Condemned by history (crosspost)

by John Quiggin on July 17, 2014

After some farcical manoeuvres, the Australian Senate has passed the Abbott governments legislation repealing the carbon price/tax/trading scheme (it’s a bit complicated). I hope and believe that this outcome will be reversed in due course, but those who brought it about will stand condemned by history.

It’s not merely that this is a bad policy, which will impose large and increasing costs (depending on how long it takes us to get back on track) on Australia and the world into the future. Even more damning is the fact that this action is entirely based on conscious lies, embraced or condoned by everyone who has actively supported it.

First, and most obvious, no one (least of all Tony Abbott) believes that the government’s “Direct Action” policy is a superior alternative to the carbon price, one that will deliver emissions reductions more rapidly and at lower costs. It is, as everyone knows, a cynical ploy put forward simply to allow the government to say that it has a policy.

In reality, Abbott and the rest want to do nothing, and the motives for this desire are entirely base. For a minority of the do-nothing group, it is simply a matter of financial self-interest associated with the fossil fuel industry. For the majority, however, it is the pursuit of a tribal and ideological vendetta. Their position is driven by Culture War animosity towards greens, scientists, do-gooders and so on, or by ideological commitment to a conservative/libertarian position that would be undermined by the recognition of a global problem that can only be fixed by changes to existing structures of property rights.

Most of these people would describe themselves as climate “sceptics”. There is no such thing. That is, there is no one, anywhere in the world, who has honestly examined the evidence, without wishful thinking based on ideological or cultural preconceptions, and concluded that mainstream science is wrong. Most “sceptics”, including the majority of supporters of the conservative parties, are simply credulous believers in what their opinion leaders are telling them. Those opinion leaders are engaged, not in an attempt to determine the truth, but in a cultural vendetta against their enemies, or in an ideologically-driven attempt to justify a predetermined do-nothing position1.

This is a sad day, but one that will come back to haunt those who have brought it about.


  1. That covers the vast majority in Australia. There are also some professional deniers who are just in it for the money and some driven by personal pathologies like (for example, the reflexive contrarianism of Richard Lindzen). 

{ 150 comments }

1

sophist75 07.17.14 at 10:49 am

These men (in Australia and elsewhere) are committing crimes against future generations. I desperately hope that in my lifetime I will see these men brought to trail, under laws retrospectively applied, and their assets and those of their families seized in order to compensate the victims of their crimes. The only thing these bastards understand is money, so let’s threaten them with taking it away from them.

2

o come on now 07.17.14 at 11:36 am

Oh, nonsense. There is no “Climate Crisis” other than the one foisted on us by the propagandist of the Left and their psuedo scientists and flunkeys in Academia and the Media.

You cannot come up with one, not one, empirical experiment that backs out these claims about “carbon”, “green house gas” and climate change–not one that would pass the rigor expected of Physics or real biological science. In fact, there is no real scientific discipline of “Climate Science”–it is just a hodgepodge of poorly understood physics, statistics and political opinion masquerading as science. If anyone in a real science made such unfounded claims and showed such a lack of rigor and such bizarre and emotional advocacy, they would be laughed of as the pseudo-scientific cranks that they are.

All you can come up with is some scientifically sloppy extrapolation of “radiation” of Co2 in very controlled environment completely removed from the reality of “climate systems”.

(In fact, a real testing of people in “Climate Science” would briskly prove that they as a whole lack the competencies in Math or Physics to make it in the real sciences–that is why they found the hiding place of “climate science” to begin with. They are so incompetent that, comically, reasonably intelligent non-specialist can take their logic and “science” apart in blogs. Their only response is to pout, control information and make these childish attacks on the morality of those who have found them out. That is what poor scientist they actually are. History will amply prove this, and loudly prove just how silly they were.)

The Australian Senate will come off as one of the few legislative bodies in the West with a lick of common sense. Let us hop that they are a harbinger of what is to come and not a last glimmer of sanity in the terminal decline of the West.

And no it most assuredly is not the case that:

“These men (in Australia and elsewhere) are committing crimes against future generations.”

Quite the opposite is true. It is the propogandists of the “Climate Change”, whose project here is merely a dodge for yet another Marxist attack on free peoples, free institutions, and Western Civilization in general, that are “committing crimes against future generations”, and have been doing so for nearly 100 years now.

And it is like you, sophist, who enable these monsters.

(and here, BTW, you show inadvertently just what you are about in your choice of monikers. I rather doubt you could get though an undergraduate Physics degree at a second rate school.)

Your charge here is pure character assassination and not based on any fact whatsoever.

You do this because you cannot argue rationally but rather spit back the indoctrination you have so eagerly imbibed.

Climate alarmist, when it is not an outright hustle, amounts to a sort of Leftist cult.

The Aussies have had a bellyful of neo-com nonsense; let us hope that the rest of the West is soon to follow.

3

John Quiggin 07.17.14 at 11:53 am

I promise I didn’t invent @2 to prove the point of the OP. I particularly like the scare quotes around “carbon”, a notorious invention of the green neo-com Marxists. Seems to cover all the bases.

4

Emma in Sydney 07.17.14 at 12:09 pm

Thanks for continuing to speak out , JQ. It’s a depressing time to be an Australian, in so many ways, but this is the worst.

5

Jim Fett 07.17.14 at 12:10 pm

o come on now–If you want people to take you seriously, you need to stop raving about Marxists. There are hardly any left anymore and nobody gives a damn about what they say. Hell, the major center-left parties in a lot of places are well right of where they were 40 years ago (e.g. New Labour, Third Way Democrats, and even the nominally socialist parties in France and Spain). The only leftists with any power anymore are a handful in developing countries and they uniformly oppose international climate change regulation. Anyway, avoid the Marxist conspiracy angle; you’ll still be wrong, but you’ll sound less crazy.

6

ZM 07.17.14 at 12:15 pm

“These men (in Australia and elsewhere) are committing crimes against future generations. I desperately hope that in my lifetime I will see these men brought to [trial]”

If you live in the US you could support/join this organisation doing just that

http://www.ourchildrenstrust.org

“The mission of OUR CHILDREN’S TRUST is to establish the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate for all present and future generations.

By supporting youth plaintiffs in strategic atmospheric trust litigation, OUR CHILDREN’S TRUST empowers youth to lead a game-changing effort to hold the ruling generation accountable and to compel governments in the United States and abroad to adopt and implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans.”

7

The Tragically Flip 07.17.14 at 12:35 pm

It’s to Australia’s credit that they managed to have a carbon tax at all. Here in Canada our poll leading supposedly small l Liberal. party isn’t saying boo about pricingcarbon.

8

Sasha Clarkson 07.17.14 at 12:35 pm

It’s time to go after the organ grinders, especially you-know-who*.

Corporations are not people: they are vehicles for the few to exercise power over the many.

1) All corporate political donations should be outlawed as they distort democracy.
2) Individual donations in any country should be limited to a relatively small amount (say £1000pa in the UK), and be by resident citizens only.
3) Foreign and non-dom (tax exile) owned media should not be allowed to takes sides in local politics. This should be enforced by the criminal law, and apply to media holding companies etc.

That will do for starters.

* Rupert Murdoch delenda est!

9

The Tragically Flip 07.17.14 at 12:47 pm

I guess o come on now didn’t know, because denialist sites won’t tell him, that we can directly observe the global greenhouse effect via satellite. Less solar energy is reflected back into space than used to be, at precisely the parts of the spectrum blocked by co2 and methane. WE CAN BLOODY SEE GLOBAL WARMING HAPPENING IN REAL TIME.

10

Jim Buck 07.17.14 at 1:08 pm

@2 Let us hop

Nobody’s stopping you from hopping, rabbit boy.

11

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 07.17.14 at 1:36 pm

Cretin Hop

(R.I.P. Tommy Ramone)
~

12

Anarcissie 07.17.14 at 1:38 pm

‘That is, there is no one, anywhere in the world, who has honestly examined the evidence, without wishful thinking based on ideological or cultural preconceptions…’

Are there such people? Almost everything I see on the Net, and in other media, on any side of this issue (as with many others) has consisted of appeals to authority, personal and generic attacks on the characters and interests of those with differing views, and arguments from ideology.

13

Paul 07.17.14 at 2:19 pm

@2 is what I think of as a pullstring pundit, like the child’s toy where you pull a string to hear a recorded phrase. Perhaps he should talk to MacArthur recipient Richard Muller who set out to prove the skeptical argument and proved there wasn’t one.

When Michael Mann is awarded the moldering corpse of National Review, there will be one less outlet for this garbage.

14

Robert 07.17.14 at 2:22 pm

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is on the net (http://www.ipcc.ch/). So I don’t know what Anarcissie is talking about.

15

MPAVictoria 07.17.14 at 2:31 pm

Robert beat me to it. The science is there if you are interested.

16

J Thomas 07.17.14 at 2:42 pm

Almost everything I see on the Net, and in other media, on any side of this issue (as with many others) has consisted of appeals to authority, personal and generic attacks on the characters and interests of those with differing views, and arguments from ideology.

I can appeal to the authority of science, or I can try to explain the science to you in blog comments and see if you understand.

“You can keep doing that forever, the dog is NEVER going to move.”

I think I’ll just appeal to authority on this one. If you want, you can explain how it happens that you understand the science better than they do.

17

Anarcissie 07.17.14 at 2:45 pm

Sure, the science is there. It’s not what most people usually talk about, unless you count the aforesaid appeals to authority (‘90% of scientists say X.’)

18

David 07.17.14 at 2:52 pm

I mean it seriously when I say that corporate funded climate denial is the best argument against free speech I have ever seen.

19

MPAVictoria 07.17.14 at 2:55 pm

“Sure, the science is there. It’s not what most people usually talk about, unless you count the aforesaid appeals to authority (’90% of scientists say X.’)”

I am not a climate scientist by trade. What else am I supposed to do but point you towards what most of the scientists say?

20

J Thomas 07.17.14 at 2:58 pm

Sure, the science is there. It’s not what most people usually talk about, unless you count the aforesaid appeals to authority

Then I don’t see you have cause for complaint.

What is your complaint?

21

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 3:00 pm

Denialist #2: “It is the propogandists of the “Climate Change”, whose project here is merely a dodge for yet another Marxist attack on free peoples, free institutions, and Western Civilization in general, that are “committing crimes against future generations”, and have been doing so for nearly 100 years now.”

This part could have been written by Richard Lindzen. Go watch the video of his speech to the Heartland Institute a few years ago. Lindzen insists that the climate change scare is being prompted by left-wingers who want to control the world.

22

ZM 07.17.14 at 3:01 pm

Plenty of science discussed here:

http://www.realclimate.org

“RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science. All posts are signed by the author(s), except ‘group’ posts which are collective efforts from the whole team. This is a moderated forum.”

23

tomsk 07.17.14 at 3:03 pm

“In fact, a real testing of people in “Climate Science” would briskly prove that they as a whole lack the competencies in Math or Physics to make it in the real sciences–that is why they found the hiding place of “climate science” to begin with…”

One of the strange features of this kind of irate blather is the way people who can barely string a grammatical sentence together manage to strike such a consistently sneering tone towards the quantitative abilities of climate scientists. The implication is generally that they should give up on this modelling lark and stick to counting otters or something else more suited to their talents.

It’s very odd. I know quite a few climate modellers, and without exception their PhDs are in mathematics or some branch of physics. Which is to say, they’re a lot more numerate than the aggrieved engineering types who seem to make up a large proportion of the denialist base. It just seems to be an article of faith that liberals, busybodies, pointy-headed scientists etc are by definition unable to do maths, and that this can be assumed even when there’s strong factual evidence to the contrary.

24

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 3:07 pm

The Australian idiocy comes two days after the Japan Meteorological Society graphed last month as the hottest global June since 1890:
http://equitablegrowth.org/2014/07/15/evening-must-read-joe-romm-hottest-march-june-record-globally/

25

Anarcissie 07.17.14 at 3:37 pm

J Thomas 07.17.14 at 2:58 pm @ 20:
‘… What is your complaint?’

Well, for one thing, I read that fewer people now believe in anthropogenic climate change, and in doing anything about it, than ten or twenty years ago. So apparently the sort of discourse practiced, which I outlined above, has that effect. (I concede that the polls may be wrong, but they are in accord with casual observation.) A probable subsequent effect is lack of political will to deal with the situation, even to the extent of mitigation. And so, here in New York City, nothing much has been done to keep the next Hurricane Sandy from filling up the tunnels and subways, blowing up the electrical substations, destroying housing, and drowning people. Things are physically and politically worse in Miami, as you may have heard.

26

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 3:45 pm

Extremes are on the way. People concerned about the planet may have to adjust their explanations a little.

Now, for example, the southern hemisphere is reported to be cooling a little, Antarctic surface ice area growing slightly larger, Australia is dryer. At the same time, the western half of North America is hotter and dryer and Arctic sea ice is diminishing, but northern Atlantic seaboard winters are getting sharper with possibly increased precipitation (snow), and last year there was a notable seasonal shift downward of the polar vortex.

It could be that increase in earth’s energy flux, due to CO2, could sharpen the Dansgaard-Oeschger events, or, on the other hand, that D-O is a recurring cycle that dampens warming in some areas.

An interesting question is what cause the Medieval Warming Period to be followed by the Little Ice Age.

Can increased winter precipitation in mid-latitudes cause additional seasonal albedo to produce a cooling countertrend? It would be nice to know what was happening around the N. American seaboard in medieval times. And similarly, what is the nature of the slowdown in the overall increase of temperatures 1940-70 and the temporary little plateau now? Here are the GISS graphs:
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/

I think we should fear accelerating the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles. Before about 12000 years ago, temperatures could bounce 10 degrees C. (about 17 degrees F.) in as LITTLE as ten years. We may not be able to conduct agriculture under these conditions. Agricultural civilization developed entirely during an anomalous 12000-year period of rather stable climate. Before that there was a much longer period of quick extremes, and now we are adding heat energy.

27

Sasha Clarkson 07.17.14 at 3:57 pm

Take the head of the UK Met Office Julia Slingo: her credentials, qualifications and experience are as strong as they come.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Slingo

However, when, after “the most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years” she gave her opinion that climate change almost certainly lay behind last winter’s torrential rains and violent storms, she is attacked by Climate Change Denier (Lord) Nigel Lawson “It is just this Julia Slingo woman”

Lawson then interprets the more cautious Met Office statement “In terms of the storms and floods of winter 2013/2014, it is not possible, yet, to give a definitive answer on whether climate change has been a contributor or not.” as meaning “no evidence whatever”. Anyone who has ever done any hypothesis testing will know otherwise.

Lawson’s qualifications amount to an Oxford PPE (Philosophy, Politicas and Economics) degree: a course taken far too often by people who want to boss others around without acquiring any useful skills. David Cameron took a first in this too, being described by his teacher Vernon Bogdanor as “brilliant”. I have yet to see any evidence of brilliance, or even adequacy, in any of the fields of study.

28

Sasha Clarkson 07.17.14 at 4:00 pm

29

J Thomas 07.17.14 at 4:09 pm

#25

‘… What is your complaint?’

Well, for one thing, I read that fewer people now believe in anthropogenic climate change, and in doing anything about it, than ten or twenty years ago. So apparently the sort of discourse practiced, which I outlined above, has that effect.

Discussing the details of the science is useless. People just tune it out, and deniers quote junk science which sounds almost as good unless you look at the details.

Evidence is useless. The evidence has gotten much clearer over the past 10-20 years, and more people deny it. They are evidence-proof.

What’s your suggestion?

30

Rich Puchalsky 07.17.14 at 4:21 pm

Nothing that anyone can write will change the minds (or paid-for opinions) of people like the commenter at #2. I’m more discouraged that I can’t change your, John Quiggin’s, mind.

I remember over the past 5 or 10 years, or however long it has been, arguing that carbon taxes and trading schemes don’t work. Why? Because if they ever start to matter, they will be repealed. The only thing that will work, I said, is locking in infrastructure building decisions that are not easily reversible by future governments.

Here is a post from 2011 in which we had this exact argument. You commented that “I also don’t think much of the style of argument ‘your policy proposal won’t work because, if it did, vested interests would stop it’. Maybe so, but you don’t give any grounds for supposing that yours would be any more acceptable to the same interests.” Does this event mean that you’re ready to reconsider that? Consider how much more difficult it would be to cancel built solar plants or to start to build multi-decade-service coal ones than it is to repeal a paper trading scheme.

31

Rich Puchalsky 07.17.14 at 4:24 pm

Mangled the link above. It should have been a link to this post.

32

Anarcissie 07.17.14 at 4:42 pm

My suggestion for what?

Maybe the fundamental problem is ideological. Capitalism lives on domination and exploitation to the detriment of its objects; the non-human environment is virtually defenseless (so far); therefore, capitalism will degrade and destroy it. Any effective move to protect the environment within the existing social order is inherently anticapitalist, so it will be diverted or stopped. Therefore, those who want to continue to have a liveable Earth to live on should start figuring out how to bring about a hopefully non-violent transition to post-capitalism, that is, communism. So maybe #2 was right about ‘Marx’ after all…. but the proper slogan is not ‘socialism or barbarism’ but ‘communism or annihilation’.

But within the existing system? I’m just pointing out that whatever you’re doing hasn’t been working.

33

David 07.17.14 at 5:17 pm

Socialism or Barbarism were both better options than the future facing us now.

34

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 6:15 pm

Talk of the need for communism or socialism just plays into the denialists’ hands. It’s a bunch of over-theorization to begin with, and it confirms their puerile fears.

Do not misconstrue what is happening. The majority of people (around 60-70%) in every country think climate change is a threat. There is a 10-percent bounce depending on the recent weather and the recent propaganda, and the seriousness of the climate problem is always rated lower than more immediately pressing concerns, like the state of the economy and the need to put food on the table.

And of course we can always expect political back-stepping by politicians, because they are usually stupid and corrupt.

But as the climate communication specialists have been emphasizing, we need to look very closely at the 25-30% of the population who remain persistently out-of-touch. The evidence is mounting that they are of a certain cognitive bias which is both deeper and more complex than previously suspected. It goes not only into attitudes about science and economics, but also into biases concerning risk perception and existential fear.

They are “rightwing tribalists”, for want of a better term. Rightwing tribalism is social cognitive bias, not merely an ideology, rather more like a profound religious condition. It is deeper than we usually think, but it also affects only a minority of people, though they predominate in power and are at the heart of the austerity policies which are hurting peoples’ futures. Here is a list of observed attributes compiled from the social sciences, under another one of John Quiggin’s posts:
http://crookedtimber.org/2014/04/30/right-wing-tribalists-a-lost-cause/#comment-525389

This describes about 25-30% of the population, at least in the U.S.

Comment #2 above is a perfect rendition, right down to the implied instrumental division between technologically optimistic science and regulatory “impact” science, a division that emerged into politics in the 1970s.

And in turn, right-wing tribalists easily fall prey to:

2. big-money interests who can be either entirely cynical, or else share the rightwing tribal ideology themselves.

There are ways to counteract this. The thesis expressed in comments above — that it is futile to try — is straight out of The Rhetoric of Reaction, and plays into the denialists’ hands.

35

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 6:18 pm

I’ll just reprint it below, because it seems to have hit a nerve. We are dealing with a short-sighted and dangerous sort of mental condition.

36

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 6:20 pm

There appears to be a cohesive, pervasive social organism, with certain emotional and intellectual features. There may not be a good word or phrase for it, because “political tribalism”, “motivated social cognition”, “social cognitive bias” are all a little too tame. It has some sort of independent social ontology.

I had very little idea this existed, and I was surprised the the amount of good, solid social science which has gone into this area. I copied and pasted a bunch of stuff from various papers to form my own personal word document overview, so apologies to authors if I don’t have all the citations, but I will try to keep this within fair use. Some outstanding markers:

1. MORE KNOWLEDGE DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK: “There is a dominant, but demonstrably flawed, assumption that ‘if people only knew’ enough information about e.g., climate change, they would act differently. But a great number of climate deniers are citizens of wealthy countries and many of them are scientifically literate.” –[They already know about things like political propaganda, vested interests, and public relations and advertising. Clearly, something else is going on.]– “This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties, and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.”

2. IT IS PARTLY ABOUT RISK PERCEPTION: [A major entry into studying the subject is risk perception]: “the tendency of people to conform perception of risk and advocacy of various ways to deal with it, to their preferred understandings of how society should be organized”: [Dan Kahan’s definition of “cultural cognition”.]

3. IT IS PARTLY ABOUT POLITICAL BELIEF: [Another entry is political belief. It maps somewhat over the “group/grid” axes of Douglas’ political quadrants: the “group” pole goes from individualist to communitarian; the “grid” pole goes from hierarchical to egalitarian. This is also related to risk perception.]

4. THERE IS AN ENORMOUS “IN-GROUP” COMPONENT: “Individuals, as a result of a complex of psychological mechanisms, tend to form perceptions of societal risks that cohere with values characteristic of groups with which they identify.” — “Communication research in the social sciences shows that technical knowledge is only loosely connected to collective decisions and to individual preferences. Many members of the public lack either the ability or the motivation to be well informed about the technical details of the science of climatology, choosing instead to rely on social identity, cultural traditions, personal experience, localized knowledge, and/or the popular media…” — “For the ordinary individual, the most consequential effect of his beliefs about climate change is likely to be on his relations with his peers…” — “Our data, consistent with that observed in other settings, suggest that those with the highest degree of science literacy and numeracy perform such tasks even more discerningly… For ordinary citizens, the reward for acquiring greater scientific knowledge and more reliable technical-reasoning capacities is a greater facility to discover and use—or explain away—evidence relating to their groups’ positions.”

5. IT IS PARTLY ABOUT JUSTIFYING THE STATUS QUO: [There is also a component that needs to justify the current system]: “Whereas most social psychological perspectives assume that needs to manage uncertainty, existential anxiety, and social cohesion should motivate any form of ideological zeal, System Justification Theory [Jost et al.] predicts that these needs are positively associated with the endorsement of system-justifying beliefs, opinions, and values but negatively associated with the endorsement of system-challenging ideological outcomes… …a national survey of 182 Americans…found that, as hypothesized, lower need for cognition, greater death anxiety, and a stronger desire to share reality each contributed significantly and independently to economic system justification, which, in turn, contributed to support for the Tea Party (a movement aimed at restoring America’s “traditional values”) and opposition to Occupy Wall Street (a movement seeking to reduce social and economic inequality and minimize corporate influence on government).”

6. THERE ARE CERTAIN COGNITIVE AND EMOTIONAL CORRELATES: “The emotion norms come into conflict with the troubling emotions created by the perceived threats… i.e. fear, helplessness, and guilt. In response to the felt clash of values and beliefs, individuals manage emotions through the use of selective attention (focus on something they feel comfortable to know or can do) and perspectival selectivity (de-emphasizing their own responsibility).” — “Research conducted over the last decade or so has provided support for the notion that epistemic, existential, and relational needs are all disproportionately associated with the endorsement of inherently conservative, system-justifying beliefs, opinions, and values. For instance, individual differences in the need for cognitive closure (i.e., the desire to “seize and freeze” on a given conclusion rather than tolerating or prolonging uncertainty) predict anchoring on the status quo, political conservatism, authoritarianism, stereotyping, and rejection of opinion deviates… Similarly, low need for cognition (i.e., possessing a low level of motivation to engage in cognitive activity); is correlated with political conservatism and harsh punishment of those who threaten the social order.” — “With respect to existential motives, the fear of death and perceptions of a dangerous world are associated with political conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism, stereotyping, and support for discrimination against same-sex couples…” — [Relational]: “…individuals who feel that it is especially important to ‘see the world as others who share their beliefs generally do’.” –[However]– “it is not our view that high system-justifiers always oppose social change… On the contrary, they frequently embrace forms of change that are either incremental—and therefore designed to forestall the demand for more radical changes to the status quo—or retrograde or restorative in nature, that is, designed to return the country to some prior idealized state of affairs…”

7. THERE IS A VERY ROBUST “WHITE MALE EFFECT” IN THE U.S.: [Not racist, something else] — “Past research on perceptions of technological and environmental risks in the US has documented what has been termed the white male effect, whereby white males are found to be more accepting of a wide range of risks than are other adults.” — “caused by a subgroup of white males who reported high levels of risk acceptance—30% of the white males in their national sample. This subgroup of risk-accepting white males had an affinity for hierarchy, had greater trust in authorities, and opposed democratization of risk management” — [Not a biological phenomenon]: “Rather, these scholars have put forth three sociopolitical explanations: the vulnerability thesis, the cultural worldview thesis, and the identity-protective cognition thesis.” — “More generally, conservative white males are likely to favor protection of the current industrial capitalist order which has historically served them well. Fiscally conservative white males have disproportionately occupied positions of power within our economic system, controlling stocks and flows of various forms of capital and benefiting from ample amounts of prestige, status, and esteem… Given the expansive challenge that climate change poses to the industrial capitalist economic system, it makes sense that conservative white males’ strong system-justifying attitudes—triggered by the anti-climate science claims of the conservative movement…—may drive them toward climate change denial.”

8. IT IS PARTLY ABOUT THE PUBLIC POSITION OF SCIENCE: “…public trust in science has not declined since the 1970s except among conservatives and those who frequently attend church.” — “…the public defines ‘what science is’ in three distinct ways: (1) as an abstract method (e.g., replication, empirical, or unbiased); (2) as a cultural location (e.g., takes place in a university or is practiced by highly credentialed individuals); and (3) as one form of knowledge among other types such as commonsense and religious tradition… Interestingly, conservatives were far more likely to define science as knowledge that should conform to common sense and religious tradition. Relating to the second pattern, when examining a series of public attitudes toward science, conservatives’ unfavorable attitudes are most acute in relation to government funding of science and the use of scientific knowledge to influence social policy… Conservatives thus appear especially averse to regulatory science, defined here as the mutual dependence of organized science and government policy.”

9. THERE IS A DIVORCE IN THE INSTRUMENTAL ATTITUDE TO SCIENCE: [Starting around the time of the cigarette cancer denial, the rise of environmentalism and Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative: technological optimism (we can fix anything) vs. “impact” or regulatory science (protect the environment).]

10. THE POLARIZATION IS MORE PRONOUNCED AMONG THE ELITES AND POLITICAL ACTORS, THAN IN THE GENERAL POPULATION: “There is virtually full agreement among scholars that political parties and politicians, in recent decades, have become more ideological and more likely to take extreme positions on a broad set of political issues… Though many observers have concluded that a similar polarization process has extended to public opinion at large, scholars have shown that, over the last 40 years, American public opinion has remained stable or even become more moderate on a large set of political issues, while people have assumed more extreme positions only on some specific, hot issues, such as abortion, sexual morality, and, lately, the war in Iraq… More systematic polarization appears in mass partisanship: those who are politically active or identify themselves with a party or ideology tend to have more extreme positions than the rest of the population.”

37

Brett the Brit 07.17.14 at 6:26 pm

If this is just a way for the fossil fuel industry to make money then how do you explain this?
Coal generator admits its profits will fall without a carbon tax

Not a single climate model foresaw the current ‘pause’. Mankind will adapt, as it always has.

38

Sasha Clarkson 07.17.14 at 6:43 pm

@ 36 Lee “political parties and politicians, in recent decades, have become more ideological and more likely to take extreme positions on a broad set of political issues… “

This smacks of false equivalence. It is my perception, that in Britain and the US anyway, this apples only to politicians on the Right, and that those on the Left are wimpish and centrist. The policies of past UK Tory PMs like Macmillan and even Heath would be denounced as rabidly socialist by today’s Right politicians, especially US ones.

39

David 07.17.14 at 6:52 pm

The left shifts to the left on social issues, to the right on economic issues. That is pretty much the story of the past several decades. Rightists tend not to distinguish the two.

40

J Thomas 07.17.14 at 7:17 pm

‘… What is your complaint?’

Well, for one thing, I read that fewer people now believe in anthropogenic climate change, and in doing anything about it, than ten or twenty years ago.

‘What’s your suggestion?’

My suggestion for what?

For how to correct this problem that you are complaining about.

I’m just pointing out that whatever you’re doing hasn’t been working.

But it might be working as well as possible, against a lot of big-spending liars. And it might work increasingly well as the lies start to catch up to them, and their budgets need to keep getting bigger at a faster rate. At some point they are likely to decide it isn’t worth the expense.

http://news.yahoo.com/climate-change-disbelief-rises-america-180339949.html
This popular report says that 63% of Americans “believe in” climate change, steady for six months, but 12% are certain it does not exist and 15% are doubtful. This rose 6% in six months, as people who before said they did not know, made up their minds.

I am not convinced that this is meaningful. The study was done November-December 2013, while the previous study was done April-May. Fewer Americans believe in global warming during the winter.

This study covered a short time. Which longer-term study were you looking at? 63% does not seem like a bad result to me, though it will get better. Nowadays only 4% of Americans doubt that smoking causes cancer.

Part of the problem is that a lot of Americans are unaware that there is a scientific consensus. somebody keeps lying to them that the scientists disagree among themselves.

41

mds 07.17.14 at 7:35 pm

JQ @ 3:

I particularly like the scare quotes around “carbon”, a notorious invention of the green neo-com Marxists.

Humph. If the Good Lord had meant for us to have this so-called carbon, He would have used the Big Bang to synthesize elements heavier than lithium.

42

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 7:37 pm

Sasha Clarkson #37: “This smacks of false equivalence.”

You could be right about that. I don’t have the citation for that quotation in front of me but I think it was a survey article for an Annual Review. It has seemed to me too, since I first started watching it in the Reagan years, that it is the right pulling the whole thing more rightward, and the so-called left is really more diffuse and diffident. Not least because the left & center’s understanding of economics is almost equally as inept.

43

SamChevre 07.17.14 at 7:46 pm

Sasha Clarkson @ 38

It is my perception, that in Britain and the US anyway, this apples only to politicians on the Right, and that those on the Left are wimpish and centrist.

Not really: current policy on homosexuality was considered wildly extreme a decade-and-a-half ago.

The Right’s approach to global climate change[1] and the Left’s approach to childbirth outside marriage are pretty much identical[2].

1) Of which I’m convinced: frost-free dates have shifted within my memory, and I’m not 40 yet.
2) A three-part mixture of “it’s not a problem if you think about it our way”, “we can’t do anything about it”, and “let’s keep doing what has demonstrably failed so far.”

44

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 7:53 pm

Brett the Brit #37: “Not a single climate model foresaw the current ‘pause’. Mankind will adapt, as it always has.”

While I would agree that technological change is going to reduce carbon dependence sooner rather than later, the rest of this is misleading propaganda.

One, the “current pause” looks like the natural variability produced by any other type on N-compartment system; it is well within the predictive margins of current models; and finally, it appears that the pause has ENDED and we are resuming the climb upwards.

Two, “mankind” has benefitted from about 12,000 years of unusually stable climate, and now depends upon a widespread agricultural civilization that has never existed before. Humans may only be able to adapt to gradual change, not drastic. The real evidence is that whole species can be wiped from the planet. If there are a few years of heat spikes that hurt world agriculture, we are going to see civilization-wide, global mayhem.

45

Bruce Wilder 07.17.14 at 7:55 pm

Lee A. Arnold @ 36

The prospect for long-term climate change is a strange thing for most people to have an opinion on. 90% of people would have no reason to have an opinion on such a subject, absent some kind of public education / propaganda campaign. So, if you poll people, you are getting feedback on the effects of competing campaigns. You are saying that 25% of the population strongly resist such campaigns. And, it is important for that 25% to conform because . . . ?

I may be misunderstanding this entirely, because maybe you don’t mean to suggest that conformity is what is desired.

46

J Thomas 07.17.14 at 7:58 pm

#37 Brett the Brit

Not a single climate model foresaw the current ‘pause’.

Do you believe in any school of economics?

Did your school of economics unanimously predict 2008?
Did they get the date correct?

If not, do you consider your school of economics disproven?

47

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 8:16 pm

Bruce Wilder #45 “it is important for that 25% to conform because . . . ?”

I amy be misunderstanding you, because I don’t see real evidence that climate scientists have conducted a campaign (in fact they have stoutly resisted thinking in that way). They are accused of that by the tribe of denialists, of course.

Also I don’t see where I wrote that it is “important” for 25% of the population (the tribe of denialists?) to “conform” to anything at all, except maybe in their own heads, as a part of the in-group identity component to protect against perceived risks (i.e. a sort of “herd instinct”).

48

heckblazer 07.17.14 at 8:48 pm

The climate skeptics don’t actually have that much money behind them. The Heartland Institute is one of the key groups pushing climate denialism and their leaked budget for 2012 only allocated about a million bucks towards climate.

The real problem is somehow global warming has become a partisan/tribal issue, at least in the United States. It wasn’t always so. Once upon a time Newt Gingrich co-sponsored the Global Warming Prevention Act of 1989, and it wasn’t that long ago that you could find Republican supporters of cap-and-trade. You can see some of the partisan divergence in these polls by Gallup and Pew. If my memory is correct back in the early nineties the partisan difference was actually quite small.

49

Bruce Wilder 07.17.14 at 8:57 pm

I don’t see real evidence that climate scientists have conducted a campaign

Are you denying that there have been campaigns to promote understanding of the climate change threat?

50

Brett Bellmore 07.17.14 at 9:33 pm

“One, the “current pause” looks like the natural variability produced by any other type on N-compartment system; it is well within the predictive margins of current models; and finally, it appears that the pause has ENDED and we are resuming the climb upwards.”

I thought the party line was that there wasn’t any pause. Funny that it takes fifteen years to admit there was a pause, and a few months to decide that it has ended.

51

Rich Puchalsky 07.17.14 at 9:37 pm

“Are you denying that there have been campaigns to promote understanding of the climate change threat?”

Bruce, you might like this poem. As you know, of course there have been campaigns, as you know, of course they haven’t been conducted by scientists directly.

52

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 9:45 pm

Bruce Wilder #48: “Are you denying that there have been campaigns to promote understanding of the climate change threat?”

Except for James Hansen, who conducted a sort of one-man campaign, climate scientists have been under criticism for not been advocates enough, and within their profession they have resisted advocacy, at least until very recently.

53

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 9:51 pm

Brett Bellmore #49: “Funny that it takes fifteen years to admit there was a pause, and a few months to decide that it has ended.”

In your imagination, perhaps. The rest of us have been watching these graphs, where the little plateau at the upper end STILL remains statistically insignificant:
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/

What we need is that graph to go downward for about 30 years.

54

Sasha Clarkson 07.17.14 at 10:19 pm

I don’t know whether there’s been a pause or not. I’m not a climate scientist although I have a chemistry degree and a few maths degrees.

However, I know enough about thermodynamics to know that concentrating on temperature misses part of the picture: anyone who does not understand entropy too has no right to an opinion on the matter – at best they have a right to an opinion as to which experts they trust.

55

Bruce Wilder 07.17.14 at 10:35 pm

Lee A. Arnold @ 52

Your phrasing seems more than a bit lawyerly. Why are you squirming about? I’m not trying to trick you.

56

ZM 07.17.14 at 10:50 pm

“Brett the Brit #37: “Not a single climate model foresaw the current ‘pause’. Mankind will adapt, as it always has.”
….
[Lee A Arnold] One, the “current pause” looks like the natural variability produced by any other type on N-compartment system; it is well within the predictive margins of current models; and finally, it appears that the pause has ENDED and we are resuming the climb upwards.”

“Global warming has not stopped. People should understand that the planet is a closed system. As we increase our emissions of greenhouse gases, the fundamental thermal dynamics tells us we have added heat into the system. Once it’s trapped, it can go to a myriad of places – land surface, oceans, ice shelves, ice sheets, glaciers for example.”
– Matt England, UNSW, interviewed, The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2014/feb/12/global-warming-fake-pause-hiatus-climate-change

Scientific paper : http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~paulspence/hiatus.pdf

57

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 11:26 pm

Bruce Wilder #55 — I’m not sure I understand your question.

At #45 you wrote, “90% of people would have no reason to have an opinion on such a subject, absent some kind of public education / propaganda campaign. So, if you poll people, you are getting feedback on the effects of competing campaigns. “

But previously, was that true? Before Climategate, most of the public appears to have taken the results from climate science from news items on the subject, without a conscious campaign waged to convince them. It is only very recently and reluctantly that the scientists have discussed jumping into the fray, in response to the opposing disinformation campaign.

In fact, Climategate was sort of the turning point, because the accusation was so egregiously false. “Hiding the decline” (in Climategate) was not an attempt at propaganda. They don’t know what to do with an anomalous little decline in one (and only one) of the temperature proxies on the hockey stick spaghetti graph, and, as it had ALREADY been thoroughly discussed in about 5 or 6 previous papers in the literature, the question in the “offending” emails was whether to forget about it in the AR3 summary report. As it happens, they decided to discuss it anyway, and it was put into the report — which came out years before the “scandal” accused them of falsehood!

But the question I have for you is, how do you assert that 25% (-30%) of the population “strongly resist such campaigns” (your comment #45). Because the rightwing tribe does not strongly resist such campaigns; they have fallen for the climate denialism campaign, hook, line, and sinker.

58

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 11:36 pm

ZM #56 — Exactly. What Brett the Brit would have us forget is that the so-called “pause” has been in the surface temperature graphs ONLY, and the increasing heat energy can go into other forms, including icemelt and kinetic energy redirecting air and ocean currents. The climate is an N-compartment system with multiple reservoirs to sink energy and create an even more dangerous condition. So it’s always this verbal shuffle, a switcheroo, that works on denialists because they are predisposed to believe it, and now the Australian government has taken an embarrassing plunge.

59

J Thomas 07.18.14 at 12:48 am

#50 Brett Belmore

If you’re going to talk about this again someday, it would really make sense to look at Lee Arnold’s link to graphs. This one:

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/

Try looking at it like you’re making things simple. Doing it simple, I’d divide most of those graphs into three linear sections. We have about 1910-1940, where temperature rose rapidly. We have 1940-1970 where they were sort of flat. And we have 1970 to present where they rise even more rapidly.

You might possibly want an explanation for the little blip at the end where it looks like it isn’t rising.

I’d be more interested in the time 1940-1970 where it looks like it wasn’t rising. Or possibly the strange anomalous time from about 1938-1945 when temperatures were out of line, much higher than expected. What could possibly cause something like that? 1938-1945. It seems to me there could be something related to human beings going on around that time, if I could only think what it was….

But before we explain the little jogs and anomalies in the graph, the first thing to pay attention to is that it’s pretty consistently going up. If you fit it to a single straight line that straight line is sloping upward, and between 1910 and now it’s gone up a degree to 1.4 degrees, depending on which graph you’re looking at. That’s the first thing to explain. Before we explain anomalies in the pattern of temperature increases, we need to explain it increasing so much.

So OK, put aside that the temperature increases with pretty much consistency. If we “adjust” the graph to put 1938-1945 on our straight line, we get four smaller anomalies. The early 1950’s, the early 1960’s, and the early 1970’s are all low. Also there were a few anomalous high points in late 1990’s early 2000’s, which give the illusion of a plateau later.

The early 1970’s might correspond to the oil shocks. The early 1950’s had frantic growth to recover from WWII, but the world economy took awhile to recover. I don’t have explanations for the early 1960’s or the high points around 2000. Maybe you can explain them.

But really, before we explain small deviations from the curve that shows temperatures going up on average over 100 years, we should explain temperatures going up for 100 years.

60

ZM 07.18.14 at 12:57 am

“So it’s always this verbal shuffle, a switcheroo, that works on denialists because they are predisposed to believe it, and now the Australian government has taken an embarrassing plunge.”

This government in Australia is more likely to be the switcheroo-ing duper rather than the embarrassed dupee given its comprehensive action on the environment, education, welfare, refugees, foreign aid, spying and surveillance etc

61

Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 1:01 am

It is instructive to visually collapse the GISS graph and realize that it is the upward trajectory at the end of the “hockey stick”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy#mediaviewer/File:1000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png

Despite much denialist nonsense that the hockey stick has been disproven, it has been improved by new data and is stronger than ever.

62

Bruce Wilder 07.18.14 at 2:04 am

Lee A Arnold:

The majority of people (around 60-70%) in every country think climate change is a threat. There is a 10-percent bounce depending on the recent weather and the recent propaganda, and the seriousness of the climate problem is always rated lower than more immediately pressing concerns, like the state of the economy and the need to put food on the table. . . . But as the climate communication specialists have been emphasizing, we need to look very closely at the 25-30% of the population who remain persistently out-of-touch. The evidence is mounting that they are of a certain cognitive bias which is both deeper and more complex than previously suspected. It goes not only into attitudes about science and economics, but also into biases concerning risk perception and existential fear. . . . They are “rightwing tribalists”, for want of a better term. Rightwing tribalism is social cognitive bias, not merely an ideology, rather more like a profound religious condition. . . .

I’m asking, why does it matter?

Why does it matter if the 25% of the population you term, “rightwing tribalists”, can’t or won’t wrap their minds around the science of climate change?

If you want it phrased differently: What would you have the dissenters do? Or, what would you have us do to the dissenters?

It would be unusual to get more that 70% of the population to agree on anything, let alone something that they, individually, don’t know enough about, to form an independent judgment.

I cannot think of any political issue where the dissenting opinion of 25% of the population would be considered a critical problem. It’s perfectly normal for one-third or one-quarter or one-in-five or one-in-ten to have a strongly held minority opinion, which may be scientifically baseless or otherwise apparently at odds with a majority sense of consensus reality.

63

Omega Centauri 07.18.14 at 2:20 am

Two topics. One my “great White Hope”, is that as the cost of solar and wind becomes more and more compelling, that it will start to filter down, that addressing climate change mitigation won’t break the bank, but will in fact be cheaper than business as usual (even if you don’t factor in the harm a changed climate will do). Similarly for electric cars, they really are cheaper and nicer than gasoline cars. So soon (hopefully) enough people will become fans of all this emerging greentech, and they should become natural allies of those who actuallywant to tackle the issue.

About the alleged pause. There was a decrease in the slope for about the last decade and a half. Now if you carefully cherry pick (start at the super-ElNino year 1998), and especially if you free draw the line rather than do a regression, you can make it look ike a pause. We now know several things about that pause.
(1) The temperature record has almost no arctic stations, and it was the arctic that was really heating up. So the popular “global” temperature datasets were missing the fact that the arctic was heating up. I.E. any true global average temp rose much more than the published record shows.

(2) A lot of heat was being stored in the oceans. This was mainly a result of decadal scale climate variations, sometimes net heat goes into the ocean and sometimes it comes back out (that is if the global climate was steady, but with a secular warming trend the difference is between lots of heat being stored in the ocean, versus not so much being stored). The global energy imbalance is still there, i.e. the planet has been absorbing more solar energy than it emits to space.

(3) There should have been some cooling due to increased volcanism, and decreased solar activity.
Any sort of best guess as to how much (1) through (3) have reduced the recent trend line makes the modest recent warming seem remarkable, i.e. the longterm secular heating trend must be much higher than we’ve imagined.

64

Omega Centauri 07.18.14 at 2:26 am

As noted, having a substantial majority polling position just doesn’t translate into policy. I think this is caused by two factors. The first is that the average level of support isn’t very high, not too many people change their voting based upon this issue. The second, which is somewhat related is that politicians are dependent of big money donars, which in the US are dominated by hardcore carbon interests. So if the politicians need to go against a widely but weakly held public position in order to secure funding, it is a win for them to do so. We see this even more strongly with renewable energy: it polls very positivily even with Republicans, yet in several state conservative governments are doing all they can to stop/delay the renewables.

65

Anarcissie 07.18.14 at 2:34 am

Lee A. Arnold 07.17.14 at 6:15 pm @ 34:
‘Talk of the need for communism or socialism just plays into the denialists’ hands. It’s a bunch of over-theorization to begin with, and it confirms their puerile fears. …’

This is why you can’t solve the problem.

66

John Quiggin 07.18.14 at 2:42 am

Brett Bellmore, whose political views have been stated here many times, and who isn’t a complete loon like @2 provides perfect proof of the OP. Obviously, his views on the existence or absence of a trend in global temperatures are driven entirely by his political preferences, that is, by wishful thinking.

He correctly infers that, if mainstream science is correct, his political position is untenable, at least in the strong form he would like to defend. So, he goes along with his lunatic/liar allies in cherrypicking data to support the conclusion he would like to be true.

There really is no point in debating these issues with Brett on a point by point basis. He’s not interested in the truth, at least not in any way that makes a difference. The best chance is to try to persuade him to abandon his current tribal affilations, at which point his beliefs on all kinds of issues would soon come into line with reality.

This has already happened with a substantial number of rightwing intellectuals (Lind, Bartlett, Frum, Sullivan, Josh Barro etc) and bloggers (Jim Henley, John Cole), while most of those who remain have descended into self-parody (Reynolds, the Volokhs etc).

What’s most amusing is the precarious balancing act being attempted by the Reformicons (Douthat, Levin, Salam etc). On climate change, of course, it’s hopeless. http://crookedtimber.org/2014/06/26/douthat-squares-the-circle-on-climate-change/

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Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 2:56 am

Bruce Wilder #62: “I’m asking, why does it matter?”

I don’t think it does matter all that much (with one caveat).

I brought this up in comment #34 in response to previous comments which were despairing of the efforts to address climate change. But the statistic shows that public opinion really hasn’t changed that much: most people think climate change is a problem, if a complicated one.

The caveat is that the power structure has a predominantly greater proportion of rightwing tribalists in it, than the voting statistic for the public at large would predict. Rightwing tribalism may be (say) 25% of the voting public at large, but closer to 80-90% (say) of the 1% of the population in the economic and political power elite. Obviously we see this even in the response of centrist Dem legislators on economic issues: they follow the economic theories of rightwing tribalism.

So it is important to understand, as carefully as possible, the real contours of the mentality we are dealing with, incorporating the previous explanations about economic and political power, into new results concerning the nature of their fears, their risk perceptions, their views on the instrumentality of science, their choice of experts to follow, etc. Because it is all of a piece, and it also might suggest certain possible tactics to begin to deal with it.

An interesting circumstance is that this overview has emerged (or re-emerged and grown more comprehensive), out of political science and sociology, as a result of inquiries in climate change communication.

68

Bruce Wilder 07.18.14 at 3:24 am

the economic theories of rightwing tribalism = capitalist ideology ?

If the “mentality” has that much overlap with power structures and interest in fossil fuels, then maybe it is, socialism or barbarism, and what is required is overthrowing the 1%, so many of whom have lost their grip on reality.

69

Thornton Hall 07.18.14 at 3:57 am

@Rich Puchalsky I really like your 2011 post. I think a large list of problems could be drawn up where “liberal”economists in the wake of Reagan have given up on command and control for political reasons and convinced themselves it’s for economic reasons. But I also think market fetishism is baked into the cake of neoclassical Econ. I look forward to a future when economic policy advice is about how to protect the vulnerable from economic hurricanes rather than theoretical pronouncements on the implications of game theory for cap and trade.

@Lee A Arnold. Your percentage is quite close to the 27% crazification factor cited by Kevin Drum and others derived from the vote percentage obtained by Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race v. Obama. But is your social pathology an overanalysis? Is it simpler to say that it is just path dependence, where membership in the tribe has been defined to require thumbing one’s nose at obvious truths? Tea party candidates get more popular (in the tribe) when they say something stupid that attracts derision, but it’s the derision, not the stupid that does the work?

70

JW Mason 07.18.14 at 4:12 am

Jim Henley

Was Jim ever a climate denialist?

71

Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 4:31 am

Bruce Wilder #68: “the economic theories of rightwing tribalism = capitalist ideology ?”

Is it a complete overlap? I think that in economic theory (such as it is), rightwing tribalism sees itself as wanting to enable and preserve a system that allows an individual to ascend, via merit, through a material hierarchy of reward, because that will lead to the “best of all possible worlds” in a train of quasi-religious logic.

And so, in survey responses, rightwing tribalism shows strongly AGAINST both egalitarianism and communalism on the Douglas “group/grid” axes.

But is that the same thing as capitalist ideology? Observe that the Tea Party, the popular expression of rightwing tribalism in the U.S., was against the bailout of the financial system, as much as Occupy Wall Street was against it.

So then, the question: Does your definition of capitalist ideology include Wall Street bailouts, or not? Because that is not a part of rightwing tribalism.

I would say my definition of capitalist ideology includes, in practice, the Wall Street bailouts. And certainly in practice, the Democratic Party is in it, up to their crooked necks. But it’s the whole “individual merit and reward” shtick of rightwing tribalism, something a little different than bailouts, that the Dems are openly willing to espouse.

(This is one of the things that fascinates me about Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, because, whatever his own right-wing hopes were, he took Marx a step further, along what he himself calls an essentially Marxian analysis. Schumpeter was able to see, coldly and clearly, that capitalism would eventually FAIL to provide a system linking individual merit and reward: It would get so big that effort and reward would become disconnected, both in the ability to innovate usefully, and by the absentee ownership of property. So in this narrow sense, rightwing tribalism would start to DESTROY capitalism, because rightwing tribalism is based upon a religious need for individual merit to be rewarded. And so far, not least especially in 1. the economic perpetual-bubble cycle; 2. the inability to understand how much of increasing inequality is simply positional, i.e. there is an ever-shrinking number of high positions in the material hierarchy; and 3. the astonishing ideological split inside the GOP, Schumpeter could be right on the money.)

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Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 4:52 am

Thornton Hall #69: “… just path dependence…?”

I think the 27% crazification factor is close. On some specific issues it may go as high as the mid-30’s.

Path dependence is not an ontological category, it is just a description. Certainly rightwing tribalism follows a path. But I think we would still have to explain the really high scores of respondents on the group/grid axes and on the cognitive and emotional correlates (the paragraphs numbered 3 and 6 in the collection from the literature at comment #36 above). I find this to be pretty striking stuff. It’s almost like a kind of socio-emotional organism that is strongly attuned to perceptions of risk.

In one way it is strongly path-dependent, for at least 2500 years. Rightwing tribalism seems to be strongly allied to a change in public attitudes in the mid-18th century, regarding a much older religious conception called “the great chain of being” (the name of the book by Lovejoy) which descended from Plato and was unified by the Neoplatonists. For millennia, the public mind operated within the ideas of a static cosmic hierarchy: God-angels-man-animals-inert objects etc. But in the middle of the 18th century, new ideas of science and discovery forced a radical change in the public conception of this, to a non-static hierarchy in which individuals could ascend through personal merit upward. This coincided with ideas about the end of aristocracy and the rise of the merchant classes, etc., and thus validated the new power structures. So it’s a kind of religious path-dependent thing, with an extremely long lifespan.

73

Anarcissie 07.18.14 at 4:52 am

Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 4:31 am @ 71 — I was recently ‘arguing’ with a libertarian capitalism fan who explained to me several times that the kind of capitalists who get bailouts are bad capitalists who do not hew to the line, who do not keep the faith. They are ‘crony capitalists’. I will spare you my contrary commiesplanations. These are a somewhat different tribe from the anti-immigrant, anti-abortion people, although I think they may still be a component of the Tea Party set.

74

bad Jim 07.18.14 at 5:09 am

Lee Arnold’s #36 is a wonderful summary. Unfortunately, denialism isn’t limited to the usual 30% of crazies; it’s the more or less official position of the Republican Party, at the moment, which for various reasons has a controlling position in the American legislature.

The problem, simply put, is that nearly half the American public is not subject to persuasion by means of rational argument. This is true of evolution as well. People do understand the scientific consensus, but they simply reject it out of faith and tribal solidarity. Trying to understand what ought to be a matter of science and public policy goes off into the weeds of motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance.

There does seem to be an association between ambient temperature and acceptance of global warming, but, given the planet’s axial tilt, temperate zones will continue to have cold winters for quite some time to come, which limits the weather’s ability to change minds.

75

Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 5:29 am

Anarcissie, Did you ask them what government regulations they advocated to prevent the need for bailouts, being libertarians? They usually say, let them fail, not realizing that “too big to fail” means they will bring down the rest of the economy too, and put all of us out on the street.

76

John Quiggin 07.18.14 at 5:53 am

On Jim Henley: I don’t remember him (or John Cole) ever being a climate denialist, but I do remember his pained reaction when I first linked to him, labelling him as a “left liberal”.

http://johnquiggin.com/2002/12/14/new-on-the-blogroll-3/

Perhaps I already saw something he had not realised. In any case, my main point is that on dumping the libertarian label, he also moved away from a bunch of positions that had clearly been uncomfortable for some time, but that went with the affiliation.

BTW, Jim is having a tough time at the moment, battling cancer with characteristic good humor and optimism, so say hi on FB or similar if you want to send some good wishes

77

iolanthe 07.18.14 at 6:04 am

Abbott did no more than he said he would do and got an electoral mandate. I happen to think it’s mistaken policy but I also think his mandate should be respected.

More blame I think goes to parties whom Professor Quiggin does not mention. Australian readers would know this but I wonder how many overseas readers know that:
– there was a prospect of a bipartisan introduction of an ETS in the first Rudd term but Rudd deliberately decided to use the issue to wedge the liberal party, resulting in Malcolm Turnbull’s fall to be replaced by the “unelectable” Tony Abbott
– Rudd then tried to get an ETS with the support of the Greens who held the Senate balance of power. The Greens rejected it because the initial $10 a tonne soft start for the first year only would have been too low. The scheme that has just been repealed would have dropped to $8 per tonne or lower in 9 months time. This proves, in case any proof was needed, that the Greens aren’t fit for any form of grown up politics.
– Rudd then refused to go to a double dissolution which virtally everyone thinks he would have won and which would have allowed an ETS.

If any of these three things had gone differently, the ETS would have been in for 5 years now and would be a bit like the GST was for the ALP – a realisation it was a good policy with only minor downside and positive outcomes and the hysterical opposition was mendacious and overdone and no one is going to try and get rid of it. So blame Abbott if you like, but the ALP and Greens were just as effective in yesterday’s outcome.

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Collin Street 07.18.14 at 6:05 am

I think the 27% crazification factor is close. On some specific issues it may go as high as the mid-30′s.

The thing you have to remember is that the 27% was based on votes, and the turnout in that particular election was actually quite low, 50% or so. I actually checked this a few years back, but can’t remember the exact results.

[I suspect that even this one-in-six is inflated by institutional groupthink, that the one-in-six is maybe itself one part core true believers and five parts “oh, if you insist”. The craziest person out of thirty-six is going to be pretty crazy, so multi-level indirect representation combined with group loyalty can cause some serious moral tensions.]

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bad Jim 07.18.14 at 9:00 am

Trying to get the public to embrace the scientific consensus is difficult. Getting people to accept evolution seems to entail getting them to give up religion, which in turn requires turning their countries into approximations of socialist paradises. Socioeconomic insecurity leads to religious intensity which trumps science. The material part of the enlightenment program — making peoples’ lives better — turns out to be the most important.

Public opinion about the invasion of Iraq offers another example of how little reason and evidence matters. The Very Serious People didn’t think hard about whether this was a good thing to do; instead, they looked at the line-up of opinion and took their places.

Concern over climate change used to be somewhat respectable on the right, but it’s fallen out of fashion, and now no candidate can be caught dead advocating limits on carbon. Contraception and even abortion used to be of as little concern to evangelical Christians as they are to most Jews, but that changed abruptly in the late 1970’s for purely political reasons.

The slippery slopes are predominantly to be found in one corner of the American psyche, and our rescue teams have yet to find a hold.

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Sasha Clarkson 07.18.14 at 10:22 am

Bad Jim “The slippery slopes are predominantly to be found in one corner of the American psyche …

And the American Right psyche is unique: the views of many Republicans would make them unelectable and unselectable in Europe – at the moment: but one always worries about the stronger madness crossing the Atlantic.

Eg this: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19303-emc2-not-on-conservapedia.html

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ZM 07.18.14 at 11:04 am

Many people of different faiths accept and care about anthropogenic climate change. Here is a link to a sermon by Bill McKibben from 350.org
http://jpgreenword.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/bill-mckibben-talks-climate-change-and-religion/

This is a link to religious statements on climate change
http://fore.research.yale.edu/climate-change/statements-from-world-religions/

Carbon is emitted in stationary energy production and in transport such as cars, trains, airplanes etc . In wealthy countries a high proportion of people will find that the largest proportion of their GHG emissions are in the form of embodied emissions in consumer goods and food (often imported from other jurisdictions – causing lots of disagreements in global negotiations), and also air travel if they fly much. Carbon is not the only greenhouse gas – methane from poorly managed waste decomposition and animal farming, as well as nitrous oxide from farming are others.

The necessary changes to the contemporary dominant human uses of land and uses of other beings/’resources’ in order to halt GHG emissions and then draw down GHG through reforestation seem to me to be large-scale. ‘Liberals’ in the US sense are just about as reluctant as ‘conservatives’ to talk about the appropriate changes to our societies and laws that would sufficiently and in a timely manner enable us together to alter how we undertake production and consumption and distribution and waste management and mobility to halt and remedy our contributions to climate change.

Additionally, anthropogenic climate change is one among other sustainability issues we are also obliged to remedy at the present time.

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Anonymous Coward 07.18.14 at 12:56 pm

There is no one, anywhere in the world, who has honestly examined the evidence, without wishful thinking based on ideological or cultural preconceptions, and concluded that mainstream science is wrong.

For what it’s worth: I am not an expert –but no crank either; I guess I could legitimately call myself a “scientist” given my academic work, although in an unrelated field–, and I only have a passing familiarity with the field: but to me the preponderance of evidence so far, as alarming as it is, is not yet as smoking-gun clear cut and overwhelming as it needs to be to unambiguously warrant urgent, major societal changes at a global scale –like, for instance, cigarette smoking and lung cancer or, more recently, fracking and earthquakes.

Climatologists like to say this ambiguity is unescapable due to intrinsic complexity / data limitations, but to me some of their modeling choices and overreliance on toy simulations is rather problematic and smacks of complacency, in what is already an insular field. The result is a whole bunch of “exploitable” weak links and gray areas for opportunists to grab to and politicize.

Perhaps this is just the way it is, and again I am no expert, but unfortunately there is indeed such a thing as a perceived gradation within the natural sciences (as #2 so odiously pointed out), with heavily “applied” fields like seismology or climatology at the bottom considered the least rigorous and easiest to get into. Add to that an insular academic culture, and a (otherwise completely reasonable) deep suspicion of outsider criticism, which perhaps explains their characteristic lack of interdisciplinary collaboration –as compared with other fields. As a result, sadly, it is not uncommon to see things like awful physics or blatant statistical malpractice in published journals… So perhaps climatology methodology has room to improve, and with it the strength of the evidence.

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Anarcissie 07.18.14 at 1:40 pm

Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 5:29 am @ 75:
‘Anarcissie, Did you ask them what government regulations they advocated to prevent the need for bailouts, being libertarians? They usually say, let them fail, not realizing that “too big to fail” means they will bring down the rest of the economy too, and put all of us out on the street.’

They don’t believe that. Most people believe what they want to believe. The PIE etymon of ‘believe’ is *leubh- “to care, desire, love”. Hence the strong power of ideology and tribal association in climate discussions as well. I doubt if anyone is completely free of this tendency. I suppose, as humans evolved, social cohesion proved more valuable in terms of survival and reproduction than getting one’s facts right.

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Thornton Hall 07.18.14 at 1:44 pm

@Lee A Arnold
I think we sometimes miss some radical post-war changes and don’t include them in our investigations of post war pathologies. For instance, the connection between antibiotics, gut flora, and obesity.

Similarly, “objective” journalism that reports both sides (and exactly 2 sides) of every story. This is a radical ideology in the 500 year history of mass media. How much insanity in the States is the result of oligarchs exploiting the fatal flaw of “objective” media: the transmission of well crafted deception as “the equally valid opposition” to the truth?

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Barry 07.18.14 at 1:46 pm

Lee A. Arnold @36 – have you ever heard of linking to something, rather than dumping page after page of text?

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Barry 07.18.14 at 1:51 pm

Brett: “Funny that it takes fifteen years to admit there was a pause, and a few months to decide that it has ended.”

It’s supposed to be 17 years, or something like that.

To any others who don’t know I and Brett are referring to – 1998 was an unusually warm year, with an unusual El Nino. This spiked it above the trend, and the denialists immediately started measuring things from that single outlier. They’ve never heard of curve fitting or smoothing.

Brett claims to be an auto engineer, who apparently doesn’t know who to deal with noisy data.

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J Thomas 07.18.14 at 2:26 pm

If I understand this right, Lee Arnold is proposing a model where about a quarter of the population has some particular psychological needs. Basicly, they want to feel safe. They want to believe that things will work out OK, that there are not big scary dangers that nobody knows what to do about. They’re willing in theory to accept sacrifices for the common good — some of them volunteer for the military, they’re in theory willing to give up their social security and generally throw themselves on the mercy of the job market — but they want those sacrifices to truly be for the common good.

Because of those psychological needs, some of them accept forms of religion that express a great deal of certainty. Like, there is one right way to read the Bible and anybody who reads it can see what that is. The one right way to read it tells us how we must live, it settles all moral and ethical concerns. Science is not bad in itself but atheists try to take it too far, they try to apply science to questions it does not work for, questions that religion has already answered.

Some of them accept free-market religion. The economy always automatically works the best it can for everybody who deserves it. In a free market everybody who works hard can get what he deserves. When government gets involved we get inefficient socialism which takes from the deserving and gives to leeches, or else we get crony capitalism which distorts the economy to reward leeches who don’t deserve their rewards. So government intervention is always wrong. If they believe that big businesses are part of the problem, they also find themselves believing that businesses get too big because government helps them get big, without that it could not happen.

Some of them believe that the USA is the best, that the USA must rule the world because if we don’t somebody bad will. Others believe that the US government needs to stand back and let US businessmen rule the world.

They do tribalism where everybody tries to agree with the tribe about everything, because that feels safest.

And the GOP partly provides them a place to do all that. The GOP can’t survive without their votes so it evolves into an increasingly comfortable place for them.

Is there a way for the Democratic Party to harbor people like that? Should they have to write off a quarter of the vote from the start? If it isn’t about the particular ideology but about feeling safe and certain, why not find a way to give them that?

We’d need a way for Democrats to tell religious people that science is compatible with religion. Atheists wouldn’t like that, but isn’t it an OK thing to say to voters? Science IS compatible with religion. Science finds the best explanation it can for the available facts, knowing that better explanations are likely in the future. No faith, just trial and error. If a religion says something about the past that doesn’t fit science, it’s possible that some time in the future science will change around to something compatible with the religion. And later still it may change to something that isn’t compatible, and later again to something that is. Science at best approximates truth, so it should be no threat to religious faith. Similarly, people thought that miracles were impossible before they had science, that’s what made them miracles in the first place. Science studies repeatable phenomena. If someday we find out ways to reliably repeat Jesus’s miracles then science can find out how they work and they won’t be miracles. Until then science can’t really speak to them.

What about people who believe that morality must be followed independent of results? People who might, for example, believe that when the time comes that following the rules of morality means you must start a nuclear war that kills everybody, then you should kill everybody. I think Democrats probably ought to believe in results, and believe in doing trial studies etc to try to find out the results. But if they don’t have faith in moral rules independent of the results, maybe they can have faith in something? Something that’s comforting enough to soothe the 25% who most need comforting?

It shouldn’t be necessary for everybody but the GOP to tell voters “When you die, you’re just dead and there is nothing to your life except the trivia you spend it on. The whole universe is getting more random until eventually there will be no possible meaning to anything, no life, just random motion. There is no morality but we want to take your stuff and give it to people who are more unfortunate than you are because they deserve it more than you do. Anyway, there’s no morality, there’s only people with different opinions. There’s no evil but selfishness and in the long run there’s no difference between good and evil anyway. There was never any God and there is no way for your life to have any meaning. You don’t matter. Vote for me.”

Well, of course they don’t say that. But it ought to be possible to not sound like that to the 25% of voters who’re predisposed to hear that….

Can Democrats (or some third party that wants good things) create a tribal experience that can compete with the GOP tribal experience? It doesn’t need the same ideology, if it’s a good tribe people who want the experience will accept whatever ideology it provides.

Can good rational people provide a tribal experience without losing their souls?

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Bruce Wilder 07.18.14 at 3:10 pm

Anarcissie @82 quoting Lee A Arnold: not realizing that “too big to fail” means they will bring down the rest of the economy too, and put all of us out on the street.

As A says, we all do our share of wishful thinking. One popular technique is to import pseudo-facts thru counterfactual assumption.

When oil execs get together to fund pr that undermines popular understanding of climate science, and pours the whine (sic) into the old reactionary and populist tea party bottles, I imagine their immediate concern is to preserve their place in the world. Their concrete, immediate concerns seem more real than the abstract and idealistic fears of climate science or aware activists.

The facts of climate science do not dictate how we respond, but the reality of climate change seems almost designed to prove a fatal challenge to normal political process. As ZM says, “‘Liberals’ in the US sense are just about as reluctant as ‘conservatives’ to talk about the appropriate changes to our societies and laws that would sufficiently and in a timely manner enable us together to alter how we undertake production and consumption and distribution and waste management and mobility to halt and remedy our contributions to climate change.”

The irony, unintended or not, of the example of the GFC, created by the abject failure of neoliberal policy, stands as a rebuke to the complacency that finds so much interest in the craziness of the 27% and places so little responsibility for the policy of the elites anywhere.

We are looking at our reflections in a fun house mirror, hoping that what we see is attributable to the mirror, but it is not.

No one wants to face the cost of collapsing a civilization we enjoy. We can calculate that we only need to collapse it a little, or very gradually, or that a bit of collapse would be good for us, reducing the cost of excess. But, we are reluctant to act to dismantle except in a panic, and reluctant to accept dismantling in a panic — we’re addicts seeking any excuse.

The normal emergence of a useful range of opinion on what to do is inhibited by this common reluctance to accept that none of the realistic options preserve enough to satisfy those invested in what exists. Conservatives are engaged in wishful thinking, and we are all conservatives.

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Bruce Wilder 07.18.14 at 3:11 pm

We all do tribalism. We want to trust our leaders.

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Bruce Wilder 07.18.14 at 3:16 pm

Our leaders need to be able to manipulate us.

It is basic social organize.

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J Thomas 07.18.14 at 3:20 pm

#66

There really is no point in debating these issues with Brett on a point by point basis. He’s not interested in the truth, at least not in any way that makes a difference. The best chance is to try to persuade him to abandon his current tribal affilations, at which point his beliefs on all kinds of issues would soon come into line with reality.

He isn’t interested in the truth?

Then like the old joke goes, what is he good for?

Seriously, why respond to him about anything? Why keep him around?

I had assumed that his reasoning skills were damaged by law school, and some people recover from that.

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Rich Puchalsky 07.18.14 at 3:55 pm

Thornton Hall, I’m glad you liked my 2011 post. As is usual for CT, we’ve gone off in various directions without seemingly thinking about whether the repeal of Australia’s carbon price/tax/trading scheme is supposed to teach us anything, or whether it’s just an occasion for condemnation with no broader meaning and soon everything will be put back like it should be.

J Thomas, Lee Arnold is just repeating some scolding that people like to give environmentalists. “You’re doing it wrong, because science shows that we shouldn’t scare people, that just makes them more conservative.” Whatever the merits of that, the important failure is the failure of mainstream politics. We’re never going to get those 25% in the U.S. no matter what we say. Why can’t the majority push rational policies through despite those 25-30% and their industry funders? They are going to have to figure out a way to do it despite opposition, or it isn’t going to happen.

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Thornton Hall 07.18.14 at 4:14 pm

It seems to me , that once you filter out the “problems” that are really just facets of the human condition, focus in on the locations of political discourse, and ask what is unique about this moment in time? The answers will reveal a set of possible causes of current problems that are also within our power to change.

In the New Deal Era there was no “newspaper of record” that would simply list the assertions of JP Morgan as facts about how the market works. In 2014 that is exactly how the business page at the NYT works. Occasionally people are also quoted who don’t like JP Morgan, but the facts of how the markets function are written in the communications department at the Court of Economic Royalty.

Wm Randolf Hearst may have caused the Spanish American War, but not because Wm McKinley gave him special secret access to a “source”/plant.

If we want to defeat the crazies in public discourse, we need a new ideology of news that gets rid of the ex officio seat currently held by the 27% in the role of “objective balance”.

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Anarcissie 07.18.14 at 4:17 pm

Rich Puchalsky 07.18.14 at 3:55 pm @ 91 –
In the US, in the present, in the short term, the majority doesn’t matter politically. You have to convince the ruling class. Who, as widely noted, are pretty impervious to the desires, interests, and ideas of those below them on the food chain.

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Thornton Hall 07.18.14 at 4:24 pm

I know this will piss some people off, but I listen to the Science Weekly Podcast from The Guardian and they frequently talk about how much easier certain kinds of science research are in the States as opposed to anti-science Europe. If I mention the science, I’ll be trolling. And indeed, even in climate science, we may not be listening, but our govt, directly at NASA and NOAA and indirectly at universities, is funding a great deal of the science.

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Bruce Wilder 07.18.14 at 6:00 pm

Thornton Hall @ 91: what is unique about this moment in time?

As ZM @ 81 put it, it is the scale and scope of the thing — climate change is one sustainability issue among many, and together, they require a vast change, though not so fast a pace of change that it could not be accomplished if we could fashion the political will and imagination.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the world faltered, seemingly unable to keep up with the pace of change that it was imposing upon itself with the Second Industrial Revolution. Social and political institutional change did not keep pace, did not adapt fast enough to the power and potential created by rapidly advancing industrial and technological change. Politics and culture lagged behind the economic potential, struggling to catch up, frequently prodded forward by the crises, wars and depression that followed from the failure to make the appropriate political governance changes in a timely fashion.

Technological and industrial change has continued apace, but now we’re running into resource limits, and the declining productivity that approaching those limits will impose. If civilization was on the way up a mountain in the 19th and 20th centuries, then civilization has reached the resource peak, and is now facing the problems of descent, with the weight of vastly greater population and production infrastructure. (If you are looking for what is unique to our time, that’s it.)

As Rich says, the failure of mainstream politics to find and focus a political will is the main problem, not the inevitable intransigence of a nutty 27%. I would go further, and say that weakness of the various lefts — including that pusillanimous centrist portion who scorn any talk of political will as Green Lanternism as well as the considerable fraction who think we will be rescued from any hard choices by technological miracles (“electric power from solar will soon be so cheap that coal will uneconomic even without a carbon tax!”) — is way more important than tea party antics.

The weakness of the left means, as Anarcissie observes, that the ruling class is left alone, unresponsive to any below them in the food chain. A frightening image in the circumstances. Human societies have rarely been without ruling classes in historic time, so hardly unique to our moment in time. But, when the problem is a limited or shrinking resource base, a decline in the global carrying capacity as it were, a ruling class that doesn’t feel dependent on those below, or responsible for those below, suggests solution sets, that might emphasize eliminating “excess” population, or at least increasing poverty, as a way to reduce overall resource consumption, without interfering unduly with the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

A carbon tax or emission trading regime seeks to impose costs and the expense of change and adaptation on “Supply”, and particularly on the private, for-profit portions of the industrial structure. As Rich hinted, another approach is to change the public infrastructure. A third approach is to impose consumption repression. Sooner or later, all three things have to happen, under any rationally adaptive regime. But, a greedy, self-serving rentier elite would prefer to emphasize disinvestment over investment, and poverty for the masses. That appears to be what we are doing, anyway.

Mass media is tasked with disguising the policy, and with maintaining the insulation of elites from the complaints of the masses. I think the sensible interpretation of the tea party, as a creation of pr professionals, would emphasize that function. “Objective balance” in the ideology of “practical” journalism does seem to serve that function.

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Rich Puchalsky 07.18.14 at 6:36 pm

“A carbon tax or emission trading regime seeks to impose costs and the expense of change and adaptation on “Supply”, and particularly on the private, for-profit portions of the industrial structure. As Rich hinted, another approach is to change the public infrastructure.”

One clarification: I don’t think that there really is a private, for-profit portion of our energy industrial structure that is distinct from the public infrastructure. There is certainly a part of the infrastructure that is owned privately, pays profits to energy companies, etc., but that’s just crony capitalism or rentier activity, whatever you want to call it. In fact, there are no major parts of this infrastructure that aren’t effectively under governmental control. No company no matter how big is going to decide to build a major refinery or coal-burning electric power plant without governmental consultation, market set-asides, and regulatory approval (as well as in many cases financial support both direct and indirect). No government is really going to leave critical power provision to the so-called free market. (They presumably saw what happened to California, if nothing else.)

So carbon taxes / ETSs have always seemed to me to be purely propaganda for the “free market”. There’s a societal decision that we have to make; it’s about indirect negative externalities so there’s no way the market can handle it. So the government makes the decision about what the outcome is going to be, but it has to pretend not to — it has to pretend that the market is doing it. This is supposedly “economically efficient”. But it’s not politically efficacious, because it’s easily reversed.

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Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 7:31 pm

J Thomas @86 — You are one of the few I think who has arrived at the basic problem. Your question was explicitly anticipated by Murray Gell-Mann in the book, The Quark and the Jaguar (1995), when he asked, “Is there a moral equivalent to belief?”

I think you have written a good precis, except that I am not proposing a model, I just pulled together strands out of models that have been tested by others. Here is the bibliography:

Farrell, Henry, “Epistemic closure — climate change edition.” The Monkey Cage, March 9, 2011.

Feygina, Irina, et al. “System justification, the denial of global warming, and the possibility of ‘system-sanctioned change’.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36:3 (2010) pp. 326-338.

Hennes, Eric P., et al., “Not all ideologies are created equal: Epistemic, existential, and relational needs predict system-justifying attitudes.” Social Cognition 30:6 (2012) pp. 669-688.

Hetherington, Marc J., “Resurgent mass partisanship: the role of elite polarization.” American Political Science Review 95:3 (2001) pp. 619-631.

Jost, John J., and Orsolya Hunyady, “The psychology of system justification and the palliative function of ideology.” European Review of Social Psychology 13 (2002) pp. 111-153.

Jost, John J., et al., “Ideology: its resurgence in social, personality, and political psychology.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 3:2 (2008) pp. 126-136.

Jost, John J., et al., “Political conservatism as motivated social cognition.” Psychological Bulletin 129:3 (2003) pp. 339-375.

Jost, John J., and David M. Amodio, “Political ideology as motivated social cognition: Behavioral and neuroscientific evidence.” Motivation and Emotion 36 (2012) pp. 55-64.

Kahan, Dan M., “Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection.” Judgment and Decision Making 8 (2013) p-p. 407-424.

Kahan, Dan H., et al., “Cultural cognition of scientific consensus.” Journal of Risk Research 14 (2011) pp. 147-174.

Knight, Kathleen, “Transformations in the concept of ideology in the twentieth century.” American Political Science Review 100:4 (2006) pp. 619-626.

Lahsen, Myanna, “Experiences of modernity in the greenhouse: A cultural analysis of a physicist “trio” supporting the backlash against global warming.” Global Environmental Change 18 (2008) pp. 204-219.

McCright, Aaron M., and Riley E. Dunlap, “The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001-2010.” The Sociological Quarterly 52 (2011) pp. 155-194.

Oreskes, Naomi, et al., “From Chicken Little to Dr. Pangloss: William Nierenberg, global warming, and the social deconstruction of scientific knowledge.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 38:1 (2008) pp. 109-152.

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Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 7:34 pm

Rich Puchalsky #91: “Lee Arnold is just repeating some scolding that people like to give environmentalists. ‘You’re doing it wrong, because science shows that we shouldn’t scare people, that just makes them more conservative.’ “

Not at all, and I did not say that anywhere.

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Lee A. Arnold 07.18.14 at 8:01 pm

Rich Puchalsky #91: “Why can’t the majority push rational policies through despite those 25-30% and their industry funders?”

I think this is a good question. The usual response is that the good guys are being outspent by the bad guys. But I have conversations with self-described “independents” (basically, middle-of-the road US Republicans who thought Romney was too creepy, and voted for Obama) and what emerges is a little different. There is lip service to the economic tenets of rightwing tribalism, and they tend to go with their own emotional feelings as primary indicators, and they go with the majority belief as being probably true (the “wisdom of the herd”). But also, they don’t like dissension; they prefer comity, and they take sustained dissension as an indicator of an underlying realworld problem. So as soon as a very vocal propaganda campaign starts up (such as policy to mitigate climate change), and if it appears to have an element of truth on the surface of it (as Climategate did, until you got down into the technicalities and the details where it was obviously a false accusation), then independents will start to withhold their support, to wait to see what develops next. And much of the US population follows this “can’t we all get along” pattern. In a way, propagandists get to rely upon the good natures of much of the weakly-ideological public.

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J Thomas 07.18.14 at 8:08 pm

#96

So carbon taxes / ETSs have always seemed to me to be purely propaganda for the “free market”. There’s a societal decision that we have to make; it’s about indirect negative externalities so there’s no way the market can handle it. So the government makes the decision about what the outcome is going to be, but it has to pretend not to — it has to pretend that the market is doing it. This is supposedly “economically efficient”. But it’s not politically efficacious, because it’s easily reversed.

I want to make a carbon tax proposal that would not suffer these problems, that suffers mainly the problem that it’s hard to get past Congress.

First, establish a fossil fuel tax, preferably a rather high one. Tax the producers or the importers. This is fairly easy to do. They pass the costs along to their customers, of course.

Second, count the US citizens. Give each of them a debit card like welfare people get, with picture ID and maybe biometrics. Everybody gets one. It can double as a voter ID card.

Every week or two, count up the fossil fuel tax. Divide the gross tax money by the number of citizens. Deposit that value to every debit card. It’s a flat anti-tax.

Pay for the whole thing some other way, like out of the general fund. All the fossil fuel tax goes to citizens, and every citizen gets the same amount. None of the money goes to administer the system, or to any other purpose.

One thing that this does is to indirectly create a transfer tax. Like, say that because of the tax gasoline costs $14/gallon instead of $4/gallon. And say the average citizen uses 10 gallons/week. The average citizen will pay $140/week for gasoline, but he will get a check that pays $100 of it for him. He comes out even. Somebody who doesn’t drive at all? He gets $100/week to spend as he likes. Somebody who uses $20 gallons/week? He pays $280/week for gasoline and the tax money pays $100 of it, he would have paid $80 without the tax, he’s $100/week behind. Figure out a way to use less gas and it pays off for him.

There’s an effect on business. Businesses aren’t citizens and don’t get any of the tax money. They must pass their high-cost inputs on to their customers. The more they can evade those costs, the more they can offer customers low prices and outcompete their peers, or else keep prices high and get great profits. They get to choose which, but either way they have a strong incentive to find untaxed energy sources and raw materials.

Where it gets complicated is imports that aren’t fossil fuels but that use a lot of fossil fuels. Somebody makes a product using a ton of coal and 200 barrels of oil and imports it, something made locally has to pay the passed-on taxes for all that but the import doesn’t. We need to tax the import but how much? I’m going to set aside this question for further study. Apart from that, it’s all simple and at least in theory quite workable. People who consume lots of fossil fuels need to find ways to consume less. If they have jobs that require them to do it — they must commute long distances, etc — then they can arrange to get paid more or quit those jobs and look for jobs they can afford to work at. Their employers might help them find ways to scrape by, too. Businesses that are stuck in places that cost a lot to exist in, might find ways to move somewhere cheaper unless they get big advantages from being where they are.

If we do that and fossil fuel use does not go down, it means that people have not found adequate alternatives. We can go on collecting the taxes without hurting the average citizen, while we wait for innovations that will help the situation.

If some legislators want to get rid of the tax, they will be taking money out of every voter’s pocket. Of course prices are higher because of the tax, but there’s no particular reason to think prices will go down if they repeal it. But every voter will know that the money he gets to help pay those prices will be gone.

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Bruce Wilder 07.18.14 at 10:35 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 96

Yes to all that.

The so-called “market economy” is a vast, decentralized system, enabling specialization in production and creating a network of exchange to support that specialization. It depends on a public goods architecture provided by government and various non-profit organizations. A key issue is minimizing the costs of transactions across the network of exchange, so that specialization can do its productive work.

The whole system is geared toward amplifying the productivity of specialization and minimizing the costs of transactions across the network of exchange, and energy plays a key role in solving both those problems.

It’s not crazy to think that the vast, de-centralized system would adapt to the increased cost of even a key input, by trying to better control consumption of the input. What is a little crazy is imagining that the whole system, including the political parts that deliver and manage the public infrastructure, won’t go right on pressing to reduce transactions costs, by any means necessary. It isn’t just a failure to have a theory of politics; it’s a failure to see politics as an essential part of the economic system.

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Ken_L 07.19.14 at 1:28 am

#48 “If my memory is correct back in the early nineties the partisan difference was actually quite small.”

Then along came Al Gore who decided to make combating global warming his Great Crusade, and thereby did the cause enormous damage. By linking it so closely to the despised Clinton Administration, he virtually ensured it would be hotly opposed by conservatives. And so here we are today, with no chance that any conservative government anywhere will support effective measures because denialism is too deeply entrenched in the ideology, and no chance any non-conservative government is going to risk it.

It’s all too late anyway. The denialists won.

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Matt 07.19.14 at 2:09 am

It’s all too late anyway. The denialists won.

I recommend David Archer’s The Long Thaw as a geological-time overview of global warming. The IPCC reports for 2100 are really talking about the early consequences of climate change. There is no particular year where humans can’t make the next century’s climate problems even worse with bad choices, or avoid some future pain with better choices. Human effects on the atmosphere and climate are going to remain politically relevant for hundreds if not thousands of years, barring some extreme stabilizing factor like human extinction or the development of non-fossil energy cheaper than the dirtiest coal plant.

If denialists were currently losing we wouldn’t just assume that the issue was going to be permanently solved, because there’s always the chance that the next generation or the one after that would abandon GHG-stabilizing policies. Likewise, barring final ends like human extinction, just because the denialists are currently winning doesn’t mean you can assume that the politics are settled forever. Even after tipping points have tipped human action can still make the future relatively better or worse.

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John Quiggin 07.19.14 at 4:55 am

@101 This is way off the mark in terms of sequencing. The denialists were well and truly in operation by the time of the Kyoto meeting in 1997. Al Gore’s identification as the rightwing bogy on climate change starts with An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, or maybe a little before that.

As regards the denialists winning, they certainly won this round in Oz. But Obama’s EPA rules and motor vehicle efficiency standards are a much bigger deal. You might want to read this piece from BusinessWeek, which paints the attendees at the latest Heartland shindig (the core of the movement) as a bunch of bewildered losers.

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-07-10/in-las-vegas-climate-change-deniers-re-group-vow-to-keep-doubt-alive

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bad Jim 07.19.14 at 6:07 am

There are two big problems with any environmental issue. The first is that we have to admit that we’ve been doing something wrong, and people will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid acknowledging that.

The second is that it requires collective effort, and that goes against the individualism of conservative ideology, the preferred narratives of sin and virtue. The thinking goes that we ought to rely on private charity instead of public assistance, for example. Al Gore is derided for his lifestyle, although he’d also be mocked if he’d chosen asceticism instead.

Thanks to Lee Arnold for citing his sources. The name Naomi Oreskes caught my eye, and at Mother Jones there is a short review by Chris Mooney of a new book by her and Erik Conway, “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future”.

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Ken_L 07.19.14 at 7:02 am

John @ 103 you’re right as far as the semi-professional denialists are concerned, but from my observations it only became a conservative mass movement following Gore becoming so publicly involved. That’s when any mention of global warming became the trigger for the hysterical denunciations of a leftist plot that are now one of the core elements of conservative dogma.

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bad Jim 07.19.14 at 7:16 am

Jimmy Carter made a speech in 1977 in which he called for energy conservation as the Moral Equivalent Of War, suggesting people turn down their thermostats and put on sweaters. Headlines abbreviated the phrase from William James to “MEOW” and his cardigan became a punchline.

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John Quiggin 07.19.14 at 7:28 am

He [Brett Bellmore] isn’t interested in the truth?

Then like the old joke goes, what is he good for?

Seriously, why respond to him about anything? Why keep him around?

Brett is intelligent enough to present the best argument for his (tribally predetermined) position and defend it in debate. So, he’s useful to us in assessing the strength of our own position. Where his arguments are lamentably weak (Iraq and climate change come to mind) we can be satisfied that we’ve got the analysis right, and its just(!) a matter of winning the political fight. In other cases (eg on some legal issues), I find him stronger, which suggests that the standard left analysis may be in need of some refinement.

Like God, if he (and Tim Worstall, who plays a more irony-inflected version of the same game) didn’t exist, we’d need to invent him.

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Sasha Clarkson 07.19.14 at 8:51 am

“… standard left analysis …” ?

What does being “Left” even mean? I would define is as people with a commitment to common humanity, who are prepared to work collectively to advance its cause. But despite what the right-wing press would like to think, “the Left” is not a uniform body of people with a commonly agreed set of truths – and Amen to that! We are not sheep baa-ing uniformly “Four Legs good – two legs bad!” (Of course, entryists and “modernisers” like Tony Blair did try to get us to chant “Four Legs good – two legs better!” instead.) We need to be able to think for ourselves, recognise false friends as well as enemies, and advance common understanding by constructive debate.

Serendipitously, I came across a quote yesterday which describes what we are up against: “This is … not the age of reason, … it’s the era of flummery, and the day of the devious approach. Reason’s gone into the backrooms where it works to devise means by which people can be induced to emote in the desired direction.” (From John Wyndham’s 1960 novel Trouble With Lichen. )

As others here (I think) have implied, the big question is: how can we persuade people effectively, and be honest at the same time?

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J Sterling 07.19.14 at 9:31 am

To reinforce John Quiggin’s point, I’ve seen liberal blogs that have succeeded in getting rid of every non-liberal commentator, and they _do_ invent them. The first few comments end up being regulars role-playing what their opponents would say if they were still here, and laughing to each other at how dumb those guys are. Same goes on the right, commentators will tell each other those libtards would probably say something stoopid like [insert straw man]. If you’re going to exercise your arguments in dialogue form in the comments thread anyway, then you might as well at least make it a live-fire exercise.

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J Thomas 07.19.14 at 10:11 am

#103
It’s all too late anyway. The denialists won.

It depends. They don’t think they’ve won.

It isn’t at all certain that humanity will go extinct in the next few thousand years. Humans are surprisingly adaptible. They survived in small numbers from the hot arid lands of australia to practically the north pole, without metal.There will likely be pockets where humanity can survive a whole lot of climate change. We might go through another population bottleneck, where the world population goes to less than 100,000 or maybe 10,000, but we can bounce back from that given the chance.

There’s room for doubt how bad it will be. If we lose 99% of our population and we wind up with a feudal system where a few people get to be aristocrats who can still have a somewhat hi-tech lifestyle and most people are peasants, that might not be so bad for the aristocrats. Some wealthy conservatives are probably planning how to get that result. Climate change isn’t so bad if you’re on top and you stay on top — unless it *does* get really bad.

OK, we didn’t get enough agreement to do the decisive measures it would have taken to prevent a lot of climate change. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! We won’t know in our lifetime whether humanity will go extinct soon. We can’t know for sure because if there’s a great big die-off while you are still alive, the communication net will break down and if there are isolated communities that are hanging on, you won’t know about them.

So there is hope. And it isn’t too late to increase that hope.

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ZM 07.19.14 at 10:32 am

‘We didn’t get enough agreement’

The next big climate change negotiations are next year – hopefully with more support from more people to make the needed commitments to change this upcoming negotiation might go better than the last in forging some sort of agreement.

Just thought I’d also mention the publication of this article on disruptive social innovation for a low carbon world. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but thought I would mention it given the thread on disruption a while ago.

http://www.visionsandpathways.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Alexander_Disruptive-Innovation_290514.pdf

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Ken_L 07.19.14 at 11:41 am

Perhaps I should explain what I mean when I say “the denialists have won”. I mean they’ve succeeded in turning climate change into just one more partisan political issue, like gun control and health care and education. Political parties will have “policies” about it that they take to elections, and whatever one wants to do the other will oppose, and the bulk of the population will be totally uninterested because it’s “politics”. Yes one side or the other will achieve small victories from time to time but there is no longer any chance for the comprehensive, bipartisan program that would have had some chance of making a real difference.

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ZM 07.19.14 at 12:07 pm

If the bulk of people in your neighbourhood or workplace are uninterested perhaps you can try to interest them in the matter.

For example, the Sustainability Street initiative suggests something like this:

“Dear Neighbours,
I/we live in XYZ road and we want to invite you to come to a meeting where we can talk about setting up a Sustainability Street Village. The basic idea of the Sustainability Street Approach (SSA) is that local people get together to support and encourage each other to explore more about living sustainably.
There is a “how to” manual called “Shortcut To Sustainability Street” which we can use or we can set things up in whatever suits us in our neighbourhood. There are scores of SSA Villages around Australia. The local SSA Villages consistently report three great accomplishments …
o As much as 30%, and even more, reduction in water waste and energy … and money saved.
o Great fun and a sense of purpose at creating local projects.
o A deep satisfaction and sense of wellbeing from connecting or re-connecting with other local people
There are three ways that people are doing this …
o the basic course of study and action outlined in the Shortcut to Sustainability Street manual.
o specialist guest speakers
o The CommUniversity, because we are all learners and we are all teachers!
We would like to invite you to (our house, the pub, the park, sports club room, kindergarten hall, wherever) on (day/date) to chat about setting up a Sustainability Street Village in this neighbourhood.
Please RSVP to (xxxxxxx) Bring the kids and we can organise some acitivities when we get together. And, if you can, bring a little something to have with a cuppa
More detail about the Sustainability Street Approach can be found at sustainabilitystreet.org.au
Bests,
Your name.”

Here us an example of some people from the US:

“Hescox is president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, devoted to raising awareness about the threat of climate change.

He’s among several environmentally minded evangelicals who believe their cause gained traction in 2006 with release of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which endorsed scientific findings on global warming and was signed by such notables as Rick Warren, leader of a megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif.

Thereafter, however, the message encountered challenges because of the recession, rise of the Tea Party and a growing suspicion of science-based conclusions, Hescox and others say.

Only within the last year or so has that that pattern shown signs of reversal.

Hescox says the reach of his network has grown from 20,000 evangelical Christians to 300,000 in five years. the organization has 900 “creation care specialists,” many of them evangelical ministers, trained to spread the gospel of safeguarding God’s handiwork.

When Hescox speaks to congregations across the country, he says climate change threatens a core evangelical concern — the sanctity of life.

“One of the key values of the evangelical church is being pro-life. I’m pro-life from conception to natural death. To go in and be able to talk about my values truly gives me an opening for them to hear what I have to say,” he says.”

From : http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/15/climate-religion-kansas-church-global-warming-evangelical/12515665/

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Thornton Hall 07.19.14 at 1:01 pm

Maybe I’m just an incorrigible optimist or terribly naive, but it seems fairly clear that the denialists have lost. The rate at which the price of solar has come down has surprised many folks. Additionally, it’s becoming clear that with smart grid technology the need for always on baseline power has dropped considerably. Various parts of the fossil fuel industry are hedging their bets with alternative energy. Certainly not enough to make a difference, but enough that the path forward is there if they get pushed hard enough.

China has basically done a back of the envelope calculation as to how much environmental damage they can afford before it stops being cost effective. They are playing a long game, but their investments in alternative energy are designed to overtake their investments in coal power in the long run. They are gonna do a whole lotta damage along the way, but they are probably calculating that the elderly will be most vulnerable and it might solve their demographic issues. It’s as cynical a strategy as possible, but the end game is a China that uses zero fossil fuel.

They are doing this because there is a limit to how much damage they can cause before it limits growth, but also because the interconnected global market place makes it very difficult to be a total outlier. Taking our internet technology or mobile phone technology didn’t commit them to using our internet protocol our building western style 3G networks. That’s an easy change. But choosing to do it would limit their ability to export.

We don’t actually have to get China and India to agree to anything. If the rest of the wold is demanding solar panels and wind turbines and has no use for coal or oil both countries would be dooming their economies if they chose not to follow along.

We know more or less the tech: solar, wind, smart grid, etc. The creative part is the storage. Probably won’t be batteries. It will involve nanotechnology and something random like compressed air or water/electrolosis or methane. It will be invented in the US, Germany or Japan and manufactured in China and India.

The only real question is how fast? And we know that the answer to that question determines how many poor people die thanks to an inability for food and water supplies to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. It’s a moral imperative to make it as fast as possible. Billions of lives are at stake. But the idea that somehow we won’t make it seems rather unlikely. And even if we don’t, it won’t be the first climate change induced mass extinction on Earth, and it won’t be the last, either.

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Anarcissie 07.19.14 at 1:30 pm

John Quiggin 07.19.14 at 7:28 am:
‘… Where his arguments are lamentably weak (Iraq and climate change come to mind) we can be satisfied that we’ve got the analysis right, and its just(!) a matter of winning the political fight. …’

You’re depending on one person to provide sufficient opposition to keep your arguments in shape? And it’s heavy lifting, too. I’ve played the skeptic to various faiths, either for the sake of the game or out of belief, and playing against the home team and the crowd in the bleachers can get very wearisome after a while.

In any case, political fights (in our present world) don’t have a lot to do with evidence and reason. If they did everyone would agree with me, and then there wouldn’t be any.

If there is any conflict as to what to do about climate change, it’s among powerful people who disagree as to what they value. They all expect to come out on top no matter what happens. However, some may want to preserve the Earth more or less as-is for their old age or their descendants, while others feel that you only live once, in the long run you’re dead, and let’s drive those numbers (profit, dividends, market share, votes, body counts, etc.) upward. In this regard the Baffler yesterday published an interesting article about the F-35 (an airplane with weapons). If anything was dear to the hearts of our lords and masters, you’d think it would be killing people, but instead the drive for bigger payoffs has even corrupted this sacred faculty.

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Omega Centauri 07.19.14 at 2:27 pm

To follow up on ZM, we have the divestment movement (divestiture of fossil fuel related investments). The world council of churches just voted to divest, and they are claimed to represent half a billion Christians. Obviously all those “followers” won’t go along, but we do have non-quite-political actions that people are doing. I suspect the carbon-equity bubble will burst soon, that is the stock prices of lots of companies that are based upon carbon in the ground -or selling equipment and services to those who extract or consume the stuff could collapse. These companies face challenges from the combination of climate change based restrictions, and competition from renewables. We’ve already seen how solar can ruin the financial outlook of fossil fuel electric generating plants, by picking off the highest priced peak-demand part of the curve. Some utilities are already computing that in some cases storage is a cheaper alternative to peaking needs than gas-turbines. System phase changes can happen faitly rapidly, and I think we are on the cusp of one. Our goal should be to push up the date of the phase change, as that will limit the eventual inventory of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere/oceans.

One thing of note, is that China announced a target of installing 100 GW of solar per year (I can’t remember the date). They probably won’t reach it that quickly anyway, but it is the sort of scale we need to be thinking/planning for.

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Bruce Wilder 07.19.14 at 5:46 pm

I don’t think I’m an incorrigible pessimist, but I’ll take the darkside on this one.

The denialists did not win. Blaming the denialists is just a way of failing to take responsibility. If it weren’t for the 27%, we would have . . . Ridiculous.

I laughed at Thornton Hall: China has basically done a back of the envelope calculation as to how much environmental damage they can afford before it stops being cost effective. . . . We don’t actually have to get China and India to agree to anything.

I find it hard to be pessimistic. Emotionally. But, intellectually, I don’t see how this — our time right now — is not the beginning of a centuries long collapse of western civilization. Neofeudalism looks repulsive to me, but I can see why it might appear the most practical course from an elite perspective: using wealth to protect and preserve what can be preserved, as the imperial center fails to hold.

It is hard to figure out what combines the doable with the worth doing.

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Lee A. Arnold 07.19.14 at 6:10 pm

What amazes me is how much money was spent on denialist propaganda, and it has only tilted the polls by 10% or so — an unstable 10% that swings.

But I tend to agree with the collapse thesis. The growing complexity of problems overwhelms individual intellectual capacity. That probably wouldn’t matter anyway, because the thing that has usually changes most people is not intellectual reasoning, it is moral or spiritual change.

But this has been diverted in an odd new way in the modern period. Science works against acceptance of spirituality because of the god hypothesis. Yet science itself is merely a technique; it doesn’t have a moral bias. So what remains, i.e. the material world’s remaining avenues for moral clarity — i.e. market economics, right-wing tribalism, fascism — range in effect from deceptive weak tea to deadly certitudes.

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William Berry 07.19.14 at 6:47 pm

Bruce Wilder and Lee Arnold:

I really don’t get the point of the long-winded disagreements you guys have that end up consuming so much white space in these threads. Any objective (more-or-less outside) observer (myself, e.g.), who had paid close attention to your arguments, would have to conclude that you would probably agree on 95-98% of anything worth talking about.

Clash of pesonalities/ styles/ temperaments, perhaps?

LAA’s cautious optimism vs. BW’s dour(ish) pessimism/ uncertainty?

Hell, I am usually able to agree with most of both of you.

No big deal. A little disconcerting, is all. Carry on.

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Rich Puchalsky 07.19.14 at 6:52 pm

I agree that the denialists didn’t win. Everyone lost. That’s a characteristic of a political system that is no longer capable of doing anything about real problems, and it characterizes U.S. politics particularly well. (For instance, conservatives certainly didn’t win, and liberals didn’t win, and the “left” whatever there is of it didn’t win. The only politics of importance is demographic, as modified by the blind aggregate interest of the oligarchic class. But they aren’t smart enough to have a planned policy, so they can’t win either.)

This is kind of a tawdry business article, but I’d recommend that people like Bruce read things like this before being too skeptical about what China is doing. Authoritarian socialism did survive in one important place, and is still capable of pursuing large projects after our society lost the ability to.

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Lee A. Arnold 07.19.14 at 7:17 pm

William Berry #121 — I don’t see where Bruce and I disagree here.

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J Thomas 07.19.14 at 7:46 pm

I knew to expect long-term climate change when I was in high school and read Basic Ecology by Ralph and Mildred Buchsbaum. They laid out the phosphorus cycle, and the potassium cycle, and the carbon cycle. When you have 3 times the total carbon biomass of the earth sequestered, and then you expose it to life within a few centuries, that’s going to make big changes. People talk like it’s a little bit of CO2 in a big atmosphere, but the reason there’s so little CO2 in the atmosphere already is that plants have taken the rest out. They’ll take this out too and use it, and that’s going to make tremendous changes.

But you can’t make political arguments like that. It’s too tenuous and too long-term. It sounds like the claim that the US government can’t keep increasing its debt forever, some cataclysmic event will happen. How would people know whether that’s true or not? There are lots of Chicken-Little arguments people can make. Why should they believe this one, if they haven’t studied ecology?

The people who successfully publicized the problem, focused on global warming which is really just one small facet of the issue. But it was something that people could understand. The idea was to make drastic changes to prevent global warming, and a whole lot of people quite reasonably were not sure it was that big an issue. If it takes thousands of years for global warming to start, by that time we might have easy ways to stop it. Maybe we’ll find out that there’s an ice age coming and our global warming is doing just the right thing to delay it. Etc.

They weren’t ready to take drastic action based on the data that was available then. It was mostly theory used to stitch the data together, after all. They were wrong, but they weren’t particularly unreasonable.

But now there is enough data. Probably within 30 years we’ll have something close to a global consensus. What will happen then? I don’t know.

In 1960 the tobacco industry successfully convinced a lot of people that cigarettes weren’t proven to cause cancer. Now only 4% believe them. Great big things usually take time.

Sometimes people change around quick. Pearl Harbor got a big response. I think maybe the anti-pollution movement got a boost back when some river caught fire. We haven’t had anything like that yet for climate change. The Larsen A and B ice shelf collapses were not really big enough to attract a lot of attention, and they were far away. Opening the Northwest Passage isn’t that dramatic and isn’t catastrophic. But some sudden event might focus public opinion.

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Bruce Wilder 07.19.14 at 8:49 pm

William Berry #121 — I don’t see where Bruce Lee and I disagree here.

;-) [Really, I don’t.]

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William Berry 07.19.14 at 9:17 pm

@BW: Further up-thread; the bit about the 25%.

Like I said, not a big deal. It just struck me as kind of interesting/ amusing , for no reason I could really explain.

My own attitude of guarded pessimism is probably closer to yours (BW). As an old union guy, I would analogize the political prospects for real action on CC to going into an arbitration with the deck stacked against you. It manages, somehow, to be a hopeful time; cases can break in entirely different directions with startling suddenness. Geo-climatics is a dynamic physical process. The catastrophe point bids to be a real catastrophe but, as someone noted up-thread, a less drastic preview (the Greenland ice-sheet finally sliding off into the ocean, say) might serve as a wake-up call.

J. Thomas: I haven’t read Basic Ecology; is there a more recent edition? My own introduction to the issue of atmospheric CO2 was a Scientific American article I read in the mid-70s called “The Carbon Dioxide Question”. As I recall, it was quite detailed, even going into the issue of ocean acidification (by way of speculation concerning the capacity of the oceans for excess CO2 solution. SA, pre-Shermer, was omce a real science mag).

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J Thomas 07.19.14 at 9:51 pm

I haven’t read Basic Ecology; is there a more recent edition?

Unfortunately no. It’s a great book to give a bright youngster, it describes the basics of ecology as understood in 1957, and then it hints at a whole lot more without actually going into detail. It holds up surprisingly well because the basics are still true and the things that have been questioned since then it doesn’t actually say but only hints at.

One of the big ideas I got from it in high school was that each species of animal or plant is being selected by its environment, but the other species around it are great big components of that environment. So that each is evolving to better fit into its place in an artificial world created by all the rest.

And that’s true for businesses in an economy too.

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William Berry 07.19.14 at 10:07 pm

Thnx

129

Omega Centauri 07.19.14 at 10:21 pm

The 27% versus the 73%. The problem is that most of the support in the 73% is an inch deep and a mile wide. The denialist stream isn’t as wide, but it is deeper. So they can often carry the day politically, separating out many of the weak members of the 73% with other issues. So what is the tiny tribe of true believers (in the seriously of the threat) to do? We aren’t likely to win politically -at least not on the national scale. In a number of cities and some states, we’ve scored some political wins, California even has Cap and Trade, with currently roughly a $10/ton effective carbon price. So we are making piecemeal political progress in some locations, and losing ground in some (Ohio has or is in the process of repealing its renewable energy mandates).

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J Thomas 07.20.14 at 12:25 am

It’s hard for me to see cap-and-trade at $10/ton as a win for humanity.

Oh well. It’s possible that one or more alternative energy sources will get cheap faster than the fossil fuel guys can legislate extra expenses. Or maybe somr extreme event will get people moving, like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 did.

That reminds me of a joke. Three businessmen have befriended each other at a resort hotel. They’re sitting at a table on the beach, sipping at those drinks with the little umbrellas, and one of them says, “My business had a fire and the insurance paid ten million dollars. I’m here while they remodel.”

The second one says, “My business also had a fire and the insurance paid thirty million dollars, and I’m here while they rebuild.”

The third one says, “My business was hit by a tornado and I lost everything. The insurance paid a hundred fifty million dollars, and it will take awhile to start over from the ground up.”

There was a short silence. Then the first one whispered to him, “How do you start a hurricane?”

On the one hand, you can’t cause something like the ice sliding off Greenland the way Roosevelt could Pearl Harbor or Cheney could do 9/11. But on the other hand, if it happens we won’t have conspiracy theories saying the environmentalists made it happen on purpose.

Right? They couldn’t possibly make conspiracy theories like that. It would be just too stupid. They just couldn’t do it. Right?

Right?

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Bruce Wilder 07.20.14 at 1:45 am

Looking for some dramatic event to motivate the solidarity necessary for an effective “emergency” response illustrates how narrative dominates analysis in political theatre — and then we wonder why some hired PR agent can spin out political confusion.

132

ZM 07.20.14 at 2:08 am

J Thomas,
There has been some resistance to stating or accepting recent disasters such droughts, bush fires, hurricanes, typhoons, crop failures etc relate to or have been made worse by the now changed climate.

One problem with looking towards a possible even greater disaster in the future as being more likely than talking with other people now to change minds on the need for an urgent response to climate change is : there are conceivably responses to climate change that could move towards social justice and peace, but there are also conceivably responses to climate change that could exacerbate existing social injustice and geo-political tension and conflict.

If urgent responses to climate change are only to be publicly discussed at some time in the future when people are coping with a an even greater disaster, the discussion is likely not to be as considered as it could be if undertaken now.

Lee A Arnold,
“This has been diverted in an odd way in the modern period”
You might be interested in this project started I think to look at the modern project in the context of climate change and other sustainability problems. It is very interesting but a little difficult for me, so slow going…
http://www.modesofexistence.org

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William Berry 07.20.14 at 2:34 am

BW@131:

Like it or not, that is how it works— when it works at all.

Speaking for myself, I am not looking for anything. I don’t expect much, and am seldom disappointed.

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Lee A. Arnold 07.20.14 at 2:54 am

ZM #132 — Are you able to find where the 15 modes of existence are listed?

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Lee A. Arnold 07.20.14 at 3:05 am

Bruce Wilder #131: “illustrates how narrative dominates analysis in political theatre”

Not just in political theatre. Narrative dominates almost everything that most people do. Most people respond to emotion, not intellect, and emotion is built narratively.

Stanley Kubrick pointed this out in an interview explaining Dr. Strangelove. There is a very long audio interview with Kubrick, conducted by physicist Jeremy Bernstein in the time between Strangelove and 2001. It is terrific, yet it is almost unknown to cinephiles and Kubrick lovers. I transcribed a short section where he talks about the problem of turning the atom bomb, which is sort of an abstract threat, into a tangible idea for an audience:

Kubrick: “I think that the old thing, ‘about the only thing you can learn about history is that you can’t learn from history’, is probably true. And this illusion that you get, that you are much more sophisticated, and that it can never happen that way again, may be true, but the thing you don’t realize is that it will happen a different way! I mean, now that everybody is very convinced that they will never have another 1914-type situation, you know, well they may have a 1985-type situation that they’re not prepared for.

“Inevitably, I think that as time goes on the danger increases, because the thing becomes more and more remote. The problem to begin with is that people do not react to abstractions, you know, they only react to direct experience. Very few people are even interested in abstractions, and even fewer people can become emotionally involved or emotionally react to an abstract thing. The only reality that nuclear weapons have are a few movie shots of mushroom clouds and a few documentaries that occasionally show in art houses about the effects of Hiroshima. But the atomic bomb is as much of an abstraction as you can possibly have. It’s as abstract as the fact that you know some day you’ll die… [Indeed,] you do an excellent job of denying that psychologically.”

–Stanley Kubrick, Nov. 27, 1966

The audio interview is here, over an hour long. It is well worth listening to, if you like Kubrick:


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ZM 07.20.14 at 3:14 am

I have borrowed a library copy of the hardcover edition that I am reading – I find the website a little confusing to use because it is interactive and there are all sorts of ways through it so I am reading the book mostly first.

I think these are the modes in the book (but the work in the book is now going to be revised in accordance with the contributions from website participants in the project)

[REP] PRODUCTION

[MET] AMORPHOSIS

[HAB] IT

[TEC] HNOLOGY

[FIC] TION

[REF] ERENCE

[POL] ITICS

[LAW]

[REL] IGION

[ATT] ACHMENT

[ORG] ANIZATION

[MOR] ALITY

[NET] WORK

[PRE] POSITION

[DC] DOUBLE CLICK

If you sign up to the site you can access the book there and interactive material and participant contributions.

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godoggo 07.20.14 at 3:20 am

extra p

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Lee A. Arnold 07.20.14 at 3:41 am

ZM #136 — It won’t let me sign up, maybe because I am not using Chrome.

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ZM 07.20.14 at 5:26 am

I think people can still sign up to access the site, maybe try signing up with a different browser if you have one. I think the project is moving this week from the participation stage to the diplomacy stage. I have only heard of two of the diplomats before – Clive Hamilton from Australia and the anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.

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J Thomas 07.20.14 at 11:04 am

ZM, I agree, sitting around and waiting for a disaster to persuade people is a depressing approach.

But then, going onto CT and trying to persuade Brett Bellmore is even more depressing.

We used to handle this sort of thing by being very conservative. Don’t try out very many new ideas, and go cautiously with the ones we do try. It used to be people would go tens of thousands of years before they’d try a new version of the fist axe.

I read that the first bronze was a copper-arsenic bronze that tended to kill bronze smiths and was some ways inferior to copper-tin bronze. But over a long time as bronze-smithing spread, in each place copper-arsenic smiths came first and were replaced by copper-tin smiths later, so the two technologies co-existed for hundreds of years.

People used to be very slow to try new agricultural methods. They’d do it the same way for generations, because the methods that had worked in one location for generations were likely to keep on working. Try out something that looks like a good idea and an event that happens once in a lifetime can come along and give you a lot of grief.

But all that broke down. We decided that we could throw away the superstition and think it all out for ourselves. And now we’re obligated to think it all out. The old ways had their problems, but they mostly worked without needing people to understand stuff. Society kept functioning and peasants kept being peasants.

Conservatism was dead long before I was born and some ways I kind of miss it.

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ZM 07.20.14 at 11:26 am

LUKE: Oh, hi, there. Can I help you?
WOMAN: Yeah. I’m looking for the Shakespeare stage.
LUKE: Okay, uh, you walk past the Calumba booth, veer right at the drinking horns, then left at the antler ark.

But really, I think waiting for a disaster is dangerous and imprudent and more likely to end up with really bad circumstances. Engaging in dialogue with Brett Bellmore is likely a better option, plus the discussion if undertaken in good faith would hopefully give you things to think about that you hadn’t thought of before.

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J Thomas 07.20.14 at 2:09 pm

#141
But really, I think waiting for a disaster is dangerous and imprudent and more likely to end up with really bad circumstances.

Yes, agreed. Particularly since it’s so very hard to arrange just the right disaster. I’m pretty sure whoever was responsible for 9/11, did not expect or intend for the towers to fall. They were supposed to be a long-time blight on the NY skyline, with long slow repairs. The engineering reports said they wouldn’t fall. And then they did, and caused many billions of dollars of damage. And that was a little thing, we have no idea how to create climate disasters.

But I don’t want to just wait. I want some hope. And there is hope. Even while it looks like there isn’t enough progress to matter, still it can change suddenly. One little disaster that gets publicity. Or public opinion can reach some sort of tipping point without that. Or the US economy could collapse, so we can’t afford to send out oil-burning Navy ships to protect the nuclear-power carriers, and suddenly the USA is not a world power and we’re the biggest roadblock.

None of the guys who’re arguing against climate change now are still arguing that there’s no issue with the ozone layer. They gave up on that. At some point they’ll give up on climate change and switch to arguing against evolution or something….

No matter how hopeless it looks, it still isn’t completely hopeless. We can get some changes in time to make a difference.

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Bruce Wilder 07.20.14 at 6:05 pm

J Thomas 140 and 142

People used to be very slow to try new agricultural methods. They’d do it the same way for generations, because the methods that had worked in one location for generations were likely to keep on working. . . . The old ways had their problems, but they mostly worked without needing people to understand stuff.

I want some hope. And there is hope. . . . the US economy could collapse[!], . . .

No matter how hopeless it looks, it still isn’t completely hopeless. We can get some changes in time to make a difference.

None of us are getting out alive. Civilizations age and die, just like individual organisms. That’s all this is, ultimately. The earth will survive us. Until it doesn’t.

Survival, whether individually or collectively, is a game played against the Universe, where the Universe has the advantage of House odds. When humans knew very little, and were completely at the mercy of Nature’s caprice, we found meaning in imagining Nature as embodying divine and demonic spirits, and ourselves as variously humble supplicants or defiant heroes. When we felt our power quickening, we found Reason, and in that discovery Tragedy was born, the realization that we were self-destructive, but alone, fully willful and half-blind.

That Civilization, the one that experienced the Birth of Tragedy, the one whose pitiful and paltry detritus we pridefully claimed as our heritage when our own civilization quickened out of a violent and barbarous Dark Age, clinging to a religion of meaning thru suffering, knowing our place in the chain of being amidst a universe of divine signs — that Civilization. too, arose out of a Dark Age following the collapse of a previous civilization, and flourished and fell.

There’s no safe stasis, no plateau where we can rest. Our civilization has been a dynamic affair, growth its driving force, and now it has reached its limits. The challenge, it seems to me, is to recognize that that is the circumstance in which we find ourselves. The greatest danger is that we will hope that that is not the case, and, in that false hope, blindly contribute to those processes, which are undermining the material basis, the foundation of civilization. Not understanding that the Industrial Revolution was an arrow shot into the sky, which is now turning in its fossil-fueled arc. Willfully insisting that we can simply preserve and persevere an upward trajectory with no respect for the limits of the earth will do us in.

Just as it did in the first agriculturalists, who kept doing things the same way, not understanding that irrigation salted the soil, that planting the same crops exhausted the soil, that overfishing the lake left no fish, and on and on.

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Sasha Clarkson 07.20.14 at 8:21 pm

Are you related to this man Bruce? ;)

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J Thomas 07.20.14 at 10:07 pm

Or this one?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzHJ_IorlwQ

Still, you have a point. Consider the probability that we will go extinct in the next thousand years. If that probability stays constant over time, we will go extinct someday with probability 1.

The only way we can make that probability less than 1 is if it keeps declining, every thousand years the chance of extinction gets smaller. And that’s unlikely unless our technology eventually gets us out of this galaxy.

But it’s hard for me to look so far ahead. I think we have a reasonable chance to get through the next thousand years without going extinct. Maybe in small numbers without much technology, but we’ve been there before.

Civilizations age and die, just like individual organisms.

I’m not so sure about this one. Do civilizations age and die just like individual amoeba or sequoyah trees? It might vary.

There’s no safe stasis, no plateau where we can rest.

There might be. Too soon to be sure. The problem in recent centuries has been that if you did develop a safe, consilient society, somebody with a big army would come along and insist that you produce a lot of stuff for him. But that’s only in the last 10,000 years or less. Before there was a big harvest season, you probably couldn’t move armies. You move an army right after harvest season and defeat somebody and take their crops. If there’s no harvest, what does your army eat?

Recently we’ve had fossil-fuel armies. In general, the army that burns the most oil wins. The US military is the best at doing stuff which burns fossil fuel the fastest, so they’re the best military. They have fought both of their recent big wars in places that they can get fuel nearby — saudi arabia provided the fuel for Kuwait, and Kuwait provided fuel for Iraq. If they have to move fuel too far it’s too expensive and hard to do. When the fossil fuel armies get to be too uneconomic what will replace them? I don’t know.

“I don’t know” equals hope and fear both. It could be bad. But it could be good, or something we can use, or something we can get used to.

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Bruce Wilder 07.21.14 at 12:26 am

that’s only in the last 10,000 years or less.

In other words, for pretty much the whole of the Holocene, the current (or recently concluded?) geologic epoch.

Going extinct might not be the worse choice, based on experience to date.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Na9-jV_OJI?rel=0&w=420&h=315

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john c. halasz 07.21.14 at 1:11 am

@146:

Oh, good! Previously I had thought that only self-consciousness is a disease.

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Omega Centauri 07.21.14 at 1:19 am

“When the fossil fuel armies get to be too uneconomic what will replace them? I don’t know. “
The US military is a huge fan of portable renewables. Anything that can reduce the size of the at-risk supply chain. The navy touts the creation of jetfuel from seawater (H2O plus CO2 plus energy makes hydrocarbons). I don’t think the end of petroleum will necessarily mean the end of mechanized warfighting stuff.

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Alan White 07.21.14 at 3:29 am

Vonnegut in Galapagos got it right: it’s our big brains thinking thet certain kinds of paper and metals and liquids are more valuable than anything else that effectively portends our demise. Those same big brains could save us–but given slavery to emotion that most 1% big brains have learned to exploit for their own big brain purposes in micromanaging politics–nah. Vonnegut’s thesis is the extension of the individual’s reflective knowledge of mortality writ large, rightly infused with rational pessimism about the power of big-brain capital.

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bobbyp 07.21.14 at 1:40 pm

In other cases (eg on some legal issues), I find him stronger…

You obviously have not been exposed to the full Brett spectrum.

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