Climate Tribalism on Display

By Keith Kloor | February 17, 2012 4:13 pm

Several weeks ago, I wrote that the climate discourse was “trapped in a negative feedback loop.”  The two extremes on the spectrum, I said, reinforced each other via their “separate echo chambers.”

A strong characteristic of this dynamic, which many have lamented (and just as many have dismissed) is tribalism. The reaction to the Heartland disclosures/leak/theft/fabrication is thus far utterly tribal, at least judging by the comment threads in the climate blogosphere. This face-off between the tribes produces a caricature of the two sides that one commenter at Bad Astronomy has captured well:

I don’t want to speculate on specific right or left wing agenda’s, my point is that currently climate science gets hi jacked by both the right or the left. It is as if atmospheric dynamics are somehow directly linked (teleconnected one might say) to the political persuation of the particular debater. We see it all the time”¦”¦ “what you question CAGW? you must be some sort of right wing creationist nutjob in the pay of BIG OIL!” or “What you believe all that global warming guff? you must be some sort of tree hugging, crystalgazing, unemployed leftie!!” The actual arguments (good and bad) get lost in the political/social/religious sterotyping. You see it here all the time ( have even done it myself ;-) on occasion) and you see it on just about every climate blog.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets.From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine.In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest.He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


See More

Collapse bottom bar