My brother Kent wrote to me on Sunday, bringing up the global warming debates that reached a boiling point on this blog in mid-2008. It’s been a while since I approached the topic, since I gave up all pretense or hope around the subject two years ago – so for all I know, my conservative friends on here are now buying compact fluorescents and driving electric cars.
Silence doesn’t quell rage, however, and the report on Koch Industries that Kent mentions below made me wish there was some sort of superhero that could bust into the Koch Bunker of Hatred® and beat the shit out of them. But since I’m a knee-jerk hot-headed fuckshirt and Kent’s a Quaker, I’ll let him do the talking today:
I want to revisit an argument that has long raged in the comment section of this blog: the debate between global warming ‘alarmists’ — like me, and the global warming skeptics, represented ably by longtime commenter Matt. I can summarize the argument thusly: My view is that Global Warming caused by human activity – the so-called “Anthropogenic Global Warming” or AGW – is real, that it is a real danger to the continued survival and quality of life, and that we should do whatever we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Matt’s view is that even if there is a global warming trend, there isn’t sufficient evidence that it is caused by human activity, or that the consequences of global warming will be as dire as is claimed by most climate scientists, liberals, et al (et Al Gore, as it were).
If you care to revisit the post, Matt cited links to articles supporting his side of the question. Then, the next day, I looked at the sources of the articles to which Matt linked. My conclusion after doing some Googling was that all the articles he cited had nothing to do with science, and everything to do with money being spent by polluting industries to raise doubts about AGW.
In my opinion (and the opinion of many others), these “raised doubts” are not peer-reviewed scientific critiques of the AGW literature, they’re opinion pieces, paid for by polluters. Sure, that’s free speech, but in the over-simplifying, sound-bite-spewing, attention deficit media world, it is harmful and dangerous. Media thrives on controversy, so they’re all to willing to accept a false equivalency between on the one side, conservative think tanks, and on the other, actual climate science.
This wasn’t an argument that was ever resolved. Matt is an AGW skeptic, and I’m a believer. I don’t dredge this up to stir more controversy, but instead, I have a more despicable motive: to say “I told you so.” And what I told you was that there was a deliberate effort by polluting industries to promote AGW skepticism. Furthermore I told you that often one skeptic “authority” would bolster their argument by citing other skeptic “authorities,” when in fact they all were paid hacks. Comes now this interesting report from Greenpeace, on the funding by Koch Industries of the AGW Skeptic echo chamber:
Now of course, it’s nothing that will convince Matt of anything, seeing as how Greenpeace is just another leftist organization that presumable benefits from climate change hysteria. But for anyone willing to look through the report, it’s pretty clear that Exxon, Koch Industries, the Petroleum Institute, et al (but not et Al Gore!), they have spent millions of dollars to try and create an AGW controversy, not with actual climatological research, but with an echo chamber of think tanks, TV pundits, and generalized attacks on the scientific establishment’s way of conducting research.
And just to show that Koch Industries AGW skepticism isn’t a monomaniacal obsession, consider this Talking Points Memo article:
In which Koch denies funding the astro-turf Tea Party Movement, even while acknowledging that they fund Americans for Prosperity, who funded the Tax Day Tea Party rallies around the country. Together with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks (also a corporate-funded ‘astroturf’ organization), Americans for Prosperity has spent millions to inflame the passions of thousands of grammar-and-spelling-challenged “real americans.”
Given enough Fair Trade coffee, I can rant endlessly on this topic, but I think I’ll just point out another bubbling controversy of the moment, the concept of “Epistemic Closure.” Andrew Sullivan’s post is as good a place as any to start reading on this topic. But the crux of the discussion is this: conservatives in this country are willfully trapped inside an echo chamber of their own making: Conservative Blogs, Faux News, the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard, et al (but not et Al…).
The right wing refuses to admit facts that contradict their beliefs, and an entire industry has grown up with propping up their beliefs and discrediting any so-called ‘facts’ inconsistent with said beliefs. Stephen Colbert’s oft-repeated wisecrack that “Reality has a well-known Liberal bias,” comes to mind — anything outside the self-reinforcing circle of authority is dismissed as tainted by the opposing ideology.
I’m sure one can come up with examples from loony fringe of the left wing which can be construed to represent the same sort of epistemic closure, but we must resist the siren call of false equivalency here. I’m all for skepticism, but not the skepticism of knee-jerk dismissal; we need to examine everyone’s assertions in the light of the best information available, and be willing to change our minds when our beliefs run up against inconvenient facts. You are, as always, entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.