as significant:

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake.

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