Sunday, April 15, 2012

Global Warming 2012 - Are the Denialists really winning?

This Telegraph article is primarily about a Hansen lecture on humanity's failure to think rationally about climate change, but I found the "Global Warming Policy Foundation" [1] funded response ironically interesting ...

Climate scientists are losing the public debate on global warming - Telegraph

... Dr Benny Peiser, director of sceptical think tank The Global Warming Policy Foundation, said governments and the public had "more urgent problems to deal with" than tackling climate change.

He said: "People have become bored by some of the rhetoric from the green movement as they have other things to worry about.

"In reality the backlash against climate change has very little to do with the sceptics. We will take credit for instilling some debate but it is mainly an economic issue. Climate change is not seen as being urgent any more."...

Over the past decade it seems the Denialist line has shifted from "it's not happening" to "it's not due to CO2 emissions" to "it's boring and not urgent".

That's a pretty radical retreat, even as public support for reducing emissions has collapsed in the face of the Lesser Depression (which is very severe now in the UK).

Contrary to the tone of the article, I call this progress. In the real world, the bad guys rarely fall on their knees and declare they were wrong. Yes, there were tobacco executives who did publicly repent, often after they or their loved ones developed lung cancer, but by then they weren't tobacco company executives any more. This denialist declaration of victory is, ironically, an admission of defeat.

Progress is very non-linear. The Lesser Depression will make action very difficult, even as it reduces carbon emissions far more than any tax ever could. Even so, I think we're moving into an era when the interesting debates begin. Debates about risks and costs, about climate engineering vs energy conservation, about who pays and who benefits and what is possible when. Those are debates about values and judgment as much as science.

[1] Funded by Michael Hintze, a hedge fund billionaire. Other funders are not known, but one assumes the usual suspects (Koch, Exxon, etc).

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