Climate Change, the Media and Us

(4 PM – promoted by TheMomCat)

NPR is not exactly gung-ho on covering Climate Change but it presented a thoughtful (for NPR) segment on climate change and the fact that Americans are less likely to “believe” in climate change today than a few years ago despite the fact that scientists are more convinced of the reality of human caused climate change than ever; and b) most Americans believe, or claim to, in science and scientific findings. NPR also pointed out that the most significant trend in climate-change denying is in the GOP and its stalwarts; however, NPR did not, as I guessed it would not, go into why this is so because it would have put its own funding at risk.

So I will say why it is so and I’m not going to blame the politicians. First though I want to emphasize how important the issue is. This issue strikes at the heart of what it means to be a responsible human being and even at civilization itself. We are choosing to live a lifestyle that is clearly and unambiguously destructive to the environment and, in my view, destructive to human society and individual morality even more. By persisting in destructive behavior despite the clear facts–and even if there was some doubt that applying any normal risk-analysis system to the problem would come out, overwhelmingly, to taking action. It is, in short, pragmatic to act on the climate change issue. What I’m interested is why we don’t act on it and what that tells us about us.  

Now, who to blame for this?

  1. All of us are to blame, by that I mean that (I’m limiting this to the U.S. but it applies elsewhere to a lesser degree) we citizen are directly to blame first and foremost. Yes, there are excuses, the media hasn’t really covered it very well and the energy companies have bamboozled the ignorant but that doesn’t cut it for me. The American people are the recipients of a flawed but universal educational system that teaches science and the scientific method. No one, other than those who are mentally retarded, has the right to plead ignorance of science. Nearly everyone knows that science exists and what the basic method is even if they don’t know the term “empirical.” Its also frequently referred to on TV shows in various guises (usually crime-dramas). I can only assume that the fact half the American public does not accept Darwinian evolution means that these people reject science–there are legitimate arguments on controversial issues within the structure of evolution theory but not the fundamental approach. Nearly a third of Ameridans believe the Bible is true word-for-word which means that they are living in a fantasy land without benefit of logic, let alone science. Thus a significant number of Americans choose to live in a fantasy world that can have no relationship at all to the real world as established by science. About 70% of the American people believe in a literal Hell where people who are “bad” go forever. This idea is spectacularly cruel and ambiguously described in the Bible but it says a lot about the psyche of Americans who believe in this Hell. How a God who is described as compassionate can tolerate an endless Hell is beyond me and means that there are serious problems with logic in this culture. But, at any rate, if being alive for a limited time risks eternal suffering then I guess I’ d be a) very scared; and b) not that interested in the fate of the earth itself because fear narrows your view considerably. Thus Americans crave comfort and perpetual catharsis which explains the love of violent fantasies and obsession with retribution/revenge. That the politicians and MSM cater to this should be no surprise.
  2. Though the MSM is only catering to a, largely, militantly ignorant (of science and logic) public, still in its own mythological framework it should have, as a legitimate profession, have done much better.  Mainstream journalists and editors are graduates from some of the best universities in the world and yet, act and talk as if they had barely graduated from high school. Most of them act as if they’d never studied history beyond a kind of hagiographical description of the U.S. that one might have received in the 1950’s and none of them seem to understand that there are patterns in data and backgrounds to crises and issues. The MSM, after a brief flurry a few years ago, pretty much stopped reporting on climate-change even when there were obvious weather-events that were clearly traceable and were predicted as far back as the 1980’s, i.e., increasing tornadoes and destructive storms and earthquakes. The American MSM can favor an imperial foreign policy and that bothers me, but it is understandable since it is conceivable that there are theoretical benefits to the people or to someone. But the fact they do ont insist that climate-change is a central issue of our lives is a clear case of malpractice.
  3. The scientific community may be in accord about climate-change but it has been remarkably quiet about it. If what they say is true then this should be the major issue before them as a community. They ought to be demonstrating and resigning from corporations that are militantly against taking measures to ease climate-change but they too just note it and move on to their personal pursuits. I think this is another form of malpractice and scientists as a profession should be called to account.
  4. The so-called “progressive” community has been alone in putting pressure on politicians to enact climate-change legislation and a change in our economy yet it has been very mild in recent years and concentrated on other matters when climate-change should be the master-issue upon which all others are secondary, assuming you are rational. At the very least we can make a connection between climate change and imperial wars aka GWOT.
  5. Politicians often have to take the blame for everything but we need to kind of give them a break. They are power brokers and can only deal with power as they find it. If Americans were concerned about climate-change politicians would say something about it even if it was just a bunch of BS but they ignore it because there is no public counter to the money they receive to ignore the issue. It’s not their job to lead — they are followers.

Climate-change should be the organizing principle of progressive politics, not jobs and not the usual cultural issues. We ought to be supporting a move towards a new economy based on renewable energy and be willing to suffer personally for it. That willingness to suffer for the well-being of our children, grand-children and future generation is an essential part of good character. If we lack even that then we should just give-up because the central flaw of this culture is what I, and others, call the retreat from virtue. Everything in this society is about narcissism. It is a narcissism based on a denial of the truth and a denial of reality. We are programmed to do that by advertising. Indulge in pleasures that our ancestors would have thought would lead to eternal damnation, we are urged — so how does it work that they can get even literal believers in the Bible to sin? They get them to simply not see it–to simply ignore the fact they are sinning and thus limit the tension somewhat. It seems to work. Of all people on earth Americans are the most hypocritical and schitzophrenic. Many studies have shown the disparity between how we perceive ourselves and how we are. We are, of course, all above normal. Norman Mailer once commented that Americans all believe, whether they are criminals, law-enforcement, ordinary citizens, politicians of different stripes, or even writers that they are all doing “the right thing.” This is in contrast to people I met in other countries who knew they were doing something bad when they were doing it and didn’t pretend to themselves that they were virtuous.

I say here that we are not in the least bit virtuous. We are living, despite our religiousity (which I believe is largely fake), lives I can only describe as sadly misguided and morally indefensible. Is there a way out? Yes, by seeing the connection between our own grasping for money, security, or fame, and the environmental crisis. We measure ourselves against that crisis–it is the issue of our age, nothing even comes close to it. Interestingly it could be a real benefit to us all. It provides us with a needed conceptual framework in a world of confusing moral and intellectual claims. It is unambigous and a framework we can organize around that would solve many issues. For example, what I see most missing in people’s lives is affiliation and connection with something larger like a committed community. This is why Americans settle for churches because churches appear and often to meet that requirement for all human beings. There is no such thing as independence for humans, we are a social species and the fact that so much of our American mythos involves “individualism” it shows how divorced we are from facts and science. We are not individuals and if we are we are very sad and lonely. We pretend that media and artificial entertainment are fulfilling but most of us, if we are at all self-aware know that’s not where it’s at.

We share this earth and as such have an automatic community to be connected to and be nurtured by. We are not all in competition — this causes destruction and inefficiency. Constant distrust has a huge overhead. I know this from working in government where security has become an almost unbearable cost of doing business. I was struck by reports of people in Islamic countries helping each other out. In the case of Tunisia and Turkey, for example, the generosity and self-sacrifice displayed by people is very apparent. Americans demonize Islam but it is a religion that, unlike Christianity, carries on the ancient world’s, particularly the Greeks, emphasis on hospitality that anyone who has peacefully encountered people from that region can attest. They have a lot to teach us about connecting to others in one’s daily life.

Facing the facts of climate change also helps us face the facts of our addictions and our denials not just as a collective but as individuals. We are doing very bad things and we have to face it. It is important to be to see the evil within us and forgive it. Only from that point can we begin to be compassionate towards others. The courage to face the truth is one chief fault we have in this culture which, despite what I’m saying, I deeply love anyway–I belong here and I share all the faults I just listed.  


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  1. banger

    Is it or could it be the central organizing principle to move towards a new political-economy?

  2. wilberforce

    of planning very far ahead.

    Climate-change should be the organizing principle of progressive politics, not jobs and not the usual cultural issues.

    Agree somewhat about cultural issues, but jobs really is the central issue of them all– in the sense that swords need to be changed to plow-shears (in every sense, including environmental jobs) or nothing will ever change.  

    No one joins the military = no wars.

    No one needs to drive a truck to put bread on the table = less exhaust emissions, and so on.

    No one wants to be a corrections officer anymore? That’s the end of the war on drugs

    And so on.

    So, to me, the central issue of our times, is that of economic determinism — and how to change what people are depended upon to feed/house themselves to a better model.  

  3. metamars

    Although the climategate fraudsters were sort of exonerated, the fact that I use the word “fraudsters” should tell you all you need to know about how I view the validity of the “exoneration”. At non-climate-warming-catastrophism websites, which propagandists from the other side like to refer to as “denialist”* sites (like wattsupwiththat.com and climaterealists.com), this is a commonly accepted viewpoint. Which makes complete sense to me, as I think word about Climategate has gotten out there.

    Another factor is the realization that sacrifices by the Western economies will be completely lost in the extra carbon produced by India and China as they continue their rapid economic growth.

    There’s also the issue about whether it makes more sense, from a cost/benefit analysis POV, to spend massive amounts of money to fight climate change. See Bjorn Lomborg

    I also can’t help to notice that you completely ignored the credible scientific dissidents who think Catastrophic Global Warming is a croc. (See, e.g., this latest effort by scientific dissidents to get their message out.) If the climate catastrophists had real confidence in their models, why wouldn’t more of them seek out debating challenges (instead of ducking them)? I’m aware of exactly 2 climate scientists, who were climate catastrophist believers, who were willing to debate non-catastrophist. Why does Al Gore keep ducking debates – and not even suggest a climate scientist surrogate? It’s only the future of the world we’re talking about, after all. Isn’t that motivation, enough?

    Even scientists aren’t aware of how corrupted and non-rational their professions can be. Thus, it’s hard to blame a laymmen for not knowing that, though science is supposed to be self-correcting, so-called scientific “concensus” can be no guarantee of anything. Google “metamars”, “Not Even Wrong”, and “The Trouble with Physics” for details. Presuming that you’re actually interested in the subject of scientific self-delusions, tribalistic behavior, and what Smolin called “scientific ethics”.

    Finally, regarding fraudster Michael “hockeystick” Mann: He was a coauthor of a recent paper that headlines suggested sea level rise was accelerating. Mann, et. al., used data from parts of the North Carolina coast. That’s it. In point of fact, global scale satellite data shows that sea level rise has been decelerating since 2006.  And, of course, it has been nothing like what Al Gore spoke about.

    * A term I, and others, find insulting, as it rhymes with “holocaust denialist”.

  4. banger

    It is very difficult and leads to suffering but it is the only way to effectively live within the inevitable and emergent neo-feudalism that is obviously coming. Some say it will be full-blown totalitarianism but for a number of reasons I don’t believe that is possible even though the government will try to impose such a regime on us–it’s too big a job and there’s too much resistance mainly on the right who like power to be more on the local level, as do I.

    As I often have said the answer can only come from cooperatives, collectives, unions, NGOs, and regular businesses and corporations of all sizes that largely refuse to do business with the oligarchical structure (until they meet certain conditions).  

  5. Compound F

    It just simply will be a central issue, regardless of what anyone hopes for, and I’m siding with those who are “hoping for” an economic collapse as the most likely and practical remedy to mitigate the most catastrophic outcomes.

    Industrial society simply is not capable of wanting less now in order to survive into future generations.  I have had detailed discussions with intelligent people, as good and bright as anyone, who understand the problems presented, and it barely registers, if at all, in actual behavior.  

    The structure of society itself makes alternative behavior extremely onerous, because the siphoners want you in the revenue stream they have created.  Life and laws outside of those revenue streams is fucking difficult, if not outright illegal.

    It’s hard enough just to make an argument to one’s own part of the friggin’ choir:

    It is forbidden to write diaries that refer to…

    Pick your verboten topic: If it threatens Democrats, cars, or TV viewing, you lose most people.

    The only remaining avenues are disobedience, which will hardly be comprehensive enough until it is very much too fucking late (e.g., Tim DeChristopher is fucked, and no one gives a damn, really), and uncontrollable collapse.

    Abject failure is now the only path to success.  

    Hope for some tiny daughter populations to survive, if you still love humans.

    My sig line used to say, “We don’t have time for short-term thinking,” until I realized how literally addicted people are to their kingly, industrial lifestyles.  Living large is crack, baby.  You can’t talk ’em out of it.  

  6. Lasthorseman

    which magically morphed from AGW after climategate all of which was the failed marketing effort to create the global Bernie Madoff Carbon Wall Street.  Now if I thought for a second China, or any other third world place would have the very same limits on manufacturing as there are here and you double certify positively this is the case before a dime of the global tax is collected then I might think about it.  The 1010.org exploding people ads showed their real colors on the techno-fascist control aspects of selling sheeple on global carbon taxes.

    Japan and now Nebraska give us the new advent of nuclear hot particles everyplace so AGW is as immediate a threat as Elvis bin laden or his other al-CIA-duh manufactured wars for resource securing cousins.  I think of it now as one of those fake astroturf think tank efforts gone bad like net neutrality.  How can you sell net neutrality to a bunch of sheep who are easily sold on watching TV on the computer/cell phone.

    I only have a couple years left I’m keeping my truck.

  7. wilberforce

    I think we need to find a website that can get a few more views / comments for some of the important topics you post…this place has really fallen off lately.  

  8. Compound F

    We commentariat may suck, true, but perhaps we are regaining our composure for new realities, as well; to steal a phrase from Gandalf prior to the ransacking of mankind by the orc hordes, taking the deep breath before the plunge.

    We are getting slaughtered, and it is breath-taking.

    And yes, I think I’ll take a little time out to sharpen some garden implements in defense of dear things, including this website.

    Banger is one of my faves, across the tubes.  I too wish he had a wider audience.  He’s got one here, for sure.

    Where do you see him going?  Daily Kos?  Srsly?  Wherever he goes they’ll be lucky to have him.

  9. TMC

    And just where else would you post it that it would get anymore attention than here? You can try DK but the small posse of Obama dupes there will make sure you get hammered.

    We encourage cross posting everything so it gets “eyes”. This past week both ek and I were away, so our presence here was pretty light but it was all over the left net becuase just about anyone with a voice was in Minneapolis “ranting against the machine” and believe me the biggest target was Obama and his administration.

    One of the topics that was hammered home in the training panels I attended at NN11 and conversations I had with other site owners like Aravosis, Hamsher, etc was write and often. The more you write the better you get at it. Even if you think it stinks, don’t delete it, somebody else may like it.

    If you see something on the web, in the news, at your job, whatever, if it moves you, write about it. Use a quote, a referenced paragraph, a video, give us you thoughts, ideas, opinions and post it.

    I write two to three articles everyday that doesn’t include my regular features. I’m really hard on myself and was pretty shocked when I was told by featured writers from other sites that they like what I write. They may not comment but they read it and encouraged me to keep on writing.

    Well, wilber, this is as much you place as it is mine or was buhdydharma’s. It is up to you and the others dharmabums to keep it going. You are the ones who make this place, not me

  10. banger

    The issue is support. If there are people who want to collaborate in something that would be great. What I’d like to do is start with some essential philosophical underpinnings–they don’t have to be perfect and can be amended and then start building a cognitive framework. This is what I see as most lacking in our current world particularly for those of us who are in the alternative community who have been struggling just to exist, from a psychic POV. I think we often forget how hard it is to be dissidents.

    There are two things needed: 1) real community and commitment to that community (or it isn’t a community); and 2)the previously mentioned cognitive/mythological framework that supports that community view. My guess is once, on whatever basis, this community can emerge (it only takes a very few people) and something can be fashioned to act as even a tentative framework then people will automatically be attracted to it. The reason is that most dissidents are need to connect more and, even more important, need some solidity that they can depend on so they don’t have to depend on the fragmented memes floating around that may or may not have much substance.

    Anyway thank you for your kind words. I’m ready to roll if anybody calls on me, as I said elsewhere I have many competing projects but….

  11. wilberforce

    here… just that traffic is down for whatever reason.

    Not a criticism at all, and I’m not suggesting anyone leave either…

    Just saying that I wish there was a larger audience for some of the stuff here.

    (and I don’t really have time to write anything these days, and this is the only blog I still visit at all)  

  12. banger

    Wish I did. One of the “tragedies” (really it’s really getting to be more of a comedy as time passes) is that I just have too many projects going at this time and feel pulled in a hundred directions.

    I wrote to my daughter yesterday telling her that I had stopped my book project because I couldn’t continue without moral support. Now I don’t know what that is exactly but there it is. One direction that I like is collaboration–how that would work I don’t know but I think that is what is missing in the “alternative” community. We are few in number and are all swimming against the tide and it just gets hard at times.

  13. wilberforce
  14. TMC

    to improve “traffic” here, other sites are down as well. I suspect a number of factors and there was a lot of discussion about that at NN11, too.

    Some of the pieces I write take me less than a half hour, not quite the Atrios treatment but basically a referenced quote and a quick comment. There are days when that is about all I can do. ek does the same. It keeps the front page fresh and moving, especially at Stars Hollow where we are mostly time sensitive events, Like the LGBT bill passage last night

    Hang with us, wilber, we need all the friends we can get.

  15. wilberforce

    What happened to Edgar? He has a one man comment / diary / traffic machine.  

  16. TMC

    I don’t know. I wish I did.

  17. metamars

    It ain’t pretty….

    Seems to me that their paper is bovine excrement. Probably Dr. Muller was correct, and it doesn’t make any sense to even read a paper by Mann.

  18. banger

    You make good points but these points made by the anti-climate change community have no context. The international scientific community is pretty solidly for the climate-change model/theory. As such, we have to figure that fact in our risk-analysis matrix.

    Do you believe the usual scientific fora for climate-scientists are inadequate? I think they are too. The implications of the climate problem are stunningly important and demand a huge budget in research and many full-time scientists across disciplines. We should be throwing a lot of money that way instead of fighting imperial wars that aren’t even that effective as imperial wars (shit, if we have to fight them can’t we spend a little less on them?).

    If the basic theory is correct then not acting could have catastrophic results. That’s the essence of risk-analysis. Would you say that the chance that climate change is real is say, 0%? If not what percent? Even if it is 10% it may still be worth acting on.

    Even if all the results turn out to be fundamentally benign the symbolism of neglecting the issue is very bad. Mankind is potentially facing serious difficulties yet it both fails to act and fails to come up with conclusive scientific evidence for or against the theory of climate change. No matter how you feel about the fact that 97% of climate scientists seem to agree with the fundamentals of climate change to ignore it is to directly state that you don’t care about the fate of future humans.

  19. metamars

    Climate change is real, of course. Anybody who knows anything about climate knows this.

    The real questions are: Is the human effect on climate change likely to create catastrophic effect?


    What should we be doing about it?

    In order for the climate models to predict dire effects from CO2, they need to posit positive feedbacks between the CO2 content and other factors. CO2, by itself, is little to be concerned about – it’s heat trapping capability is a logarithmic function, and we’re already in the flattish part of the curve.

    Now, I have heard that melting tundras could release lots of methane, which is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. So, there’s what I would call a plausible scenario for relatively innocuous amounts of additional CO2 creating amplified effects that are catastrophic.

    I don’t have the ability to analyze, and furthermore, the dynamical systems may be too complicated for anybody to confidently predict what will happen. (Think butterfly effect.) Unfortunately, I have no faith in the climate catastrophists – I’ve read too much in the last few months on the subject. Trust me when I tell you – it’s not just Climategate. If you read climaterealists.com and wattsupwiththat.com, you will see serious counterarguments raised almost every day. From ARGOS showing ocean cooling, to Lindzen correcting his paper, to MAJOR flaws found in previous understanding of major ocean currents and glacier melting ….. all kinds of stuff, and all within the last year, which is about how long I’ve been following this.

    I wish I had a pat answer. Unfortunately, just throwing money into a corrupt system (say, for more research) will not give you a definitive answer. (Again, assuming that humans are smart enough to be able to get a right answer, at this time in our history.)

    My best guess, though, is that the climate is so insensitive to man’s input, we do indeed have lots of time to learn more before committing to damaging economic policies. In the meantime, we need to democratize the distribution of money to scientists. This was discussed by Smolin in The Trouble with Physics, with regard to string theory. (Probably by Woit, also.) Similarly with climate science. There’s been  reports of suppressed research, when it doesn’t support Catastrophic AGW.

    Also, I’m in favor of forcing debates. This would be particularly important if Catastrophic AGW is true. Why should CAGW scientists hide, when the whole world is at stake? Rather, they should be going on the offensive. Their failure to do so, while relying on politicians to shove this down people’s throats, is a sign that something’s rotten.

    Finally, I’m in favor of exposing the world taxation and Goldman Sach aspects of the carbon trading “solutions”. I don’t want to dig it up, but IIRC, a draft of the Copenhagen agreement was a real horror show, politically speaking. Even if CAGW is true, that is surely not the main concern of some power hungry politicians.

  20. banger

    I’m not too caught up in the science and the latest research. While science has begun to be corrupted I don’t believe it is there yet. I think the science needs to be sorted out in that arena — I’m more interested in risk-analysis and the fact that a reasonable chance for disaster exists in any number of areas including species die-offs and environmental degradation due to the industrial model.

    I believe that the industrial model was, if you read history as a meaningful story, meant to get us to the point where we can let it go and move towards elegance rather than brute force in solving human problems. I believe exactly the opposite that moving away from the wasteful energy systems we have now towards high-value engineering solutions could give us a very dramatic boost in prosperity. It’s a question of incentives. Right now the system is set up to rewards wasteful practices in order to keep the powerful forces running the finance and energy industries in place. I don’t think the scientific community has the clout or power or motivation to skew research. I look around and see power in the hands of oligarchs who prosper through brutishness rather than elvin craft.

  21. metamars

    I believe just the opposite, though the question of “motivation” is a funny thing. There’s little doubt where the “motivation” in the corrupted area of biomedical research largely comes from – pharmaceutical companies. These companies will even pay person X to write up a report that famous person Y was paid to do research for.

    In other areas, like string theory, control of money flow is still important, but the motivation isn’t a crass one of  profit for some company. The motivation has more to do with tribalism and careerism. And even there, it’s not as simply as you might think. There was a time when working on string theory was bad for you career. Only later did the “string theory mafia” develop.

    If you’re interested, you can dig more deeply into the peer review process, and look into who owns scientific journals. See., e.g., work by David F. Noble, and articles in Counterpunch. This rebuttal seems to have many relevant links.

    BTW, I’ve been listening to Gary Null for years, and so I know that medical professionals can be completely pig-headed about what works, and what doesn’t. Null used to counteract that, in his earlier years, by attending debates, wherein he’d bring with him hundreds of copies of peer-reviewed literature, and physically show them when the “there’s no proof that vitamins can prevent or help cure diseases” BS claims were made by his opponents.

    Even when there is research, that makes it into peer reviewed publications, that contradicts the “official truth” of the medical tribe, it can take decades for it to be acknowledged.

    I haven’t seen it, yet, but Null has a movie called “Death by Medicine” wherein the shoe from the other foot drops.  

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