I’m a student of environmental history. I’ve also long been interested in how humanity, society, and the environment have coevolved. Let’s take the example of fire as one of the major agents of change. As William Cronon writes in his introduction to Steve Pyne’s Fire: A brief history:
The process of fire’s coevolution with humanity was the invention of agriculture and the very different fire dynamics it necessarily entails: fire to clear fields, fire to change the composition of wild and domesticated vegetation, fire alternately bound and released in cycles that sometimes seemed increasingly under human control, and sometimes devastatingly, not. The consequence of the fires that have burned under this second, agricultural regime have brought a complex remapping of the Earth’s surface, extending fire’s reach in some regions and habitats while suppressing it in others. The consequences of this human manipulation of terrestrial fire ecology have been so subtle and profound that we are only now beginning to understand them.
This leads me to an article in Nature on ancient climate change and the prehistoric human role:
Scientists have come up with new evidence in support of the controversial idea that humanity’s influence on climate began not during the industrial revolution, but thousands of years ago. Proposed by palaeoclimatologist William Ruddiman in 2003, the theory says that human influences offset the imminent plunge into another ice age and helped create the relatively stable climate that we are familiar with today. It has been repeatedly panned as implausible by palaeoclimate researchers, but eight years on, Ruddiman and others say that they have the data to support early anthropogenic climate change.
As much as I’ve been intrigued by Ruddiman’s hypothesis (laid out in this book), I’ve not given it much consideration, largely because it hasn’t been taken seriously by his colleagues. But I’ve kept an open mind because of my familiarity with the field of environmental history. So I’m looking forward to this:
Ruddiman and several other researchers will present their supporting evidence in a series of papers scheduled for publication in a special issue of The Holocene journal later this year. Researchers presented some of the work this week at the American Geophysical Union’s Chapman Conference on Climates, Past Landscapes and Civilizations in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“I’m of course hopelessly biased, but this year is going to be a good year for the early anthropogenic influence hypothesis,” Ruddiman said as he presented his overview study.
If he’s right, this will no doubt add an interesting wrinkle to the climate debate
Nothing seems to shake the climate rafters like a fierce debate over the labels that combatants use to smack each other around.
My belief is that those who are affected most negatively by the use of name-calling (denier, denialist, warmista, watermelon etc) are in fact those that spout them.
Presumably, a major reason we come to these message boards is to debate others and try to persuade them to see our particular side of an issue. Lacing an argument with language that is perceived by others as antagonistic immediately weakens your argument and guarantees escalation rather than meaningful back and forth because people become defensive and less receptive to your perspective.
Imagine an attorney:
“Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I am going to present you evidence that confirms my case and if you don’t believe it 100% you’re probably stupid or willfully ignorant.”
Now if all you want to do is score high fives from the people who already believe what you believe then by all means, keep it up but it’s my opinion that there are plenty of people out there who are malleable to a good argument and it isn’t productive to start lumping everyone in with the most partisan members of a particular side.
This is painful to rehash, but I want to draw your attention to a streak of foreign policy ignorance that persisted in the 2000s. On a related (and more recent) note, four days after President Obama authorized a military campaign against Libya, I found this headline disconcerting:
Who are the Libyan Rebels? U.S. tries to figure out
This got me wondering if there is a similarly willful ignorance (irrespective of political affiliation) with respect to energy policy, along these lines.
Whether you believe the term”climate denier” is used accurately or unfairly in the climate debate, I’d be curious to hear what you think of this headline atop Andrew Bolt’s latest column:
Six million Jews didn’t die so Combet could smear a sceptic
It wasn’t that long ago that George Monbiot was accusing Stewart Brand of
running the most insidious and subtle exercise in corporate propaganda I have yet encountered.
I thought it was a tad hyperbolic. But that was then.
It turns out that both of these environmentalist icons share remarkably similar views on nuclear power, coal, and renewable energy.
For example, in a current interview with Foreign Policy, Brand says,
The main event, the century-size problem we’re looking at, is climate change. But frankly, if climate were not an issue by now, I would still be saying we need to go nuclear because it is the alternative to coal — and coal is all by itself such very large-scale, long-term bad news.
Here’s Monbiot in this week’s column for the Guardian:
the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power.
Ah, the bonds that tie. Both Monbiot and Brand are now members of the Lonely Hearts nuclear fan club for greens.
It would be so entertaining, wouldn’t it?
Can someone please cut through the BS for me and explain what is going on with their dueling posts on this Berkley Earth Temperature Station business?
Romm’s latest contains not one but two “bombshells,” a “wow” and a “double wow.” He also says that he meant all along to “smoke out the deniers.” It’s like he’s doing his own psych ops or something.
Over at WUWT, Anthony’s latest claims Romm is pulling the “old pea and thimble trick” and hyperventilating
like some cheap MSM news labeling graphic where they’ve caught some sex poodle on tape.
Who’s smoking who here?
From Bloomberg News:
Saudi Aramco and China National Petroleum Corp. agreed to build a 200,000 barrel-a-day refinery in southern China as producers seek to meet rising fuel demand in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
Might as well enjoy this classic from one of the best concert movies evah.
Pinetop Perkins, who just passed away at the age of 97, was one of those ageless blues musicians. Jeez, I first saw him over two decades ago at the old Lone Star Cafe in Manhattan (I miss that iguana on the roof!).
Here he is going strong at 95.
Here’s how he lived life in his later years, which is a hell of a lot better (and more dignified) than many senior citizens today.
If you thought assigning attribution of individual weather disasters to global climate change was tricky business, imagine trying to establish a causal link between specific ecological problems and global warming.
In this commentary in Nature Climate Change, ecologist Camille Parmesan and her co-authors suggest not going there. It’s not that they think global warming doesn’t adversely affect the biological world; it’s just that it’s too difficult to quantify the measurable impact at an individual species level. The authors assert that there is
a complex interplay among habitat destruction, land-use change, exploitation and pollution, in addition to climate change. The emerging view is that interactions among drivers of change are the norm. For example, after a warming event, corals in overfished areas recovered more poorly from bleaching than those with intact food webs. Effects of habitat fragmentation also interact with those of climate change. Northwards expansion of the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) in Great Britain progressed rapidly where barriers were minimal, but was hampered in regions where agriculture had rendered woodland habitat patches too scattered for individuals to find.
At a time when ecological problems are increasingly framed and discussed in the context of climate change, Parmesan and her coauthors are going against the grain with this rebuke (my emphasis):
By over-emphasizing the need for rigorous assessment of the specific role of greenhouse-gas forcing in driving observed biological changes, the IPCC effectively yields to the contrarians’ inexhaustible demands for more ‘proof’, rather than advancing the most pressing and practical scientific questions. This focus diverts energies and research funds away from developing crucial adaptation and conservation measures. To improve estimates of future biological impacts we need research focused on how other human stressors exacerbate impacts of climate change. Most importantly from a conservation standpoint, these other stressors are more easily managed on local scales than climate itself, and thus, paradoxically, are crucial to constructing adaptation programmes to cope with anthropogenic climate change.
The argument underlying this commentary was similar to one made two years ago in Slate by Brendan Borrell:
Climate change has the potential to displace the most impoverished human populations and bring about food shortages, flooding, and drought. But from the perspective of saving species, it’s a MacGuffin: a plot device that may impel the tired conservation narrative forward but is hardly a pragmatic strategy for preserving biodiversity.
Not to mix apples and oranges, but there is an interesting parallel with the recent injection of climate change into national security debates. Geoff Dabelko, noting the embrace of “climate security” as a new rhetorical term, in which socio/environmental and energy concerns have been packaged into a climate change box, has offered his own cautionary advice.
Don’t forget ongoing natural resource and conflict problems. The research and policy docket already is crowded with serious conflicts (as well as opportunities for cooperation) over resources, whether they are minerals, water, timber, fish, or land. While climate change certainly poses a large–and potentially catastrophic–threat in many settings, we must not overlook the ongoing problems of rapid population growth, persistent poverty, lack of clean water and sanitation, and infectious diseases that already threaten lives daily. Climate change will likely multiply these threats, but they will continue to exact a high toll even if the climate stabilizes. Presenting climate change as the number one concern and demoting other deadly threats is insensitive to the pressing problems faced by many people in poor and developing countries.
Similar pushback against the “collective fixation on global warming as the mother of all environmental problems” was expressed two years ago by Jonathan Foley:
In the rush to portray the perils of climate change, many other serious issues have been largely ignored. Climate change has become the poster child of environmental crises, complete with its own celebrities and campaigners. But is it so serious that we can afford to overlook the rise of infectious disease, the collapse of fisheries, the ongoing loss of forests and biodiversity, and the depletion of global water supplies?
Anyone seeing a common thread in all these cases?