Are You With Us or Against Us?

By Keith Kloor | April 23, 2014 1:52 pm

When I take issue with the one way skepticism and hyperbolic language of climate skeptics, I’m met with a chorus of “who me?” They especially object to being lumped together with the climate-science-is-a-hoax crowd.

It’s a fair complaint. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the representative standard bearers for climate skeptics are Anthony Watts in the U.S. and Andrew Montford in the UK. Both of their widely read blogs (within the climate skeptic universe) selectively highlight articles and posts from like-minded voices and draw attention to examples of over-reach by climate concerned advocates. The impression they give is that climate science is unreliable at best, deceptive at worst, so man-made climate change shouldn’t be taken seriously. The person who works hardest to reinforce that message is Marc Morano. He gleefully pollutes the climate conversation dozens of times on a daily basis.

If climate skeptics want to be thought of as more than a noisy, one-note fringe movement, they need to stop playing footsie with the bomb-throwers, shun the charlatans, and not wink-wink at sympatico reporters who give them succor. Of course, climate skeptics are no less cognitively biased than their counterparts and have tribal loyalties, too, so I won’t hold my breath waiting for them to clean their own house. Moreover, If Judith Curry still hopes to be a bridge between a more reasonable (but no less outlier) climate skeptic community and mainstream climate science, then she has to acknowledge–and call out–the vitriol from prominent climate skeptics. At this point, failure to do so gives the impression that it is tacitly accepted. To be an honest broker in a politically and ideologically charged debate, in my mind, means you can’t hold your tongue when one side–the side you may be inclined to agree with–is behaving badly.

When I take issue with the incessant doomsday messaging and unseemly tactics of climate-concerned advocates, I’m met with angry responses that can roughly be summed up as, “you’re not being helpful.” In other words, by pointing out the rhetorical excesses and hardball behavior of well-intentioned actors, I’m giving aid to the enemy–the Marc Moranos of the world. This is the unfortunate landscape the climate debate inhabits today, where “give no quarter” is the silent motto. It is a landscape where even the names of new blogs are viewed with suspicion, where casual slander and character assassination is the norm. When the chief science advisor for a new cable documentary on climate change is the same person who for years has been–I’ll borrow William Connolly’s phrase–“foaming at the mouth“–and impugning the reputations of anyone who questions certain orthodoxies, much less his judgement on climate matters, that tells me something. (Of course, I’m not exactly unbiased.)

The larger point I’m attempting to make is this: Those who care most passionately about climate change belong to opposing camps. One camp believes global warming is much ado about nothing and the other believes it is an existential threat to civilization. These two camps are at war. The rest of us who chime in every so often risk being caught in the crossfire.

Remember, there are no bystanders in war. If you don’t choose a side, it’ll be chosen for you.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

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.

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