Monday, August 20, 2012

Keith Kloor proposes killing millions of deniers -- I try to talk him down


 I've been reading this "Keith Kloor" guy over at Collide-a-Scape. Call me crazy, I think the kid has potential. I came across this:
Like the never-ending war on drugs, the conventional paradigm for addressing climate change has proven to be a colossal failure–yet it remains in place. In case anyone needs a reminder of where things stand:
The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide has jumped by a record amount, according to the US department of energy, a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.
This quote summed up the situation well:
“The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing,” said John Reilly, the co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
There appears to be growing recognition that a different approach might be necessary.
Keith is right, people. The first approach doesn't always work. The American anti-slavery movement, for example, kicked off in 1688 with the Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery. But despite a hundred and sixty years of petitions, pamphlets, demonstrations, speaking tours, and assistance to fugitive slaves, they couldn't rid the country of slavery. It took a massive war spanning five years and killing over one million Americans to do that.

Or take the European response to the rise of Hitler. There was subtle maneuvering, diplomatic protests, multiple compromises forged. Didn't work -- ultimately it took a global war to deal with the problem, a war that would claim over 50 million dead and see the invention and first use of nuclear weapons.

So what is Keith's "different approach"? Is someone going to have to be delegated to go over to his house and secure his firearms? Perhaps not:
Along these lines, do read a new essay by Roger Pielke Jr. posted at the Foreign Policy website. He writes:
For years — decades, even — science has shown convincingly that human activities have an impact on the planet. That impact includes but is not limited to carbon dioxide. We are indeed running risks with the future climate through the unmitigated release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and none of the schemes attempted so far has made even a dent in the problem. While the climate wars will go on, characterized by a poisonous mix of dodgy science, personal attacks, and partisan warfare, the good news is that progress can yet be made outside of this battle.
The key to securing action on climate change may be to break the problem into more manageable parts.
Can we have a constructive debate that explores this avenue? We’ll find out soon enough.
 Ah. Mr. Kloor's "different approach" is to"break the problem into more manageable parts" and abandon the "schemes" for checking "the unmitigated release of carbon dioxide."

I am perhaps having a little fun at Mr. Kloor's expense, but isn't this always the way of it? When people say of the fight to cut GHG emissions, "this isn't working; let's try something else" they are never referring to making our (if it really is "our") actions bigger; they always want to make our goals smaller.

There is always a prominent complaint of how "poisonous" the climate debate has become, but like those that rue our "poisonous" tax debates or our "poisonous" social debates, their solution to the poison is typically to concede the debate to the people who have done the most to make it poisonous.

There is no solution to the problem of global warming without cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. There is no way to cut greenhouse gas emissions globally without collective political action. I know of no one, literally no one, who is for this but against adaptation, or who is for this but against action on land use or black carbon or any of the other "manageable" climate problems. Working on those angles is admirable, but it doesn't break the problem into manageable parts; it abandons the problem in favor of more manageable problems.

Major social change can take a long time. Much like reading the climate, you need more than ten or twenty years of data to call a social movement a failure. Abolitionism, feminism, the welfare state, the civil rights movement all took longer than that from their inception to their great victories. Perhaps the current approach is a failure, or perhaps we are simply in the middle of a long, painful, exhausting struggle.

We should be willing to consider new strategies; but this strategy, the "managable parts" strategy, sometimes called the "no regrets" approach or the "adaptation first" approach, is not a strategy as much as it is a plan for surrender.


  1. Well, that headline should get some attention.

  2. > see the invention and first use of thermonuclear weapons

    Eh, fission weapons. Prototypes both. Pathetic yield.

    ...and yeah. Neville, right?

    1. Oh my goodness (blush) I totally misused that term. Thanks!

  3. From RP jnr's FP op-ed;

    "A focus on innovation -- not on debates over climate science or a mythical high carbon price -- is where we'll make process."

    Wow, techno-optimism (aka Cornucopianism) is alive and well.

  4. Abandoning the problem in favor of more manageable problems sums up not just Mr Kloor's approach but also the way the whole denialist movement works. The AGW problem can be presented like a chain of events, every link of which has to work in order for AGW to be a thing and a problem. I wouldnt mind betting that the misinformed and the dont care crowd view it that way.

  5. I can just hear Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech broken into manageable parts. By manageable of course we mean manage to ignore parts. So, we could move from "It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality." to a more manageable -It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating special panel discussion-

  6. Wired as an excellent article about End-of-the-Worldism in the Sept issue. Clear your head with it...

    1. The article offers several great examples of muddy-headed thinking, including this classic denier fallacy:

      "By the 1970s the focus of chemical concern had shifted to air pollution. Life magazine set the scene in January 1970: “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support … the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution … by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” Instead, driven partly by regulation and partly by innovation, both of which dramatically cut the pollution coming from car exhaust and smokestacks, ambient air quality improved dramatically in many cities in the developed world over the following few decades. Levels of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, ozone, and volatile organic compounds fell and continue to fall."

      Spot the basic logic fail.

  7. "You ask, What is our policy? I will say; "It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: unless it is too difficult, or it makes our friends nervous, or makes our enemies feel put upon. That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Manageableness, manageableness in spite of all terror, manageableness however long and hard the road may be; for without giving up when we encounter resistance there is no survival."

  8. Yes, a final solution: Trot out Pielke Jr., the last resort of Kloor, Revkin, and the pro-gas do-nothing not-outside-the-range-of-normal-variation lobby. Uck!

    Just like Obama: surrender before you lose.

  9. Ask not - what the science-policy interface/post-normal science/manageable segmenting/no-regrets policies/techno-optimistic cornucopianism/Hartewell approach can do for you.

    Ask only what you can do - for the science-policy interface/post-normal science/manageable segmenting/no-regrets policies/techno-optimistic cornucopianism/Hartewell approach!

  10. Don't ask little of me, you might get it.

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