Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Global warming denialist trolls - What to do?

First the good news: Obama puts environment at the top of his agenda. Steve Chu at energy and Carol Browner as climate tsarina. Both people of knowledge, but political lightweights at risk of being sat on by the grey heavies in his team. Still, we live in hope.

Then I took a look at George Monbiot's howl of anguish at the denialist trolls who infest the web comment slots. Sure enough, there they were, 1000 comments (closed now), many from aforementioned trolls, although sentient beings were in evidence too.

We have to accept that we are dealing with a form of mental disorder when dealing with AGW (=man-made global warming) denial. Denial is a psychological defence mechanism, ably described by Sigmund Freud, who was sound on psychic defence mechanisms, though not so sound on how to remedy the problems he diagnosed. Denial is not a difficult concept to grasp; as it says on the tin, the subject denies that there is a problem.

"I am not an alcoholic, because I am not in the gutter. Nobody's going to tell me how to live my life. Those doctors don't know what they are talking about with their units. Look at old Tom, he's been drinking for oh, 60 years and he's still cheerful. Now feck off you wingeing greeny bunny hugger".

That's the bar room chat, which covers the main planks of the denialist argument:
  1. Change the definition. Denialists will agree (now) that climate is changing, but due to natural swings, not greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Assert the infallible truth of the doctrine of liberty of Me (and forget enlightened Self-Interest).
  3. Diss the science. These self-same people who loudly denounced green concerns in the 1980s as "unscientific gibberish" now assert, just as loudly, that the scientists have got it wrong, while still appealing to a rump of idiosyncratic para-scientists whose papers they treat as Holy Writ.
  4. Find an individual exception, and use that to dismiss the whole picture. They are doing this with the data for the last 10 years of global temperatures. Like any graph, the line shows fluctuations, and there is a natural downswing taking place at the moment.
  5. Use plentiful personal insults.
What to do about denialists? Here is the dilemma:
Ignore them, and they spread their disease to others. Engage them in debate, and they can troll on all day. It is like trying to discuss the Crime and Punishment with someone whose lips move when he is trying to read THE ...CAT... SAT... ON ...THE MAT.

Seems to me that we should put out a couple of leaflets, one on the evidence that AGW is happening now, not at some time in the future, and another refuting the denialists case. We could at least hand these to the undecided that we encounter when out canvassing.

I have drawn them up, and will turn them into .pdf when I get a round tuit. Ask me if you want to see a copy.

That is at the level of individual persons. As to the broader problem, we have to realise that we are dealing with oil addiction here. Rational explanation of the consequences does have a place in addiction recovery programmes, but to really get somewhere, you have to wait for a crisis - heart attacks and spots on X-Rays are the things that make addicts give up. The problem with global warming is that it is like boiling a frog -literally. The temperature increase is slow, so the frog doesn't notice what is going on, and just sits there.

I am sorry to say it is going to take something Big, like a future Great Flood of London, before the politicians wake up and get serious about global warming. The model here is the Great Stink of 1858 in London. People were calling for years for better sewerage systems, pointing to the public health problems, and politicians remained in denial until the Thames smelt so foul that they were retching and gagging in the House of Commons. That is when they got it together to commission the great engineer Joseph Bazalgette to produce his superb sewerage system.

So when the HoC gets flooded, that's when we will see action. In the meantime, we just have to keep on setting an example, keep working out the technologies needed, keep on writing to our MPs about the GND, keep on demonstrating, and keep on with the NVDA. Because if we don't, we will be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

PS 99% of climate scientist believe that AGW is a serious threat, but 50% of the people think that there is some doubt about the matter. This represents a serious failure of journalism as a profession.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A moving commentary upon our times may be had in noting that whereas Joseph Bazalgette bequeathed us the blessings of excellent sewerage and vastly improved public health for all ... his great-great grandson, Peter Bazalgette has given us ...
Big Brother!

Is this the new improved 21st century vision of progress? If so, thanks but no thanks.