A Plea for for a More Constructive Climate Debate

By Keith Kloor | March 12, 2015 7:41 am

In the Guardian, Mark Lynas writes about the “need to recapture the climate debate from the political extremes.” Good luck with that! I’m afraid this proverbial horse has left the barn.

Of course, you should still read the piece, because it’s a necessary reminder of the real dynamics that shape the public discourse on climate change. As I lamented in 2013, the climate debate is overly simplistic, “often framed by those who dismiss the legitimate concerns of a warming planet and those who play up those concerns.”

I’ve been caught in the crosshairs of these rival forces since I began this blog in 2009.

Here’s how Lynas starts off his piece:

Climate change is real, caused almost entirely by humans, and presents a potentially existential threat to human civilisation. Solving climate change does not mean rolling back capitalism, suspending the free market or stopping economic growth.

With those two rather innocuous statements, I have just alienated most people on either side of the climate debate.

Yup.

Lynas goes on to politely chastise the Guardian for its role in perpetuating the narrow parameters of the climate debate, something I alluded to in this recent post. He then succinctly captures how we got to where we are:

The environmental left leapt on climate science because it seemed to confirm deeply held notions of the planet being fragile, and modern civilisation being in essence destructive. Moreover, climate science at last seemed to herald the global doom that the eco-Malthusian left had always hoped for.

Reacting against this rather miserabilist and dystopian worldview, the political right has increasingly adopted an outright denialist position – attacking the science in a covert war against the political ideology it has been co-opted to serve. The reason half of Americans doubt the science on climate change isn’t because they are stupid or misled by the fossil fuels lobby, but because the global warming issue has now become as much as part of America’s culture wars as abortion or creationism.

Incidentally, if you want to learn more about the template for this clash of worldviews, read “The Bet,” by Paul Sabin. I reviewed it last year.

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  • steve329

    Oh lord– another false equivalency™ post. Do writers gain admittance to some sort of “moderates” club when they hit a certain number? the posts you link to have captured the right’s position fairly well. But i challenge you to name one mainstream progressive with even the remotest bit of political influence, who argues that solving climate change means “rolling back capitalism, suspending the free market or stopping economic growth”. And no, Naomi Klein does not count.

    • kkloor

      Who frames public debate? Intellectuals, writers, activists, politicians, and the media. I guess you missed that piece by Klein that the Guardian led off with last weekend–the excerpt from her book?

      Maybe you also missed the Guardian’s fronting of Bill McKibben, too, who probably has done more than any other activist/writer to influence the climate debate in the last decade. More on McKibben’s philosophy here:

      http://shorensteincenter.org/natures-prophet-bill-mckibben-as-journalist-public-intellectual-and-activist/

      Anyway, sure, there are other voices–including progressives–that have a less dystopian view of the world. But they are not the ones that shape public discourse on climate change.

      • steve329

        Thanks for your reply. I understand that there are journalists and scientists that are overly alarmist. and maybe that’s what you’re speaking of here in a narrow sense. but i read this post (and referenced article) as more of a comment about the overall debate. And that, to me, revolves around politics–governments (and political actors) being the only ones who can ultimately bring about meaningful solutions. And that arena is NOT balanced out with extremists on both sides (especially in the US). the debate in congress is whether man-made climate change exists, not how to deal with it. Anything that requires even minimal economic pain– carbon taxes or increased regulation etc– is rejected out of hand. Billions of dollars pour in on one side of the debate against mere millions of dollars on the other. One side has an entire party aligned with it (and legislation continually in the works to relax every single regulation and gut the EPA). the other has but a few representatives who will openly suggest even moderate changes to corporate behavior…and certainly nothing approaching “suspending the free market”. The middle ground is nowhere near the middle of the argument. Yet another plea for moderation may be well intentioned, but it ignores reality.

        • kkloor

          I see your point and it is a valid one. It is worth distinguishing between the actual policies being debated–which as you correctly note are not radical–and the feverish socio/political rhetoric that too often frames popular discourse in the media.

        • Tom Scharf

          False argument(TM).

          Senate Votes 98-1 that climate change is real and is not a hoax:
          http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-votes-98-1-climate-change-not-hoax-n290831

          • steve329

            your point being?

          • Mike Richardson

            Not well made, it would seem. Notice that climate change is real is widely accepted, because anyone will admit that the climate does indeed change. Where it starts to break down is when you try to get them on record for admitting that humans are playing a role, or that the role is significant. Then it unfortunately breaks down along predictable party lines.

          • Tom Scharf

            Yes, the point is only marginally made. But there are majorities here. However this is a free vote with no money on the line. These majorities will disappear quickly when actual money is asked to be spent.

        • Tom Scharf

          Which “moderate changes to corporate behavior” do you think would be effective in solving climate change?

          • steve329

            How about a carbon tax or cap and trade? do i have to list every possible idea? because that’s not my job.

            my point is that there’s no hope of any effective policy being implemented, at least in the US

          • Tom Scharf

            I guess it depends on one’s definition of moderate. New environmental tax schemes won’t make the moderate list on the right. There is also the issue of these not making a dent in future global emissions. You only need to list the ideas that are cost effective and work on a global scale.

            For example a heavy global carbon tax would likely reduce global emissions, or heavy import carbon taxes on China might force stronger action. These are not moderate, or likely to happen.

          • JH

            “there’s no hope of any effective policy being implemented, at least in the US”

            True. Implementation thus far shows that most of the left’s policies aren’t effective, which is why we don’t want any more of them.

            Look at the subsidy for electric cars. Total loss. Sales of electric cars are declining. The great jump in battery storage that liberals prayed for isn’t happening and won’t happen. Mean time, people buying $70K cars are getting a 10% rebate. *headshake*

            The left’s policies all require a great leap of faith. The electric car policy was based on the faith that just selling a few cars would yield an incredible discovery about battery storage capacity and send the electric car on to victory. Unfortunately discoveries don’t work that way.

    • Nom de Plume

      Because no one claims it does not mean that it isn’t a goal.The magic words “sustainable economy” works out to be something static, and if it’s static, it’s not growing. And the words “appropriate technology” raised the question of who decides what is appropriate. Invariably, all these roads lead to a centralized command economy, and whatever you want to call that, it isn’t capitalism.

      • steve329

        And do you have any examples of laws or executive action (proposed or otherwise) that use these words? or will the magic legislation fairy just make this happen? or maybe a scary czar?

    • Tom Scharf

      No True Scotsman? You can’t make up the rules that mainstream progressives who have this view can’t be counted as those that have this view.

      Naomi Klein does count. How representative she is can be debated. Certainly high profile. Being hired by the Guardian can be viewed as mainstream. Unless you are saying the Guardian is hiring radicals? Anti-capitalism/anti corporate views do seem to be over represented in environmentalism.

      Because of the tribalism in this debate she will get little push back from the green tribe and that can be interpreted as implicit support of her views. It cuts both ways of course.

      • steve329

        naomi klein is in no way a serious influence in american politics or policy outcomes. if that’s not obvious to you, i dont think anything i write will convince you otherwise.

        i challenge you to name a single person even remotely as influential from the extreme left as say the Koch brothers, or ALEC, or Heritage, or any number of GOP senators who simply deny man-made effects on climate change. Maybe it was once al gore– but he’s almost completely disappeared.

        • Tom Scharf

          Greenpeace. WWF. NRDC. Environmental Defense Fund. Audubon. Sierra Club. Union of Concerned Scientists. Audubon. Conservation Fund. etc.

          • steve329

            those aren’t radical left organizations (maybe greenpeace excepted). those are just organizations with missions you dont like. But they are firmly within the mainstream debate, just as there are similar organizations from the right. However, please feel free to correct me with any examples of policies pushed by these organizations with the intent of “rolling back capitalism, suspending the free market or stopping economic growth.”

          • Tom Scharf

            I concede I can think of very few people to the left of Naomi Klein, ha ha. Lenin? Stalin?

            I do not believe many people support “rolling back capitalism, suspending the free market or stopping economic growth.”. It is hyperbole.

          • Mike Richardson

            Of course it’s hyperbole. If you ever pick up one of EDF’s newsletters, you’d see that most of their initiatives involve working with industry. The Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy purchase land at market value to achieve the goal of not having it developed. There’s a broad spectrum before you get to Greenpeace or Naomi Klein, and most of us would embrace Klein’s views about as much as you’d embrace Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter’s (you don’t really think they speak for you, do you?).

          • JH

            Oh, they’re definitely radical left organizations. To a letter, every single one of them is as strongly opposed to corporations and economic development as they are in support of environmentalism.
            I’m not sure where you get your news or how much you read, but you’re not seeing much of what’s actually happening.

    • JH

      “i challenge you to name one mainstream progressive…who argues that solving climate change means “rolling back capitalism, suspending the free market or stopping economic growth”. ”

      There are *MANY* progressives who argue for just that. Adam Frank, a physicist at Cornell and a commentator on NPRs blog 13.7, has suggested several times that humanity is like a cancer on the face of the earth. And you should read the comments on these posts. Liberalism unleashed to the cause of destroying humanity.

      There are frequent discussions on many NPR programs about how to “rethink” economic growth – ie, make an economy without it. Liberals are always wagging tongues about the “consumption” economy and how horrible that is for the environment. OMG, and that’s on the mainstream NPR station here in Seattle. Check out Democracy Now sometime.

      • steve329

        So let’s see. On your side you have the Koch brothers and ALEC actually passing laws that roll back decades old environmental protection laws and regulations. And on the left you have a couple of academics no one’s ever heard of and … um..message boards? thanks for proving my point about false equivalency.

  • Bearpants42

    While you’re right that the debate is framed by people who both dismiss and play up concerns, it is also influenced by people who dismiss the realities of trying to shift global economies to new energy sources. It does no good to billions of people if we have a global depression/war as a result of poorly thought out plans of action.

    Additionally, there are those who dismiss legitimate alternatives to coal because of irrational and outdated fears (ie: Nuclear. Especially Thorium Power)

    The overlap between those who push for radical shifts in energy policy and those who harbor anti-capitalist/anti-democracy views is not helping.

    • OWilson

      Well said.

      We (so called deniers) do tend to be right wing folks who don’t believe every word that comes out of the mouths of left wing politicians, like B. Clinton, H, Clinton, Kerry, Obama, Lois Lerner, Gore, Pachauri and his IPCC, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, Susan Rice, or their pals in the MSM.

      All demonstrable routine liars, the current Democratic favorite, “congenitally” so, according William Safire, NYT, in a previous incarnation.

      We believe that the heroes of the left, the Clintons are actually dangerous to the health and safety of those around them.

      Predatory sexual harassment, their business partners and their Associate Attorney General in jail, their White House Counsel “suicided”, our senior Ambassadorial staff murdered by “that video”. And the constant petty and infantile lies (lost emails, dodging sniper fire) that should insult the intelligence of any thinking person.

      Which leads to a contempt for those that vote for them or their policies. We figure if they’ll buy that, they’ll buy anything.

      We are not about to suspend belief and jump off the cliff when they tell us.

  • Nom de Plume

    You can thank our media’s abuse of the term “Scientists say” for our cynicism. Some of us are old enough to remember fears of an impending ice age, and Soylent Green fears that overpopulation would drive us all crackers. It’s a matter of crying wolf, not culture wars.

  • Tom Scharf

    First of all, that it has been established that AGW is “potentially an existential threat to human civilisation” is quite debatable. If you want to define potentially as an extremely remote chance, fine. If you want to define it as probably, then not fine.

    There are perfectly valid reasons to have a debate on climate change that have little to do with climate science. Policy. Cost. Effectiveness. Values. Risk tolerance.

    Nobody would argue against reducing the risks of CAGW if it cost a dollar. Nobody would argue against an asteroid defense if it cost a dollar.

    We all support solving cancer and heart disease. These are not future potential threats, they are existing real threats. What has more value for a government investment?

    One thing that perplexes me is the lack of demand from greens for research into cheap clean energy. Fusion, advanced nuclear, etc. What is the percentage of environmental journalism that covers this? Near zero. Compare this to the amount of political vitriol that can be easily summed up as Revkin has stated: “Woe is me, shame on you”. It’s tiring.

    The left likes to obfuscate arguments over policy as arguments over science. I suppose I am a denialist that I believe many policy prescriptions are both expensive and ineffective, a poor combination.

    • Mike Richardson

      The left is hardly monolithic, and many of us are open to suggestions, such as safer nuclear and expansion of other alternative energy sources. If you at least admit that the problem exists, then we can talk about solutions and work on the issue of expense. I always thought that such a challenge would spur innovation and encourage entrepreneurial spirit, which is something I was under the impression was encouraged by conservatives. I would think that would probably offset any jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry, and it seems that people skilled in working on rigs and refineries would have skill sets transferable to building and maintaining offshore wind generators and other renewable power sources.

      • Tom Scharf

        There is some incentive for innovation. Making any form of cheaper energy is lucrative. Fracking has been very successful. Anyone who can make a much better battery won’t have enough trucks to haul away all the cash they will make. Basic R & D can sometimes be done best through government, thus energy research. The private sector will never make a breakthrough in fusion.

        If you run the numbers though, it is India, China, and population in Africa that dominate future emissions calculations. We’d be better off giving China coal scrubbers for free instead of implementing cap and trade in the US. The real win is making clean energy so cheap India and China do it strictly for economic reasons. The west can help with science and innovation.

        • Mike Richardson

          I totally agree with you on that. We’re already starting to reduce emissions here, but China and India are vital. The sooner they can speed past using coal and other carbon intensive energy sources, the better. I think China in particular has also been doing some research into thorium reactors, which would be a lot safer than some of the old Soviet-based fission plants. So I take it you’re a bit skeptical about Lockheed Martin’s announcement regarding near-term fusion breakthroughs? I admit, it would be nice, but they’ve got a lot of technical hurdles to clear, unless they’ve developed a method entirely different from the traditional tokomak or inertial confinement models.

          • Tom Scharf

            I’m sure we can guess where LM got their funding for this research from. I don’t discriminate between government funding of academia or the private sector as “government energy research”. I pretty much ignore any media article with the word breakthrough in it. I hope they are right.

            The good thing about China is that they must solve their air pollution problem. I went there a few years back and it is in your face disgusting. As part of that they are likely to reduce CO2 emissions.

          • OWilson

            You guys are an example of the reason that this debate is never ending and why it always leads nowhere.
            Mike, because he is convinced there’s the serious threat of a problem, and Tom, because he has been seduced by the argument, “can we agree at least to do something about the problem”
            There IS no problem!
            If the earth continues to warm at the same rate it has in the last 35 years, according to the observed satellite record, by 2050 it will be 0.29 degrees higher, and by 2100, 0.71 degrees higher. Lower than all IPCC targets!, and actually given the variation, statistically insignificant!
            Andt hat’s ONLY if if continues with no pause or further “hiatus” which is unlikely.
            You are continuing the ancient fallacy of arguing how many angels can pass through the eye of a needle.
            And the communists, islamists, greeners, socialists are cheering you on.
            Now stop it!
            Please look at the actual numbers and stop the crystal ball forecasts of catastrophe and doom.

          • Mike Richardson

            Really bothers you to see folks from the right and left agree about something, huh? And I get the feeling you’re trying to stop this constructive debate. Doesn’t that remind you of something Kim Jong Un might do? I can’t recall where I heard something like that before… But seriously, the vast majority of the scientific community does feel that climate change is real, is being influenced by human emissions, and should be addressed in some fashion. While left and right may disagree over the severity of the problem or the methods to address it, we should at least be able to agree to the basic fact that it exists. Well, most of us, anyway. 😉

  • http://www.vaslaw.com/ Richard Arrett

    I also share the plea for a more constructive climate debate.

    Lets discuss what we agree about:

    1. The Earth has warmed. It has warmed since the end of the last ice age and it has also warmed since the little ice age (LIA). No question about it. In my opinion the science is unequivocal.

    2. The climate is changing. It has always changed, it is dynamic and it will keep changing. There are no climate change deniers, because everybody agrees the climate has always changed and will continue to change.

    3. Because the Earth has been warming since the last ice age, the label “Global Warming” is terrible. That is why “they” (whoever they are) changed it to “Climate Change” – because the globe has been warming even before humans started emitting GHG’s.

    4. Because the climate is dynamic and has always changed and will continue to change, the label “Climate change” is also terrible. The reframing from “global warming” to “climate change” was a bad idea – why because it allowed 98 senators to vote that yes the climate changes. It is a dumb label, a distraction and not really helpful to the debate.

    5. Lets stop demonizing the skeptics. Stop calling them climate change deniers – it is inaccurate and easily defended against. Nobody denies the last ice age, nobody denies the LIA, the skeptics don’t even deny the MWP – all examples of climate changing.

    So to summarize – yes it has warmed – but nobody really knows how much of the warming was caused by humans and how much was natural – that is what the debate is over.

    Until we know the answer to this critical question we cannot do a proper cost benefit analysis or even know if whatever actions we do take (which could be very very expensive) will actually do anything to stop the warming.

    Lets discuss what we do NOT agree about:

    6. How much of the warming since 1850 is natural and how much caused by humans? This is something we do not really know the answer to. The IPCC would say 110% of the warming is caused by humans (because aerosols actually net against the AGW portion). Personally, I think 1/2 of the warming is natural and 1/2 is caused by humans – not 110% caused by humans and -10% caused by nature. Why – because that is what the data shows.

    7. Ditto for the warming since 1950.

    8. It would be a good idea to find non-carbon emitting power sources which are cheaper than oil, natural gas and coal. I stress CHEAPER than oil, natural gas and coal.

    9. We have not invented such a non-carbon emitting power source yet (nuclear is more expensive).

    10. It is human nature to generate power in the cheapest possible manner – so it is pointless to try to make people generate power at a higher cost when a cheaper way exists.

    11. So lets fund research to actually find a cheaper alternative. Lets make nuclear cheaper than oil, natural gas and coal (ONG). Lets fund research to make solar cheaper than ONG. Lets fund research to make wind cheaper than ONG. Lets fund fusion research. Lets fund space based solar. Whatever works – I am all for it – but it doesn’t exist yet. There is no cheaper alternative yet.

    Lets start with just that and I think the debate will be more constructive – in my humble opinion.

  • Tom Scharf

    Which of the following two statements is true?

    1. If current emissions trends continue, warming of 4C or even 6C becomes a possibility this century. (Lynas)

    2. If current emissions trends continue, warming of 1C or even 0.3C becomes a possibility this century.

    Both. Neither is constructed to convey accurate information. This is what I believe to be carefully constructed “truthiness” that is part and parcel of the climate debate.

    The first slight of hand is “If current emissions trends continue”. #1 is the worst case emission profile RCP8.5. This has emissions increases to continue increasing at the same rate (China adds the same number of coal plants every year for the next 85 years even though they have agreed to cap emission by 2030, etc.). #2 is RCP2.6 if we keep emitting at the same rate we are today and make some net reductions. Basically worst case and best case assumptions, neither of which is likely. Many will interpret “If current emissions trends continue” erroneously as maintaining today’s absolute levels.

    The next slight of hand is what year you start counting temperature increases from. #1 is from 1850, #2 is from today.

    How would we construct these statements if we were wanting to convey the best understanding? Here’s my attempt.

    1. If we maintain a worst case emissions and population growth trend additional warming of 2.6C to 4.8C may occur by the end of this century.

    2. If we capped emissions to where they are today and made net reductions in the future we could limit additional warming this century to 0.3C to 1.7C.

    Now a reasonable person might simply quote the medium emissions scenarios if he was only to give one number

    3. Additional warming this century of 1.1C to 3.1C is expected unless aggressive reductions are put in place over the next several decades.

    What I have a problem with is quoting the worst case scenarios without stating they are worst case and implying it is the only number available. Also the implied message that we must reduce emissions from today’s levels to avoid this worst case number makes it sound worse than it is, we only need to slow the pace down by a reasonable number to get medium emissions scenarios and it appears that is already happening with Obama and China.

    These numbers are giving the benefit of the doubt to the models which are currently running hot. That is another debate entirely.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_Concentration_Pathways#/media/File:All_forcing_agents_CO2_equivalent_concentration.png

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

  • Buddy199

    Existential threats?

    Jihadism leveraged with nuclear weapons. Yes.

    Climate change maybe making itself significantly apparent in 50 or 100 years. Not so much.

    But that’s just me. And the majority of Americans in poll after poll.

    • Mike Richardson

      Quite a few Americans like professional wrestling and Nascar. Most of them aren’t very knowledgeable about climate science. Not a big surprise. Also, the existential threat meme only exists at the far extremes of the debate, whereas most of us see climate change as a serious problem to be dealt with in a rational manner.

      • Buddy199

        Of course, if only the peasants were as smart as you they would think as you do.

        • Mike Richardson

          My point being that the majority of the public often likes things that I, and probably in some instances, you, neither like nor understand. And at least you seem to exclude the President from “lefty loons.” But you have to differentiate, are we talking existential threat to the human race, or to our current civilization and standard of living? Most of us non-loon lefties do at least consider it probable that the impacts of global warming could put a severe strain on our civilization’s infrastructure, perhaps pushing it to the breaking point. I think the human race could survive some pretty severe blows, from asteroid impacts to nuclear war, and it still remains to be seen how severe global warming’s effects will be, depending on how we respond in the near term. The important question is, what type of society would we have after the fact?

  • bobito

    One side is pretending climate change doesn’t exist, the other says it’s imperative to act but rules out the technologies that rate high on the easy to implement / make a big difference in CO2 emissions scale. (Nuclear, Hydro, and Fracking)

    So the competing sides of the debate are “do nothing, there is nothing to see here” vs “we must act now but can’t do what makes the most sense”.

    Sigh…

  • Viva La Evolucion

    I believe the most constructive way to address this issue is to focus on clean air, and clean water. Most, if not all, of the climate change regulations also result in improvement in air and water quality. The use of phrases like climate denier are not constructive in my opinion. So, basically what I am saying is that the same climate change regulations that are currently being debated would have a better chance of getting passed if they were simply reworded to state their intended goal is improvement of air and water quality, and leave out any reference to climate change.

  • jfreed27

    I know it’s tempting to debate the deniers. I used to do it
    all the time.

    But consider: One second spent debating with deniers is one
    second lost forever, and this is just what they want: disputation, distraction, and endless delay.

    Denial (aka delay) equals huge profits to ff corporations.

    In that one second of debate the earth’s oceans and atmosphere gain an extra ‘4 Hiroshima atom bombs’ of energy, due to increased greenhouse gases.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/4-Hiroshima-bombs-worth-of-heat-per-second.html

    Instead of engaging with deniers, urge your Congressman to support solutions with letters and phone calls. If she is deaf to reason, give her the sack!

    There ARE powerful solutions on the waiting for Congress to act. One is the “carbon fee and dividend,” which would, starting at $10/ton carbon, reduce emissions by 50% in 20 years, and might give us a fighting chance for a livable planet.

    With the dividend, citizens RECEIVE the fees, and the polluters pay them. So, jobs and GDP grow as well.

    Those concerned about AGW can also check out Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) at

    citizensclimatelobby.org

    Our goal is to create the political will for a livable planet. The methods and
    pathways to that goal are explained.

    CCL is growing rapidly and is one of the best grass roots organizations
    defending what is left of a stable climate.

    We need all hands on deck for this crisis. As voters we are in the driver’s seat, but we must grip the wheel.

    • Buddy199

      Your solutions for the environment implemented by the same people, of course, who thought up and rolled out Obamacare. Where do we sign up?

      • jfreed27

        It is non partisan solution, and it is also favored by conservative economists, like George Schultz and Henry Paulson.

        30 seconds, 120 Hiroshima bombs: tick-tock.

        • zlop

          “30 seconds, 120 Hiroshima bombs: tick-tock.”
          Why is the planet not getting warmer?

          • jfreed27

            tick-tock

          • zlop

            “Aristotle noted for poets, the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor”
            Bur for global warming?

          • OWilson

            I knew Aristotle, he was a friend of mine, he told me this:

            “The ability to argue dissemble, prevaricate, ignore and insult tirelessly before a bored, low info audience”

          • Mike Richardson

            Aristotle would be a more helpful hallucination if he spoke in complete sentences, and not fragments. Your quote started off with a subject, but seems absent a predicate. Just saying, since I’m sure it would have been a profound statement if followed to completion. 😉

          • OWilson

            Actually, the quote was a grammatically correct answer to the question asked above.

            To paraphrase, “What does an advocate of global warming need in spades, like a poet needs metaphors?”

          • Mike Richardson

            Thanks. It’s at least in a proper context, if not factually based. Just as a follow-up, you really didn’t sense any irony in referring to insulting people and finishing your statement with the phrase “low info audience?” I suppose it sounds a little better than “ignorant,” and a step up from “stupid,” but isn’t that kind of insulting to people who disagree with you? Oh well, carry on.

        • OWilson

          Here I go again with “the question”

          Before we come up with “solutions”, we must define a “problem”.

          The Question is:

          What is the rate of warming over the last 35 years of observed, empirical, satellite records, and at this rate what would the temperature rise be in another 35 years, In 2050?

          Do any of you arrogant tree huggers know how to add 2 and 2?

          • Mike Richardson

            I’m pretty sure that name-calling doesn’t meet the criteria of a “constructive debate.” Just keeping to the theme of the article, and all. And what’s wrong with showing love to trees (in a platonic sense of course, no public indecency, please)? They do make oxygen, and I appreciate that.

    • OWilson

      You mean we don’t have a livable planet now?
      On what planet do you reside?

  • twobitcoder

    ” The reason half of Americans doubt the science on climate change isn’t because they are stupid or misled by the fossil fuels lobby”

    Someone should mention this to David Brin. If you don’t agree with him about climate change, the name calling will commence. Not nice names, either. But see, he’s SO SMART that it’s impossible for a normal American like myself, with a measly 130 iq, to possibly grasp the greater truths of the universe as he does.

  • JH

    It’s good to see Mr. Lynas becoming an increasingly thoughtful and responsible voice on the issue. Hopefully, he’ll come round to see that his concept about climate change as an existential threat to human existence is wrong. When he gets to that point – where he sees climate change as a threat on par with bad weather – he’ll be in the ring with sensible people and some sort of policy discussion is possible.

  • Mnestheus

    Having engaged the subject seven years ago I can scarcely disagree today.

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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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