Monday, July 29, 2013

The climate "debate" again

I don't need to waste space here on the absurdly thin gruel that passes for content of the Courier's weekend "point-counterpoint" on climate change. What I will focus on is the editorial choices that created it.
     Whether humans are causing catastrophically rapid change in our climate is a question that can only be answered by good science. Assuming the editors are not complete idiots, they know this. Yet to present the data on this question, which is vital to every human and every living thing on the planet, the editors choose Dennis Duvall and Glenn Helm.
     Neither of these worthy men claims any qualification to opine on climate science. I don't know more about Mr Helm, but Mr Duvall is locally famous as a peace activist who takes it to the limit, and for that he has a reputation among the local non-hippies as a nut. Neither argument includes any new idea, or new angle, or even readable prose. Neither addresses the argument of the other, as usual. Both are bumpy rides on personal hobbyhorses.
     The resulting pair of rants amount to a discussion of the issue based on a little media coverage, personal issues, and, from the uncommitted reader's standpoint, a lot of dubious faith. From your imagined seat behind the editor's desk, why in the world would you waste most of your Sunday op-ed page on nonsense no more informative than a Three Stooges short?
     I'm not one to easily ascribe malice where incompetence will do, but the level of incompetence required to achieve this level of quackery strains imagination. It has to be intentional, I'm afraid, and the intent is ugly.
     To get to this I can only infer that the editors mean to undercut the credibility of the question itself, saying in essence that the people talking about climate change are idiots and thinking about the issue is a waste of time. This goes far beyond editorial bias to something far darker and more subversive.
      Don't fall for it.


Anonymous said...

Steven, I look at it this way, governments are not going to get people to conserve or not use fossil fuels until they come up with a better power source. China, India and Indonesia are going to be burning alot more carbon the next few decades, to slow them down only a cheaper energy source will work. So we can gnash our teeth all we want, but that is the reality. I do all I can to use passive forms of energy, but most people in the U.S. aren't willing to do that. I took my dog for a walk the other day at 6:00 a.m., the air temp was 61 degrees farenheit, I could here peoples air conditioners cycling on because they never openened up their houses over night. This is the nature of our culture and I honestly don't see it changing.

Steven Ayres said...

I suppose the question you raise is whether you're truly accepting of the consequences of complacency -- extreme weather becoming the norm, large-scale displacements of people internationally, agricultural collapse, food shortages for the rich and famine for the non-rich, economic catastrophe worldwide, and the inevitable end of the "culture" you see as immutable.

If it's immutable now, it was immutable in 1925 as well. How do you account for the immense cultural changes over the following twenty years?

Your argument rests on the 'cheaper is the only choice' idea. If you believe that, you can also see that changes in energy pricing will change consumption patterns. This is the primary strategy for moving markets toward cleaner energy, involving ending de facto subsidies of pollution and pricing according to carbon and other environmental impact. This strategy is already working elsewhere, and with US leadership it could become the international norm.

But as long as Americans think of it as an expensive luxury, clean energy will remain a boutique choice and our climate will continue to change exponentially. Once we can see it as a matter of life or death, it will happen in minutes. Those are the real stakes here, and it won't be long before it's too late to avert catastrophe on a scale we've never imagined before.

Anonymous said...

Steven, I agree with you. The problem is, until the general public perceives (that is the key word here)that the ramifications of climate change are worse than the economic costs of averting it there will be no change in behaviour. But, the general population, which does not understand science, will take a long time to believe that man is a factor in climate change. That is why I agreed with president Obama when he dumped some money into alternative industries. The more activity in that arena means the greater chance of discovering efficient ways of using those sources of energy to offset carbon. Have a great day.