Ever since I put up my post (and made a video) suggesting Sheryl Crow should shut the fuck up, I’ve been formulating what I want to say about climate change “skeptics”. Skepticism is a good thing generally, being naturally skeptical will protect you more often than it will hurt you. Blind faith is far more likely to do you damage than healthy skepticism.
But I use the term “skeptic” loosely when describing climate change deniers because I strongly suspect that a significant majority of them aren’t true skeptics – they simply don’t care to know the truth about climate change. I’d also divide this “don’t care” brigade into two groups – those who believe the prevailing scientific consensus about climate change is probably true but still don’t care and those who don’t believe but don’t care to discover what the truth might be (as if there is a simple and all-encompassing truth on the topic).
Here’s the cynical part of me talking (yes, I know, the cynical part of me is clearly at least 90% of me. Shut up. Do you like how I have conversations with you, dear reader, as I type? I’m clearly insane. Unless that’s what you were thinking. That would make me psychic. Are you freaked out yet? Oh god, I’m getting off track.) The cynical part of me says the loudest voices speaking out against the scientific consensus of climate change are nothing more than paid shills for vested interests in governments and energy companies.
This scares me because the people running these companies aren’t stupid. I think the majority of them realise serious problems are coming, it’s incredibly unlikely that such a large body of scientific consensus would be utterly wrong (although it may well prove to be wrong in some important aspects.) It’s just that… well, they don’t give a fuck.
Either their thinking is literally “I’ll be dead before the worst hits, so I don’t give a fuck,” or they assume we’ll find some way to cope or some magical technological breakthrough will save the day (which may well happen) so they care more about their short term profits than they care about the prospect of long term damage.
To defend themselves, they use their positions of power to sow seeds of doubt. Sometimes they make points that are true in isolation. These points don’t refute the concept of climate change but they pretend that they do. Sometimes they distort sort-of true statements to an absurd degree. Sometimes they tell outright lies. The thing I’ve noticed that all these approaches have in common is a tendency to focus on isolated aspects of the arguments supporting the notion of climate change without addressing the overall issue.
They pretend that by picking on these isolated issues they have refuted climate change in its entirety when they’ve done no such thing. They’re not even close, in fact they’re deliberately avoiding dealing with the larger issues. In my opinion, they do this because it isn’t possible to successfully discredit the full body of scientific knowledge on climate change so they spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the minds of the public.
The concept of FUD will be familiar to people who work in the IT field. Microsoft are past masters at spreading FUD to undermining competitors although they’re far from alone in the practice. When you can can’t take an opponent head-on, chip away at the edges and hope people start to lose faith.
For me, one of the best ways to counter FUD is to ask the person spreading it: “What’s your point?” And keep asking. If someone can’t clearly explain to you why they’re pushing a particular view it’s usually a good sign they aren’t being honest.
When someone says “there is dissent among scientists,” ask: “What’s your point? Are you saying because you can show there isn’t 100% consensus that you have conclusive evidence that climate change is not a serious problem?” The argument here seems to be, as Stephen Colbert said, “Why can’t the 5% of dissenters have 50% of the time?”
When someone says “there are other important problems that are killing people now, like malaria,” say: “What’s your point? Are you saying we must ignore climate change to deal with malaria? Because I’m not saying we have to ignore all other problems and focus solely on climate change. Why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why can’t we do both?”
When someone says “Al Gore wants us to give up our lifestyle because of global warming but he lives in a big house that uses lots of electricity,” say: “What’s your point? Are you saying if you discredit Al Gore (despite the fact that the story was mostly a beat-up that omitted important facts and was laced with outright lies) you have proven that climate change is not an issue? The worst you can do there is paint Al Gore as a hypocrite which does nothing to undermine the scientific consensus about climate change”
When someone says “if global warming is real, why is it so cold today?” say: “Shut the fuck up!” OK, you could say “What’s your point? Are you saying that the sum total of scientific thought on the issue of climate change is that it will always be warmer everywhere? If so, you’re a fucking moron. Shut the fuck up.” But that would waste time. With some people it’s much more efficient to go straight to shut the fuck up.
There’s a lot more I plan to go into on this topic, particularly an exploration of some of the worst, most evil lies propagated by climate change deniers. The most dangerous position to take on either side of the argument is an absolute one that allows for no further discussion, hence my strategy of asking “What’s your point?” The subject is not closed because someone makes some grand pronouncement that they think resolves the situation conclusively – the issue is far more complex than that.
There’s no single cause of climate change and there’s no one solution. There isn’t even really a single thing called “global warming”. You can’t point at a specific thing and say “that’s global warming” (an attitude spoofed hilariously on South Park). There isn’t a convenient end point to discussions of climate change and I deeply distrust anyone who makes sweeping statements that suggests they are the holder of ultimate knowledge. It’s important to at least listen to people when you disagree with their position.
But it’s even more important to realise when they’re talking shit. That’s my point, what’s yours?