16 June 2008

Environmental Skepticism

[This post is a good follow-up on this, this and this.]

The Organisation of Denial: Conservative Think Tanks and Environmental Scepticism [PDF] has got some interesting things to say:*
Environmental scepticism denies the seriousness of environmental problems, and self-professed 'sceptics' claim to be unbiased analysts combating 'junk science'. This study quantitatively analyses 141 English-language environmentally sceptical books published between 1972 and 2005. We find that over 92 per cent of these books, most published in the US since 1992, are linked to conservative think tanks (CTTs). Further, we analyse CTTs involved with environmental issues and find that 90 per cent of them espouse environmental scepticism. We conclude that scepticism is a tactic of an elite-driven counter-movement designed to combat environmentalism, and that the successful use of this tactic has contributed to the weakening of US commitment to environmental protection.
The authors' basic premise is that environmental skeptics are blocking scientific evidence because such evidence would help eager governments (and push reluctant governments to) impose regulations that would affect business and social conduct, i.e., [p 354]:
environmental scepticism consists of four key themes. First, environmental scepticism is defined by its denial of the seriousness of environmental problems and dismissal of scientific evidence documenting these problems. This primary theme sets environmental scepticism apart from earlier environmental opposition movements like the US ‘wise use movement’ and ‘sage brush rebellion’. Second, environmental scepticism draws upon the first theme to question the importance of environmentally protective policies. Third, environmental scepticism endorses an anti-regulatory/anti-corporate liability position that flows from the first two claims. Lastly, environmental sceptics often cast environmental protection as threatening Western progress.
They accomplish that goal by arguing that a consensus on global warming does not exist, e.g., [p. 356]:
CTTs were able to create a situation in which major media outlets portrayed climate science as an evenly divided debate between sceptics and non-sceptics employing what McCright and Dunlap term the ‘duelling scientists’ version of the balancing norm. The result is that US media have given disproportionate attention to the views of a small number of global warming sceptics, and as a consequence have been significantly more likely than media in other industrial nations to portray global warming as a controversial issue characterised by scientific uncertainty
But, "fair and balanced" is not the only technique. Some CTTs actively oppose the release of "hostile" information, e.g., "the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the federal government twice to suppress the release of the US National Assessment of Climate Change, a comprehensive report begun under the Clinton Administration" [p. 357].

These games piss me off. Climate change (and other environmental issues) are already complicated enough, and we need all the data, opinion and argument we can get. Trying to stop that debate for fear of the potential results is not only scandalous and despicable, but also betrays the missions of so many CTTs -- to contribute to the liberty and prosperity of humanity.

The one way that you do not contribute to liberty is by taking it away, or as Mr. Franklin put it: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Bottom Line: The CTTs have deluded themselves into believing that their means (the use of Soviet prop/agit methods) were acceptable in pursuit of their ends (smaller government). Instead, their actions border on treason.**

Thanks to DS for the tip

* I have cut out literature references from these excerpts.

** This whole topic reminds me of the Bush/Cheney/Neocon decision to invade Iraq (for any reason). I support those who accuse them of treason.

9 comments:

  1. I am an AGW skeptic and I find this position absolutely appalling. The reason I'm a skeptic is that I went and read the scientific papers then came to my own conclusions. I've read the papers on other environmental issues and come to opposite conclusions--there is in fact a serious problem that needs addressing.

    How can anybody possibility figure out which issues require the application of scarce resources without access to the evidence? Suppressing evidence of any kind is pure ideology and should be vigorously condemned by truth seekers on both "sides". This just makes skepticism look like obstructionism and pisses me off as a skeptic.

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  2. david_zetland: I don't think it's fair to portray anti-environmentalists as the sole opposition to science in such policy debates. Let's not forget, for example, that environmentalists are virtually all willing to discard the economic science that says most of their favored solutions are ridiculously inefficient, and they should favor putting a price on resources they deem "priceless".

    Same situation for discount rates, entitlement obligation explosion, privatization of government services, etc.

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  3. @Silas: Excellent point. The Enviros also espouse "faith-based" policy. That does not make the CTT position either fair or excusable.

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  4. I am an AGW skeptic and I find this position absolutely appalling. The reason I'm a skeptic is that I went and read the scientific papers then came to my own conclusions

    Good for you.

    The rest of us, however, are discussing adapting to and mitigating man-made climate change.

    DS

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  5. So does your bottom line of boarderline treason apply to NASA's James Hansen who conceded in a 2003 issue of Natural Science that the use of “extreme scenarios" to dramatize global warming “may have been appropriate at one time” to drive the public's attention to the issue?????

    Also see Robert Samuelson take down his own magazine on the issue of freaking out about the "denial machine" http://www.newsweek.com/id/32312.


    Less name calling, more data, and humility will best serve this subject. And, the good news is that most carbon emmission reduction strategies make some sense economically, and otherwise, with or without significant anthropogenic warming.

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  6. "who conceded in a 2003 issue of Natural Science that the use of “extreme scenarios" to dramatize global warming “may have been appropriate at one time” to drive the public's attention to the issue"

    Good question. Probably not, but his motivation (act before we all die) is a little cleaner than the CTTs (don't act, it could ruin our business).

    "Less name calling, more data, and humility will best serve this subject. And, the good news is that most carbon emmission reduction strategies make some sense economically, and otherwise, with or without significant anthropogenic warming."

    I agree. It pains me to see us still subsidizing dirty coal, airlines to nowhere, big ag, etc. There's a lot of low-hanging fruit that the Congress, in its infinite corruption, appears to ignore.

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  7. "Good question. Probably not, but his motivation (act before we all die) is a little cleaner than the CTTs (don't act, it could ruin our business and we could all die)."

    There, now we are on equal footing in our dramatization.

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  8. Ah, no -- we are not on equal footing -- unless you think that life = profits :)

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  9. By Vernon,

    well, I am a skeptic. Why because there is little or no evidence to link CO2 to warming or cooling. We can see that CO2 has never been the cause of global warming or cooling but rather is a lagging indicator that happens 250-800 years after the event.

    The facts are that we are between ice ages and have been for at least 11,000 years. We know that sea ice means nothing since it is ice floating on water. We know that most of the Artic melting has been due to carbon black, not CO2. We know that the USA has the most extensive rural temperature collectors in the world and the facts are that they do not show much if any heating tied to CO2. We know that the "hocky stick" came from mating temperature proxies with actual readings. We know that the proxies show cooling at the end of the twentith century, while the actual reading are going up. We know that the climate scientist are saying that the Urban Heat Island has little or no effect on actual heat measurements.

    So a bunch of people leap on the teat of funding, that means nothing. Lets seem some facts that prove or disprove the theory, till then, I will remain a skeptic.

    Oh, and is not not neat that the term warming is being replaced with climate change since the CO2 levels continue to climb, but the temperatures have remained level or cooled in the last ten years.

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