They hate us! They really hate us!

hippies.jpg

A number of intrepid environmental bloggers have infiltrated the splashy climate change denialist convention taking place this week in Times Square. I’d been avoiding mention of the event because you really can’t talk about this stuff at all without falling into the PR trap that’s been set, but Grist raises a point that I want to amplify: climate change skepticism has little to do with science. Rather, it is an outgrowth of the culture war.

This point seems both totally obvious and strangely unremarked. Environmentalists tend to view climate change denialism as a top-down, money-driven phenomenon. Energy producers, auto manufacturers, oil companies and other interested parties court politicians, buy friendly scientists, and groom armies of lawyers, lobbyists, and op-ed writers to push their agenda. Or so the theory goes. And, of course, there’s a lot of merit to that theory. You don’t need a compass to follow the trail of money.

But the theory only goes so far. A significant proportion of average American citizens reject the reality of climate change. Yes, years of dueling talking heads in the media has sown a certain amount of confusion. But confusion isn’t what’s driving the regular flow of blog comments and email from the dedicated dead-enders.

Consider also that most of the large companies vested in the status quo don’t themselves refute the basic reality of global warming. Here’s the president of Shell Oil: “We have to deal with greenhouse gases…the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who [can] say, ‘Let’s debate the science.’”

And here’s what Sharon Begley, a science journalist at Newsweek who has written extensively on global warming, had to say when asked about the motivation of denialists:

A huge fount of opposition to the emerging science seems driven by ideology as much as, or more than, money…After the US won the cold war, environmentalism became the new communism. It would take a better psychologist, or sociologist, than I to explain why.

So why does this matter? Why should we care about the psychology of denialism? I can think of at least three reasons:

  • The culture war cuts both ways. Certainly some (although not all or even most) environmentalists indulge an unhealthy tendency to view corporations as the cause of all environmental problems, rather than as partners in the solution. Everyone claims that climate change isn’t a left-right issue, but the rhetoric can be unintentionally revealing. At least once a week I read that oil companies and utilities “caused global warming,” a formulation that neatly absolves you, me, and the rest of the planet of any responsibility for our energy use.
  • Responding to cultural anxieties with scientific arguments is a recipe for battling to a draw. There are huge untapped coalitions out there — evangelical Christians, hunters, farmers, etc. — who could be active partners in the political battle over global warming. Money does have a very real influence on the senate floor. The only way to overcome that influence is with an engaged and united citizenship.
  • Global warming isn’t the last such battle. As many have noted, we’re moving from an era in which environmentalism dealt mainly with questions of protecting the natural world from mankind’s influence to one in which environmentalism addresses issues of sustainable resource usage in a planet that supports nine billion people. Global warming might be the big issue, but there are plenty of smaller issues — water, the oceans, biodiversity, forests, etc. — that will soon rise to the fore. I’d like to think we’ll learn something from this go-round.

Anything to add to the list?

Photo available under Creative Commons license from Flickr user roland.

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  1. Hollis - March 5, 2008

    I’d at least like to hear what they talked about in New York. Having a healthy debate might change mind one way or the other.

  2. BCC - March 5, 2008

    You nailed it. Great post. To borrow from George Lakoff, this is all about frames and worldviews.
    It’s really a pity that it’s nearly impossible to have a rational discussion with anyone on this topic anymore- any ‘discussion’ is an endless repetition of talking points on both sides.
    For me, it boils down to the inability of doubters (a less judgmental term than deniers) to demonstrate why excess CO2 emissions are not going to lead to warming, and why warming doesn’t carry significant risks. Time to put them on the defensive; it’s amazing how many holes they try to poke in stuff like the IPCC report when they have next to nothing (that hasn’t been thoroughly debunked) to back up their views.

  3. Jane Talkington - March 5, 2008

    In the August 2007 issue of Journal of Consumer Research is an article by Gustavo de Mello that shows “when hope is threatened” even smart people behave irrationally, discount negative information, can’t discern between low-credibility and high-credibility arguments. Without hope, we become desperate and naive. There is happiness in obliviousness.

  4. Scott - March 5, 2008

    I’ll add an observation from a conversation that I had yesterday with a friend. Somehow we got onto the topic of acid rain, and at the same time, we both thought, “Hey, what ever happened to acid rain?”
    Acid rain was the Thing-To-Fear-Most that was going to kill us all and destroy life as we know it, before global warming became the Thing-To-Fear-Most. Before that, it was probably nuclear weapons, especially in the hands of that “madman” Ronald Reagan (remember the Sting song “Russians”?).
    So I just think that there’s a level of tuning out whatever the left is “ranting” about this time around… the last couple of times that they swore that if we didn’t change the world was going to end, it really wasn’t that drastic of a situation. It’s not denial in the way that’s generally constructed; I just think that a lot of people are listening to the similar levels of rhetoric around global warming and thinking, “I’ve heard this story before, and somehow we’re all still OK.”
    I could be wrong… it’s just my guess.

  5. Rev. Steve Jones - March 5, 2008

    I think the real issue with Cultural problem is that the approach to the problem has been a “chicken little” approach. If you want to get the general population you have to talk about stewardship not change or we will all die. Just my thoughts.

  6. aa - March 5, 2008

    I think you are correct that this debate, at least the public and political side of it, as opposed to the scientific side of it, is related to other facets of the so-called

  7. Raven - March 5, 2008

    Post 4 is very relevant. Most people just tune out ‘the sky is falling’ rhetoric. They believe as even E O Wilson says in his Future of Life book, that humanity will survive. But a what cost to that which created us?
    People also tune out because their experience of the natural world is greatly limited and mostly mediated through TV and electronic devices. The Soma has taken hold and inertia is the greatest enemy.
    How can we expect people to defend the environment when they have so little interaction with it? All the statistics point in one direction, humans are becoming more sedentary and increasingly experiencing the world through electronic media.
    This trend erodes the defense of the natural world and is in line with the ‘tuning out’ aspect of the debate.
    As the book the Attention Economy points out, competition now is for people’s attention. People intuitively, spiritually believe in protecting the environment but the longer term anaesthetizing of society makes for a more difficult battle to protect the environment.

  8. Tony Welsh - March 5, 2008

    I think climate change activists have to some extent brought this on themselves by framing the debate in terms of whether or not we are witnessing climate change. This was perhaps debatable until relatively recently, but was irrelevant because we have had good reason for over 150 years to expect that it would happen. Instead of arguing about whether it was currently observable we could have been taking action. See my February 3rd posting on http://tonysclimateblog.blogspot.com/ for more.

  9. Lisa - March 5, 2008

    Thanks for bringing this idea into focus. Speaking as a former Christian, I believe there’s a specific and insidious explanation for at least part of this “denial” phenomenon: it’s the underlying Biblical belief (which pervades our so-called “Christian nation’s” culture on a subconscious level) that the earth serves a discrete purpose and when that purpose is fulfilled the earth is doomed to destruction. I want to be clear that I don’t believe Christians actively want or hope for the destruction of the world. I just believe the Christian culture is inculcated with a subliminal foundation – an atmosphere that’s so pervasive it’s not noticed – of the inevitability of earth’s destruction. And if it’s inevitable, then it’s not preventable and we’re also not to blame – it’s been written in the stars, so to speak. To a large extent, the U.S.’s foreign and environmental policies are controlled by this mindset. Getting beyond this mindset is crucial to accepting responsibility for our individual potential to either harm or help the earth.

  10. michael - March 5, 2008

    Great write-up…and typically clear.
    The Surgeon General has warned for years that smoking can cause cancer…and science supports this warning with facts and more than a few of us have touched a life shortened by denial. This may come off as an unsophisticated comparison, but the same denial mentality exists in this current subject; as long as I’m not dying right now, there is no problem. Do we have to be brought to the edge of extinction before we as a race relize there is a problem? One, or I, would think common sense would prevail at some level here beginning with smoking. Our bodies did not suffer the natural selection process toking on some carcinogenic stick.
    Perhaps, we should invite selected busness and political folk – those in denial – to toke on an exhasut pipe for a few minutes a day…you know, fast track the denial into reality.

  11. peter h - March 5, 2008

    I think their feelings run deeper than described above. There is something, for lack of a better word, psychological about their attitude. The idea that there are limits to TOTAL individual freedom is profoundly threatening to some people. My guess is that these folks were either overindulged as children (i.e., not taught any limits) or overly restricted (not respected and given enough freedom). Either way, they view environmental (or any government) restrictions on a gut, emotional level – a symbol of the reasonable limits that they never learned. In other words, they are grown up children. That would account for their cutthroat viciousness, ad hominem arguments, and reckless use of arguments to support their cause. A typical immature psychological defense.

  12. michael - March 5, 2008

    I agree, there is much more at work here and freedom shouldn’t be discounted as a root. I guess my view of survival – biologically based – is different than say a politically or monetarily based set of values. I see the second set as short term…

  13. Arnold - March 5, 2008

    How about plain old fear? Denial is a pain avoidance strategy, useless yet the overwhelming choice of many if not all at times. While there are many specific issues the biggest elephant in the living room is simply change.

  14. Craig Hunter - March 5, 2008

    To fight the good fight, one must remember, there are still those of us who deny evolution and gravity. Environmentally speaking, every has and is entitled to an opinion, yet we have few choices, with one more abundantly clear than the others. Discussion takes place when both sides talk with each other, solutions come from induvidual actions.

  15. veeektor - March 5, 2008

    -First, it’s surprising that the Green Community seems so paranoid, especially when this paranoia seems based on anecdotal evidence and perhaps a little bit of wishful thinking. Where is the real evidence for this? What evidence do you have that Greens are discriminated against or despised? Too bad the comments from Ms. Begley (who is normally an astute writer) are not sourced.
    -Second, unlike health or financial measurements, “greenness” is frustratingly difficult to measure. The current debate over biofuels and “is it better to buy local or organics shipped in from Peru” kinds of questions show how difficult it is to measure “units of greenness.” Is it better to keep an older small car or to buy a new Prius, which requires lots of energy to manufacture and to ship? Until we find defensible and measurable indicators of Greenness , any consumer is going to have a hard time making suitable choices — and that often means the question is ignored, or that other more reliable indicators are used.

  16. Andrew Potts - March 5, 2008

    I’m not convinced GW is the end all that has been described. I’ve gone out and researched as much as I possibly can and the evidence is weak at best. Certainly there IS GW taking place but AGW hardly links to it. The fact there is correlation DOES NOT give causation.
    Furthermore, regarding post 4, how on earth can you say it’s up to GW “deniers” (I keep hearing holocaust denier in the background when I hear this term – shameful) to discredit AGW? That’s the opposite of how science – meaningful, true science is conducted.
    Question:
    Is there NO other possible cause for warming felt here on earth? If not then why is the climate on mars warming as well.
    Question:
    If we’re not certain that human made carbon is causing GW, why would we retrench world economies trying to stop something of which we have little control.
    Question:
    Will it rain on March 31st of next year? If the models used are so accurate, why can’t we get a weather forecast correct in a week, let alone 100 years?

  17. Craig Hunter - March 5, 2008

    Um veeektor, I’m not sure how to comment on your difficulty in measuring “greeness”. Regardless of our current administrations environmental short-comings, its pretty much self evident that this might be the time to be a little paranoid. Please educate yourself on the bigger picture. http://nsidc.org/ This is the real science on the real issue.

  18. Thomas Gee - March 5, 2008

    Your comment: “….I

  19. Anonymous - March 5, 2008

    Thomas: Can you provide some links to your “ever-mounting data”. Peer-reviewed data only, please.
    To everyone else: I work for a major chemical company in S&T. From my experience, support for action with respect to global warming is much higher among my coworkers and management than in the general population. We WANT to act. We view it as an opportunity, where our skills can provide us with an advantage over cheap Chinese crap produced with cut-rate heavily-polluting methods. We do not at all fear rules and regulations that give clean technologies the advantage.

  20. Joyce - March 5, 2008

    How about calling the cause of the problem with the environment exactly what it is? Stupidity and laziness. Stupidity and laziness on the part of the government. Stupidity and laziness on the part of corporations. Stupidity and laziness on the part of everyone on the planet, regardless of their views on climate change and preserving the earth. Stupid and lazy to use weed killers to have a green yard. Stupid and lazy to purchase foods packaged 10,000 miles away from where you live. Stupid and lazy to purchase items in three or more layers of packaging (not necessarily fragile items that need layered packaging). Stupid and lazy for not thinking about these things then blaming someone else for environmental problems.
    I know several people who espouse the outlook that the environment needs taken care of, yet they landscape with plants that require massive amounts of water and pesticides, spray their yard liberally with various herbicides when a dandelion dares peek up, use chemical fertilizers on their lawns and water their lawns in the midst of droughts, keep their houses 75 degrees or warmer in the winter then complain about their heating bills, recycle only clean items (newspapers, magazines, things they don’t have to wash before taking to recycling and things from which they won’t get dirty handling) — yet they get on my case about driving an SUV.
    Me — no herbicides, no pesticides, no fertilizers (occasionally some lime), no logging, no excessive mowing, no exotic plantings, no blacktop or concrete driveways, etc., on my farm. I recycle everything I can in any way possible. I try (and sometimes this is nearly impossible) to purchase items that are either free of packaging or that has minimal packaging. I read labels on foods and avoid purchashing things packaged overseas when I know it is available from US sources. I drive a vehicle at least 10 years before purchasing another one. I wear shoes and clothing until they are beyond use. I take things I no longer use or need to Goodwill in the hopes that someone else can use them.
    There are so many little, everyday ways to help the environment. There are also big ways to help, like insisting that a minimum of 30% of new housing be solar powered, insisting that all new vehicles have hybrid motors, insisting in truth in advertising (remember all the advertising about electric heating being “clean”?). Most of all, we need to wake up and take responsibility for our actions as consumers that have brought about the environmental problems.

  21. pastor D - March 5, 2008

    I just want to clarify from Lisa in post 9. The majority of Christians do not think it is ‘written in the stars’ that the earth will be destroyed.
    Rather, those of us who are discerning will notice many references in Scripture that encourage (command, even) us to take care of the planet. It is a shame that more Christians are not speaking out and acting out to help the planet, but we are fallible and we are learning!

  22. KC Healy - March 5, 2008

    Good points but I would add two reasons:
    4) Fear of Change – embracing the notion of global warming and the need to do something about it implies big changes in the way we live our lives and do business. Although there is great opportunity in change, its scarey to think that we may need to give up the trappings of our comfortable lives. Because environmentalists have gained the reputation (rightly or wrongly) of being spoil sports – dont do this, dont do that etc. many people shy away from embracing environmentalisms because they think it means “going without” Not true of course but until the general public realizes that, change wont occur until dire necessity forces it.
    5) Fear of litigation. In our current society, there is great business risk in taking a courageous stand about something like global warming. We tend to punish the well meaning as well as the dishonest alike with law suits. I read somewhere a discussion about suing the automotive manufacturers for not giving us fuel efficient vehicles. Doesnt sound like much of an incentive to embrace climate change to me, especially since manufacturers of consumer goods respond to consumer demand rather than the other way around – no matter what the “its not my fault” crowd tells you. Litigation is a useful tool to punish the truly wrong doers but it is one that can be very polarizing and counterprodutive.

  23. Brooking - March 5, 2008

    I’d like to add that the more we can address basic American concerns when talking about climate change – jobs, the economy, safety, freedom – and the less we identify ourselves as “environmentalists”, the more widely our concerns and solutions will be considered, shared, and acted upon. Almost to resist Lakoff’s political perspective a bit and take a more Shellenberger and Nordhaus approach, don’t make it about left and right at all, but about core American values, and speak to those. There’s a website about climate change as a matter of national security that sort of nails this, I think: http://securityandclimate.cna.org/ I may personally hate the website’s branding as it evokes everything I distrust about America, but I also recognize that it may be a more impactful course than a lot of messaging that sits better with my Californicated cultural values.

  24. veeektor - March 5, 2008

    -This is a response to Craig.
    -Bro, I don’t for a minute doubt that warming is real, the sky is falling, we need to be more concerned, etc. That is not the issue. The issue is that actually quantifying and measuring “greeness” is something we do not now possess and need to work on.
    -The post reminded me of another issue. Another area where Greenies, like the Hippies and New Lefties of yore, seem to fall flat on our faces is a somewhat smug, patronizing, “we-know-more-than-you-do” kind of attitude. A consumer who is environmentally concerned and basically intelligent and caring, but just barely able to keep their financial heads above water, isn’t likely to elevate Green Awareness to a very high level unless and until it can be shown how it is directly affecting them in the short term as well as the long term, without the amazing vagueness that now characterizes much of the Green position. They will also react negatively and understandably to an attempt to “dumb them down because they are on the wrong side of the fence” or just be told to read Al Gore’s book, or whatever. The environment is one issue among many for many well-intentioned consumers, and in reality it was for us “wise ones” for a long time, too.
    -Incidentally, science has an irreplaceable role but the evolutionary process involved in scientific development also gives science a solid track record of reversing itself (look at diet, as just one example). In science, the jury is always out and no single voice speaks for science — it’s a method, not a dogma.
    -Hope this helps. It’s an important issue and hopefully forums like this will help.

  25. michael - March 5, 2008

    #16 above
    Andrew,
    Cause and effect are hard to pin point, perhaps impossible. As a race we should learn to keep our place clean, and provide ourselves with solutions that engender our long term survvival and quality of life. That written, I agree with your first question. Our current world life style may exaserbate phenomenon originating outside our atmoshpere…and according to science, this has happened before…before man’s influence on this world.

  26. Thomas - March 5, 2008

    So, lets see…
    I want to be as green as possible so that makes me a communist?
    If I didn’t care about anything green I would, of course, be a Republican.
    I am a Democrat and think it would be great if as many people as possible would think about lowering their energy use, pollution and that parks should be supported by everyone… So that makes me a Socialist and against big business.
    So I am the bad guy? I drive a Prius and drive three times farther on my gallon than any Republican in his big truck or SUV with one person inside? AND THEN THEY HATE ME?
    They never were able to learn about tolerance of other people’s opinions in school successfully were they, just name calling and blaming. Just listen to Rush Limbaugh blame blame blame. Do my part for saving the earth, spend less too and I am the bad guy. They have the right to not follow my ideals and spend as much as they want, but not to put me down.

  27. Adam Stein - March 5, 2008

    Lots of great comments. Obviously there are lots of factors at play here. I do think there’s a good book in here somewhere. Some thoughts:
    @27 — Speaking of culture war: climate change denialism isn’t the same thing as Republicanism, and everyone shares roughly equal responsibility for climate change, regardless of political affiliation.
    @18 — exactly: scientists are skeptical by nature, and they are speaking with a clear voice, so we should heed them. The people assembled in New York aren’t skeptics, they’re cranks.
    @16 — you’re repeating all the tired canards. In answer to your question: no, there is no way to account for warming trends without attributing a large role to CO2. And there is no warming on Mars, for god’s sake.
    @15 — I didn’t say greens are discriminated against or despised. I said that people who deny global warming seem to be motivated by cultural resentment. This is hardly baseless paranoia. You should see my inbox.
    @6 — I try not to use inflammatory language (most of the time), but I’m sort of at a loss on this one. What term should I use if not denier? Alternative reality theorist? Climate metaphysicist? Skeptic is out of the question — scientists are the real skeptics.

  28. Hollis - March 5, 2008

    I hope to get the proceedings of that conference in New York and see what they talked about. I enjoyed reading all the passionate responses today. It’s good to see people engaged in this important topic.

  29. Deb - March 5, 2008

    Hi, Re: post #9
    LOL, as a current Christian, we are charged (in the Bible) with stewardship of the planet. The Bible also makes clear we are not to abuse animals (or people). Just thought you’d want to know that’s in there. Sure there are people of every religion that think GW is untrue. I think mostly because it is either too overwheming to think about (as in “I have enought problems already”) or because they think it will require an uncomfortable life change. What they don’t realize is they can ignore it but sooner or later they will have to deal with it. BTW, acid rain is still a problem, but I think that the ceramic filters on cars and scrubbers on coal powered plants might have helped reduce acid rain. Read about it here http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/reducing/index.html

  30. Alex - March 5, 2008

    Great posting, thanks for addressing this subject.

  31. JJ - March 6, 2008

    Add to the list “The Good fairy syndrome”, as in: “The good fairy will fix it, I don’t have to be inconvenienced.” Let’s face it. This problem is too big to solve unless we all change the way we live and that means inconvenience. Most importantly we must press government to stop being obstructionists to good ideas, people and organizations who can bring about meaningful changes but are blocked by politicians either by intension or ignorance. Changing light bulbs (alone) will not work.

  32. aa - March 6, 2008

    Adam -
    Yes, “denier” and related terms are clearly meant connote the same sort of feelings as the term “holocaust denier” does. So, yes, the use of “denier” is clearly meant to do more than just identify with shorthand those who are not completely on board with those who firmly believe in GW as a fact and as a serious problem; it is most certainly meant as a dismissive verbal slap. Slapping in general, verbally or otherwise, is no way to communicate with people you disagree with. This assumes your intention in communicating is to try to persuade, rather than just to insult. It makes the slapper look like a jerk, and leaves the slapped unmoved.

  33. aa - March 6, 2008

    Adam -
    BTW, that is not meant to be personal. You are certainly not the first to use the term “denier” to describe those you disagree with on the subject of climate change. My point is that anyone can see that the use of the term is not merely because it is the best descriptor, but because it carries with it a charge that is unhelpful in the discussion, unless, as I say, the intent is not to discuss with or to persuade, but to insult your not-as-sure fellow human beings.

  34. ewoc - March 6, 2008

    I suggest that anyone who is curious about the motivations of the organizations behind the conference in NY read their ad in the New York TImes this past Monday, page A-9.
    Many are classic right-wing libertarian organizations (Competitive Enterprise Institute, Hayek Institute, our very own Cascade Policy Institute in Oregon). Some are virtual, Potemkin-village organizations (Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, located in bustling Cave Junction, Oregon, with a staff of one at last count, and a long record of puffery and fabrication to boot). Others are foreign libertarian clone organizations. You get the picture. Begley’s comments are right on the money – no pun intended. Having blogged with some of these folks numerous times, there is no winning the argument – there is always a fallback position.
    These groups and their followers feel threatened because they actually appear to assume that concern over AGW is little more than another attempt by liberals to control the economy and regulate everyone to death. I am not sure that any amount of messaging a la Lackoff will penetrate their shield walls, but the great majority of the public is no longer in their sway, at least from the polling I’ve seen.

  35. Lisa - March 6, 2008

    Hi again. To posters #21 and #29, thanks for the feedback. My comment was not intended to imply that all Christians are oblivious to environmental issues. I merely wanted to point out a mindset that contributes to the phenomenon of “looking the other way” in the face of environmental challenges. A quote below from an article in Grist, by Glenn Scherer, might help clarify: (if you’re interested, the web address for the entire article is http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2004/10/27/scherer-christian/ )
    “Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed — even hastened — as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.”

  36. triffel - March 6, 2008

    Several questions?
    How will Carbon credits lower carbon in the atmosphere.
    According to Kyoto Accord, why were the developing countries not required to limit pollution and carbon exhausts if this is about survival of the planet Earth as know it.
    What predictions by the environmentalist from the 1960′s and ’70 have come true. It’s been over 40 years! Global cooling, global warming, mass animal (5,000 per year) extinction – Name 1 animal in the last 20 years, Water covering the barrier islands, etc.

  37. Adam Stein - March 6, 2008

    OK, here’s one: Achatinella lehuiensis was declared extinct in 1990.
    Here a bonus one: Akialoa obscura was declared an ex-species in 1994.
    I look forward to your careful reconsideration of prior beliefs in light of these new facts. It’s always a pleasure exchanging ideas with curious and unbiased seekers of truth.

  38. Jim - March 6, 2008

    Great article, absolutely brilliant.
    Well, believe it or not, WE are all a part of the problem here. To blame “The Oil Companies” is ignorant, short-sighted, and simply wrong. This is like blaming the cocoa farmer for our nation’s drug problem, or Smith and Wesson for our murder rates.
    As an anthropologist I have studied human behavior. After 15 years the one thing I can say about us primates is this: we live, work, breathe, pro-create, EXIST, in a perpetual state of denial. We have to. After all, it requires denial of our very own mortality to keep on keeping on.
    My point? Nature dictates that everything tends towards decay and the human species is no exception. Now, we THINK we can control the mechanisms that are moving us towards our own demise, as a species. However, this is just another wonderful example of our endless ability to deny our own mortality.
    Sorry for the downer here folks but I am an anthropologist after all. I make a living recording and excavating the ruined cities of people who thought they would never fail. I have simply seen too many to kid myself into thinking that we are actually in control of our fate.

  39. triffel - March 6, 2008

    Achatinella lehuiensis was declared extinct
    in 1990.
    Here a bonus one: Akialoa obscura was
    declared an ex-species in 1994.
    Interesting thought process. The question must have been misunderstood. Only two declared extinct species were listed out of the predicted 200,000 species. We get that number by multiplying 5,000 per year times 40 years equal 200,000 species……… predicted by environmentalist … to go extinct since 1968. It’s amazing you consider that a victory! That’s actually embarrassing! You really mustn’t brag
    What about the other questions left unanswered in comment #36 ?
    I am ready for dialog but first answer the 3 questions which I addressed to the most intelligent people I know to answer. You even have the help of the internet. I seriously want educated answers.

  40. Adam Stein - March 7, 2008

    No, the question wasn’t misunderstood. I was making a joke, you see, because the question was absurd. You are the person I was writing about — you’re opposed to a fake version of environmentalism not for scientific but for cultural reasons.
    But, sure, here are your answers. These are necessarily brief because these are big topics.
    1) Carbon credits lower the amount of carbon emissions by funding projects that wouldn’t have happened in the absence of the financial incentive provided by the credit. There are literally hundreds of different project types, too many for me to describe here. There are lots of place to go for more info. David Suzuki’s web site is good start.
    2) Many reasons. Here are a few:

    • Equity concerns. Developed countries are responsible for most of the anthropogenic carbon already in the atmosphere, so most people feel developed countries bear responsibility for taking the lead on a solution.
    • Humanitarian concerns. Dealing with climate change will cost money. Rich countries like the U.S. can easily bear these costs today. Poor countries like India need some extra time to manage the transition. This situation is very common in international treaties. Developing countries are given extra time to adjust to international standards in everything from intellectual property rights to pharmaceuticals.
    • Practical politics. Let’s face it — you have to start somewhere, and the developing world is not going to start making cuts until they see we’re serious about the issue. Diplomacy is messy. Environmentalists would like to see China and India brought into the fold as soon as possible, but it will take a few years to get there.

    3) This isn’t a question, it’s an absurd strawman. Let’s take this point by point:

    • Environmentalists in the ’70s did not predict global cooling. This is a myth peddled by people who deny the reality of global warming.
    • On the other hand, scientists have been predicting global warming since the ’70s. They were right — the world has been getting warmer. No one, even the diehards, deny the temperature has been going up. So there’s one example for you.
    • I have no idea what you’re talking about with these numbers. Anyhow, this is another area in which environmentalists happen to be right. We are losing species and biodiversity at an increasing rate. Extinctions are presently occurring at about 1,000 times the background rate. Again, this is just the basic scientific reality. Google “biodiversity loss.”

    And an important point — sometimes bad environmental outcomes are averted because environmentalists sound the alarm about the problem and then push for fixes. The ozone hole and acid rain are both issues that spring to mind. The point of environmentalism isn’t to predict doom. Rather it’s to avert bad outcomes. So you’ve been the beneficiary of environmentalism whether you realize it or not.
    And that’s the last I’m going to say on this.

  41. laurel77 - March 7, 2008

    What a wonderful debate and great to see so much interest.
    As a journalist focusing on the “kicking and screaming segment” (people who really don’t have the environment top-of-mind), here are my observations:
    1. Science isn’t interesting to many suburban, over-scheduled, harried families trying to keep many balls in the air. The environment falls on the “someday I’ll get to it list”. (I hook them with kid-focused articles–it’s closer to home than coal plants in Ohio)
    2. Al Gore, whom I respect, seems to just unnerve and irritate many of my Republican readers. Since Inconvenient Truth and the Nobel Award brought many scientific points to a mass audience (even if they didn’t view the documentary) I’m amazed how turned off to the environment some conservatives are because of the messenger. So, when a person is starting in the negative on a topic, it’s just that much harder. I have even asked if Colin Powell has delivered the same message, how would you feel about global warming? I see a thaw in their eyes!
    3. When a person on the fence feels guilty, attacked or made to feel stupid as I think some “deniasaurs” have been made to feel, they simply raise the wall and don’t listen. I think that’s psychology, it’s basic human nature and it’s frustrating to a greenie like me. But, that’s reality and so many times I’ve wanted to walk up and smack on the head a friend who’s Suburban is idling in carpool when it’s 60 degrees, but I’ve got to educate another way. I want to be a green and safe resource for her to start the process and I’m finding that pissing people off doesn’t work. It takes some time.
    Thanks for reading, I really do think we’ll get there. The US is full of innovators and each day we’re getting more green and working toward carbon neutrality.

  42. aa - March 7, 2008

    #41 – Laurel -
    What a wonderful, reasoned, and humble attitude! Can you feel strong in your convictions and yet refrain from sinking to snootiness, despair, and smacking (verbal and otherwise)? Can you like Al Gore personally, but understand why he is not the best guy to bring the GW message to Republican types? Can you find a way to refer to the unconviced without suggesting that they are no better than Nazis?
    To borrow a phrase, “YES YOU CAN!” This is the kind of understanding vibe that will win friends and influence people with regard to many, many things, not just GW.

  43. triffel - March 7, 2008

    In referance to # 40 comment by Adam Stein
    You disappoint me. In your first response you gave me hope and said,
    “It

  44. triffel - March 8, 2008

    To Adam
    P.S. I am a believer in Global Warming. The Planet is always changing. For every global cooling, there is global warming. Its good that there was global warming from the “Dark Ages”. That was a very cold and stressful time. By the way, ask the dinosaurs. That event was before humans were on the scene to provide a tasty, high protein food source. I guess that was a Myth also. Yes, there is Global Warming ——–and Cooling ———-and warming etc.
    But along with the Global Warming term goes the insinuation that “MANKIND CAUSED GLOBAL WARMING” which I STRENUOUSLY object to.
    There is pollution caused by people. This would include but not limited to – garbage, wastefulness, air pollution, erosion etc. Yes, Clean it up!
    There are “facts” to support both sides. It all depends on who pays for the study. Al Gore’s facts involves only Carbon. His plan doesn’t even figure in the sun which has the most influence on the earth’s temperature. This planet is so complicated and resilient that people will most likely never figure it out.
    I remember during the first Golf War, we were scared to death by the environmentalist who said if Saddam Hussein lit the oil wells on fire, We would have winter for several years due to all the smoke blocking out the sun’s heat! He did, We didn’t. If you think you can play God and control the planet, good luck.
    If you would like to donate to the third world countries to help out pollution, feel free to send a check. Keep me out of it. To generalize – The Liberals are very open to throwing money at problems, as long as it isn’t their own money. Just let me donate my money to what I feel is a worthy cause.

  45. Jeremy - March 9, 2008

    Consensus is surely not what science is or should be based on. And it is true that even the IPCC does not claim to be 100% sure that global warming is human caused, however, here is where technology comes on. Since the first annual report, (the latest was the Fourth), they have become increasingly assured that it IS humans who are causing the earth to warm. As accountable scientists though, i find it reassuring that they are able to leave that room for debate because they lacked 100% assuring data. Especially considering that denialist media are also reading, and using that small percent uncertainty for their cause.
    Point being, that our climate technology is improving over time, indeed, science improves over time. From the days when people believed in a flat earth, or when people believed in global cooling, we have come a long way, baby.
    So how will buying carbon credits reduce your footprint? If you were to “create and sell 100 carbon credits”, you would ostensibly be finding a way to produce energy cleanly, or sequester GHG’s in a manner that avoided 100 units (usually tons of Carbon) into the atmosphere. Offsetting is not a solution, it is, at best an interim strategy to mitigate our high carbon lifestyle, and is a great way of funding and propagating clean energy technology (especially when the feds do not want to fund this r&d themselves). Yes, if you buy enough to offset your driving for 10,000 miles, you are still driving the 10,000 miles, the resulting carbon balance is 0, not -10,000. so in effect you are leaving the atmosphere unchanged, with a net positive benefit of increased money into clean energy technologies and sequestration. Still a good use of money, but not a solution to reduce overall emissions like a market based cap’n trade is. (by the way, someone asked what happened to acid rain? it was the doom and gloom end of the world problem about 20 years back… well, an emissions trading sysytem is what happened, very successfully).
    If, Triffel by carbon credits you meant a cap and trade system, like the one currently used in the EU (coming to a U.S. region near you, look at WCI and RGGI) than that does have a net reduction effect on carbon because the overal allowances of the amount of carbon in the system is systematically ratcheted down.
    And to address one more thing. Plants do love carbon, but increasing atmospheric carbon will NOT lead to plants growing out of control everywhere and a greener planet. What you may see is plant habitat shifting upward toward the poles because of climactic change (we are already seeing this) with extinction of those plants not able to make the transitions northward (or upward in elevation) due to lack of mobility, geographic isolation etc.. However plant growth is not just limited by available CO2, Nitrogen, Potassium, and phosphorous are also limiting factors, a plant will only grow as much as its most limiting factor will allow it. So no, global warming will not mean more food for the world due to increased CO2 for plants. In fact, food production is predicted to change most nearest the equator due to global warming, affecting the poorest people with the least resources needed to adapt.

  46. Anonymous - March 12, 2008

    [Hi folks. Let's not feed the troll. I think we all see how this works by now. It starts with a profession of scientific doubt, and then suddenly becomes Al Gore's swimming pool, global cooling, China, CO2 is good for plants, etc., etc. That's how culture warriors operate. Let's all move on.]

  47. trifffel - March 12, 2008

    [Nothing to see here, folks. Trolls often become quite agitated when their comments are removed. Interesting to note that the complaints have moved from the science, to environmentalists, to "liberals." How about that. I guess the issue wasn't science after all.]

  48. Jim - March 13, 2008

    Trifffel (sic)
    If you are unable to accept that 6 billion human beings living, breathing, and burning 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is having an adverse effect on the paper thin atmosphere we all live in then I guess nobody can help you here.
    I know global warming is the ultimate monster under the bed. And for many folks accepting that the monster is under there is a difficult thing to do as it makes you face your very own mortality. However, once we acknowledge the monster we can begin to deal with it in a constructive manner.
    Give me your address and I promise to send you some new high-effeciency light bulbs (you know, the funny looking swirly kind). That will get you going in the right direction.
    I am serious…
    Jim in Arizona

  49. Jim - March 14, 2008

    Steven in Colorado,
    So…what is your angle exactly? You seem firmly perched on your soapbox but your message is a bit criptic.
    I am a professional archaeologist and am quite aware that the earth has gone through climate change in the past. However, these were very long changes on the order of tens of thousands of years. The current rate of climate change far exceeds the rate of past ones and just happens to coincide with the beginning of the industrial revolution ca. 1850.
    And as a scientist you should know that there are no “facts” but rather theories that become stronger or weaker over time through ongoing scrutiny. If your sources are telling you about the “scientific facts” of global warming then you may want to turn to the back page and see who is publishing the piece.
    I think you just tipped your hand my friend.

  50. Adam Stein - March 14, 2008

    I wonder if skeptics will ever be able to make their argument without first attributing false opinions to their opponents. Of course climate change has been going on forever. There were crocodiles in the Arctic 90 million years ago. We know this to be true.
    We also know that CO2 concentrations and temperature tend to be tightly correlated on a geological timeframe. This makes sense, because we know CO2 to be a greenhouse gas that amplifies the warming effect of solar radiation. We also know that the burning of fossil fuels has raised CO2 concentrations to levels not seen in a long, long time.
    Finally, as a non-scientist, I know that the large majority of scientists believe that anthropogenic emissions are the primary cause of global warming.
    So that’s a bunch of stuff that I know. Steve, if you have a different opinion based on your evaluation of the science, that’s fine. But surely you’re aware that your views put you in the company of a large number of people who couldn’t be less interested in facts.

  51. Klockarman - March 14, 2008

    Here’s the science against AGW, and it was all put together by a 15 year-old girl…
    http://home.earthlink.net/~ponderthemaunder/index.html
    [Ed. -- Once again, there's your cultural resentment, folks. The world scientific community or a 15-year-old with a web site. Tough call. You're in some good company, Steve...]