Global warming and the vast right-wing conspiracy

And yet another response to my column on global warming, this one from David Roberts at HuffingtonPost.com. Roberts offers up my column as a cautionary tale on why liberals should not engage in criticizing radical environmentalists (or, as he sarcastically puts it, “bashing the dirty hippies”) lest they should provide intellectual ammunition to people like yours truly. See, he says, Chris Mooney, Mark Kleiman, and Roger Pielke have all bashed the “hippies” in order to push various agendas of their own, and Andrew Revkin in the New York Times wrote up a story of a “new middle” in the climate debate … and then, guess what happens:

In the Boston Globe, Cathy Young — a contributing editor at Reason magazine, funded by the libertarian Reason Foundation — makes good use of Pielke Jr., Mooney, and Kleiman in a state-of-the-art piece of agit-prop. She says global warming skeptics are always getting yelled at, so why is no one yelling at the dirty hippies, for whom “environmentalism has become a matter of not just ideology but quasi-religious zealotry”?

She quotes Mooney saying that sometimes “environmental groups and their ilk oversell the science.” She quotes Kleiman saying that the dirty hippies’ “eagerness to believe the worst is just as evident as the right wing’s denialism.” And to cap it off, she cites Pielke Jr.’s “‘nonskeptical heretics’ — those who believe that human-caused global warming is a real problem, but one that can be met in part with technological management and adaptation.” And to boot: “Mooney has come to embrace such a viewpoint as well.”

This is a classic of the genre, lifted straight from template. Note carefully what’s happening: The denialists have been discredited. Now, the right wing is eager to cast the debate as having two equivalent sides, “alarmists and deniers.” That way they use the marginalization of denialists to marginalize advocates. It’s really a clever piece of judo, one the right’s become incredibly adept at using.

It relies, of course, on everyone accepting that there are “two sides.” That way, having given up the ghost of denialism, the right can now turn to advocating weak, industry-friendly policies and calling them the “sensible middle.”

Roberts notes that Kleiman and Mooney have distanced themselves from the views I supposedly attributed to them but scoffs at their naivete for treating my “misrepresentation” as an innocent mistake rather than a deliberate ploy. Meanwhile, he says,

As for Pielke Jr.? He thinks Young’s column is “pretty much on target.” But then, he’s been playing footsie with denialists and right-wing ideologues for years; they’re his biggest fans. Unlike Mooney and Kleiman, who got duped, Pielke Jr. knows exactly how the game is played.

His conclusion: liberals, please don’t feed the right and bash the hippies! You’ll just make yourself an unwitting dupe of the evil capitalists!

I love how Roberts automatically assumes that because I am a contributing editor for Reason, I am not an independent commentator expressing my own opinion but a food soldier taking my marching orders from the generals of the “far right” and “following a right-wing script.” For the record, I have not “given up the ghost of denialism” because I have never engaged in it (this is the first time ever that I have written about global warming). Roberts might be shocked to know that I did not get a call from my lords and masters at the Reason foundation telling me that, now that Ron Bailey has called it quits on global warming skepticism, I need to get to work on damage control. Ironically, Roberts’ paranoia in this regard is an exact mirror image of the mindset of right-wingers who send me nasty emails when I, say, slam Bill O’Reilly, saying that they expect nothing else from someone who writes for The Boston Globe.

Roberts, incidentally, is identified as a staff writer for the environmental magazine Grist.org. But I’m sure that doesn’t compromise his objectivity on this matter one bit.

Incidentally, I’m no doctrinaire libertarian (I am, for instance, far more inclined to be pro-mass transit than most of my fellow Reasonites). I am certainly not an anti-environmentalist if being an environmentalist means being in favor of keeping the planet healthy and attractive for the benefit of human beings. But I loathe the eco-fundamentalists for the same reason I loathe militant religious fundamentalists: because they are enemies of human freedom and happiness, and because they regard the pleasures of this world as sins deserving of punishment by God or Gaia.

Since I’m commenting on this topic again, I want to add another thought to my response to Mark Kleiman yesterday. Kleiman says that conservatives have discredited themselves by espousing a denialist position on global warming, and hence lack credibility when they criticize the alarmist or propose non-regulatory, adaptive measures to deal with climate change. Fair enough. But I think that environmental extremists bear at least some of the responsibility for the skepticism about global warming, given their propensity for fire-and-brimstone predictions that turned out to be egregiously wrong. (Limits to Growth, anyone? Paul Ehrlich’s predictions of mass famines and scarcity?) Yes, here I go again, assigning responsibility to both sides and not particularly caring to bicker over whose distortions are worse. I’m still waiting for my big payouts from my capitalist overlords, but I’m sure they’ll know where to send the check.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Global warming and the vast right-wing conspiracy

  1. Anonymous

    What MOST people who “deny” global warming say are the following:

    1) Global warming has been a constant in the history of the Earth. Ice Ages end due to global warming.

    2) Our knowledge of the atmosphere is unbelievably sketchy. Deductions are being made based on fundamentally weak knowledge bases and computer models that are horrificly inaccurate (for example, to this day, no models can predict el Ninos, which are fairly predictable weather patterns)

    3) There is virtually no evidence that it is man made. Man is insignificant to the planet.

    4) There is even less evidence that we can stop it.

    5) Since countries like China are exempt from such things as Kyoto, the point of them doing them seems moot since China does pollute a lot.
    -=Mike

  2. mabman

    I wouldn’t say that man has no impact on global warming – there’s a growing body of evidence that warming trends have accelerated in the last 3 decades, and it seems reasonable to assume that increasing CO2 emissions from developed and developing countries are at least in part responsible. It’s quite a leap, however to assume that human sources are solely responsible for global warming trends, and that draconian regulations, punitive policies and drastic reductions in economic growth rates will elminate such trends.

    The reality is that we may be able to slow, but not halt, much less reverse the gradual warming of the planet, which has been underway since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-19th Century. I agree that the computer models used to predict long-term climatological trends are woefully inadequate, which is why activists can point to virtually any extreme weather event as a “vindication” of their dire predictions.

    The Right has forfeited any credibility in the global-warming debate, which is a shame since the Left is quite obviously seizing on this to peddle their favorite political/social/economic nostrums. It also hampers the development of a rational/technological approach as advocated by people like Kleiman (and myself, for that matter), as well as strategies for dealing with the long-term effects of warming. A large portion of coastline may be below sea level in 50 – 100 years, and the millions of people living in those areas will need places to go and jobs to earn their livings. The sooner we begin to plan for this eventuality, the better.

  3. colagirl

    I’m still waiting for my big payouts from my capitalist overlords, but I’m sure they’ll know where to send the check.

    Can you tell me where to sign up for that check, by any chance, or is it a secret? :D

  4. Heather Flanagan

    Speaking of hippies, here is a video that shows that hippies still know how to have fun dispite all their time spent at protests:

    http://peoplegeek.wordpress.com/2007/01/20/a-bike-race-lance-armstrong-could-not-win/

  5. Anonymous

    The Right has forfeited any credibility in the global-warming debate, which is a shame since the Left is quite obviously seizing on this to peddle their favorite political/social/economic nostrums.

    How does a request for actual proof before major policies are initiated forfeit credibility?
    -=Mike

  6. Anonymous

    Mike,

    1) There is plenty of evidence the current warming trend is plenty unusual, therefore, not so constant. Read up a bit more on the science.

    2) It isn’t that sketchy. We’ve known for a long time the mechanism for how CO2 and other greenhouse gasses heat the atmosphere. That is solid science. We also know that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere now is vastly higher than it has been at any time in the last 800,000 years. We also know that human beings pump hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (like methane) into the atmosphere yearly. Further, the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere and the increase and warming have dovetailed with increased human emissions.

    3) Now that is just plain silly. From the dead zone in the Gulf and etc, it is clear that human beings have quite the capacity to effect the planet.

    4) This is true.

    5) But this is just an excuse. We might be able to slow it, until we can find a technology based solution.

    Z

  7. Anonymous

    1) There is plenty of evidence the current warming trend is plenty unusual, therefore, not so constant. Read up a bit more on the science.

    I’ve read plenty on the subject, thanks just the same, and the belief that this is somehow unprecedented does not REMOTELY hold water. And that’s it is hardly universal is another huge problem.

    Quite bluntly, factor in the fact that cities raise the temperatures based on sun reflecting off concrete and the buildings and you have an, at best, negligible change.

    2) It isn’t that sketchy. We’ve known for a long time the mechanism for how CO2 and other greenhouse gasses heat the atmosphere. That is solid science. We also know that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere now is vastly higher than it has been at any time in the last 800,000 years. We also know that human beings pump hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (like methane) into the atmosphere yearly. Further, the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere and the increase and warming have dovetailed with increased human emissions.

    Explain why temperatures in the 50′s were lower than in the 40′s.

    I’d love to hear an explanation about how a non-downturn in emission STILL allowed a reduction in temperature.

    Why have none of the projections for temperatures been CLOSE?

    Our knowledge of how the atmosphere works is unbelievably sketchy. We don’t know why things happen. We know they do and we know what to look out for — but as to why, we don’t have good answers.

    There are just some things man is not likely to ever comprehend.

    3) Now that is just plain silly. From the dead zone in the Gulf and etc, it is clear that human beings have quite the capacity to effect the planet.

    No, we have the ability to kill ourselves off. The planet shrugs us off as if we were nothing. Which, incidentally, we are to the Earth. It is simply massive vanity on our part to believe otherwise.

    5) But this is just an excuse. We might be able to slow it, until we can find a technology based solution.

    Why is China exempted from it? Care to explain why they’d be free from it?

    See, I’m not saying it’s not happening.

    I’m saying nobody has proven a thing. And until you prove it, simply going out and acting blindly is a rather atrocious plan. It’d be like a doctor saying “Well, I don’t know what’s wrong, so let’s amputate a limb and just go from there”.

    Show me it’s happening in a manner completely different from history (given our rather weak info from the past, lots o’ luck). Show me man is causing it. Show me man can stop it.

    Then I’ll be willing to consider proposals out there.

    But that hasn’t happened and the proponents don’t really like being questioned, which only makes the claims all the more doubtable.
    -=Mike
    …plus, that whole “Well, we thought it was a coming Ice Age initially” thing is a mighty big albatross for this “science”

  8. Anonymous

    plus, that whole ‘Well, we thought it was a coming Ice Age initially’ thing is a mighty big albatross for this ‘science’

    There is no such albatross. The scientific community never warned of human-induced global cooling. This wretched old canard is just another undying zombie tactic of the denialists.

    I dare and defy you to cite two (2) peer-reviewed articles that were ever published in scientific literature that said humans were causing global cooling and it would have bad effects on our society. Please don’t bother with pop-culture crap from “Time” and “Newsweek,” the same noncredentialed, nonscientist that hyped the Da Vinci code and cloning dinosaurs from amber.

    TTT

  9. Anonymous

    “Explain why temperatures in the 50′s were lower than in the 40′s.”

    CFCs

  10. Anonymous

    ‘Unusual’ is not ‘unprecidented’. There is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which was started by huge releases of CO2, probably due to volcanism, and then triggered huge releases of methane (another green house gas). It was pretty disasterous, and the warming was pretty clearly caused by the very greenhouse gases we are dumping, by the thousands of metric tons, into the atmosphere.

    Now the planet will survive, no matter we do. However, it is pretty clear that the climate we have had for the past several hundred thousand years has been pretty ideal for human habitation. It is unlikely that a big change in climate will be anything but bad for us. It will effect both food and water supplies, and some of that impact will happen sooner, rather than later. Like for example, less and less snow pack means that India is losing its fresh water supply.

    Of course China is a problem. But right now, we point at China as our excuse for doing nothing, and they doing the same thing right back. That is just stupid.

    Z

  11. Nick S

    “I dare and defy you to cite two (2) peer-reviewed articles that were ever published in scientific literature that said humans were causing global cooling and it would have bad effects on our society.”
    As far as I’m aware scientists never argued specifically that global cooling was being caused by humans, only that it was happening. This looks like a bit of a straw man argument on your part.

    “Please don’t bother with pop-culture crap from “Time” and “Newsweek,” the same noncredentialed, nonscientist that hyped the Da Vinci code and cloning dinosaurs from amber.”
    Don’t be facetious. It’s largely the ignorant and sensationalist sections of the mass media that have been pushing the global warming hysteria the hardest.

  12. Anonymous

    People who cite nonexistent concerns over “global cooling” as an example of scientific flipfloppery are in no position to accuse others of employing a facetious straw-man argument.

    I repeat: so-called skeptics are asked to cite peer-reviewed articles from science journals that show the mainstream consensus of the scientific community was ever concerned about “global cooling” or a “coming ice age,” to an extent that is at parity with their stance on global warming now.

    You might find it in the same journal that talks about this guy who one time ate pop rocks and drank soda and then exploded.

    TTT

  13. Nick S

    “You might find it in the same journal that talks about this guy who one time ate pop rocks and drank soda and then exploded. “
    I guess if you employ enough sarcasm you just might bluff people into thinking that you are actually on solid ground. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any articles to support this in peer-reviewed psychology journals. I just have to rely on my bullshit-detector.

    “I repeat: so-called skeptics are asked to cite peer-reviewed articles from science journals that show the mainstream consensus of the scientific community was ever concerned about “global cooling” or a “coming ice age,” to an extent that is at parity with their stance on global warming now.”
    The trick here, and in your earlier post, is that you have tried to load the question with enough qualifiers and loopholes to ensure that anyone attempting to take up your challenge is guaranteed to fall down. For example, you earlier threw in the caveat about having to prove scientists believed that global cooling was being driven by humans. It really shouldn’t matter for the purposes of this argument whether they argued it was human-driven or not. Now you are arguing that it also must be proven that there was as much scientific support for global cooling as there now is for global warming. But even if support for global cooling wasn’t quite as strong, this still casts doubt on the credibility of global warming now.

    Many earlier pagan religions believed that if they sacrificed to the gods, they would be rewarded with favourable weather and other blessings. Modern environmentalists believe that if we sacrifice a fair share of GDP the weather gods will look favourably upon us. The fact is that global warming is really a primitive religious cult rather than sound science.

  14. Anonymous

    “Shenanigans.”

    Nick, I repeatedly asked you for peer-reviewed citations that support your claims, and you had days to find them. Instead I get a free sample of your homemade conspiracy newsletter.

    Like every GW denialist you are an intellectual fraud. You have no understanding of this topic whatsoever, nor the honesty and seriousness to learn about it. You dead-end denialists will have only yourselves to blame when you get shut out of the policymaking process that even now is being established to deal with global warming. At least your ever-growing disenfranchisement will make your conspiracy theory seem more powerful. Have fun with that.

    TTT

  15. Nick S

    I just did a quick google search. Below are just a few quotes from one site. Note, even the National Academy of Sciences adopted the global cooling view.

    source: http://www.john-daly.com/schneidr.htm

    “To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have.Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.”

    - Leading greenhouse advocate, Dr Stephen Schneider (in interview for “Discover” magagzine, Oct 1989)

    Before Global Warming became the politically correct scientific fashion of the 1990s, the reverse situation existed in the 1970s, where it had become a scientific article of faith that the Ice Age was about to happen. Even the US National Academy of Sciences adopted this view.

    “There is a finite possibility that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the Earth within the next 100 years.”

    Prof Patrick Michaels, now a prominent critic of the Greenhouse scare, was justifiably sceptical then, just as he is now.

    “When I was going to graduate school,
    it was gospel that the Ice Age was about to start.
    I had trouble warming up to that one too.
    This (greenhouse) is not the first climate apocalypse,
    but it’s certainly the loudest

    Just as with Global Warming, we find Schneider in the vanguard of the Global Cooling doomsayers during the 1970s.

    It was only when global temperatures took an upward turn around 1980 that Schneider and others quickly made a career change and became passionate advocates of impending catastrophe, only this time from warming, not cooling. But then, opportunism is a trait of politicians rather than scientists.

  16. Anonymous

    None of those are peer-reviewed citations. And the first one is a deliberately dishonest misquote.

    Though don’t feel bad, I know it wasn’t you who did the deliberate dishonest misquoting. It’s an old old thing that’s been around for a long time, and you’re just the latest one to find it.

    http://rpuchalsky.home.att.net/sci_env/sch_quote.html#quote

    Look, it’s very simple. The mainstream consensus of the scientific community today says that we are about to face global warming, caused to a large extent by humanity, and that it will have bad consequences for society.

    When people say “but THEY used to believe in global cooling, so it’s a flipflop and don’t trust them now!”, which is what you originally did, the burden for them is to show that there really was an equivalent–even a comparable–parallelism between the two beliefs.

    And there wasn’t. Do you have article titles, journal numbers, anything like that? No, no, no. You have apocrypha, secondhand snippets, and stuff other people say they were told one time at band camp.

    The peer-reviewed literature does not show the mainstream of science ever worried about global cooling. Likewise no real biographer believes Darwin recanted evolution on his deathbed, though creationists still pretend that he did and will cite books they themselves wrote as “proof” of it. Some guy who was in Greenpeace 35 years ago saying he saw the evidence is no more persuasive than you yourself saying you’ve seen the evidence. Neither of you can actually produce it, because it doesn’t really exist.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94

    There was no flipflop, ergo, this nonexistent flipflop’s nonexistence is of no importance whatsoever–scientifically or rhetorically–in discussing global warming. People who wish to be taken seriously about this topic should adapt strategies accordingly.

    TTT

  17. rocketman

    I agree. If the red light in a cockpit blinks too stridently, it bears some of the responsibility for the pilot ignoring it. The red light needs to learn to blink more reasonably and calmly. Then we’ll pay attention to it.

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