“As ever you see but do not observe.” Sherlock to Watson, BBC’s Sherlock Season 2.
I started to reply to Zolltan’s comments in this post on Mulcair and the NDP that somehow got sidetracked into a discussion on environmentalism and the political right, when I noticed that I’ve just about had it up to here with WordPress’s comment reply system. Fix this shit, WordPress. So let me set the record straight here as this probably deserves a full length post anyway.
I’ll get to Zolltan’s lengthy comment in a second, but first lets discuss an article he linked to: What we have and haven’t learned from Climategate. That article is essentially on the ball. While the article itself doesn’t focus on it too much, the key phrase (from said article) for the purposes of the point I’m making is this:
Whatever legitimate issues there may be about the responsiveness or transparency of this particular group of scientists, there was nothing in this controversy — nothing — that cast even the slightest doubt on the basic findings of climate science.
Precisely. The science got overshadowed by the scientists.
Had WordPress allowed me to comment properly on Zolltan’s lengthy comment (to my comment on Zolltan’s previous comment on my comment), this is what I would a written, essentially fisking his statements.
“The question of how wind farms are to replace oil sands is a question for policymakers.” Really? This isn’t a question for both to address? How the hell is a policymaker supposed to make a decision without input and advice based on science? For a start, a comparison of how much energy is being consumed from burning fossil fuels vs. how many wind farms you need to generate the same amount of energy would be useful to the policymaker. And a scientist would be needed to give the amounts.
“But it does point to the necessity of some sort of science-policy intermediaries that don’t exist in the current system.” Yes, basically. I don’t know if intermediaries is the right word. They two basically need to understand what each of their roles is and stick to it.
Zolltan on the scientists at the center of the Climategate Scandal: “That is somehow an indictment of their science?” No, its an indictment of the scientists. Its the old Watergate lesson on why some scandals are Scandals with a capital S: “It’s the cover-up, stupid.” When the wider public can smell something inherently wrong, it gives legs to the scandal. The only reason the idiots at Fox were able to make this particular scandal stick was because of the “responsiveness and transparency of the scientists” (versus Fox’s lame attempts at manufacturing other enviro-scandals). I think it was a particular shock to the public when words like “transparency” and “scientists” were used in the same sentence. For the particular segment of the public that fits into Fox’s target market, it was oh so easy to build a media narrative around “transparency” and “science.” Notice the word-switcheroo? So what was it that the wider public smelled? And that takes me too…
Zolltan on the Conservatives in Canada now being able to implement their shitty enviro-policy vs. the Liberals or Greens or NDP’s shitty enviro-policy: “And since only one of these policies is being followed and it is the one that is the worst for the environment, there is an imbalance.” Hopefully by now, my dear readers have come to the realization that biggest issue here is one of credibility. In the public perception, no politician is credible and neither are any of their policies. You would think that the scientists aren’t interested in advancing agendas, but are essentially like your doctor, i.e. they are here with the diagnosis. See the previous paragraph to realize your wrong and this is the great tragedy of Climategate. Now in the public perception, no scientist is credible and neither is the science (and by extension, neither are the policies/politicians the scientific community happens to be backing). Zolltan and Zuuko know that statement is bullshit. But, public perception takes years, if not decades, to change. You don’t think that Fox newsrooms, where it is decided how to “spin” the news, wouldn’t have been able to figure out that you can damage the credibility of science by damaging the credibility of scientists. Spoiler alert: they did faster than sharks smelling blood in the water and you can read all about how that worked out in the above linked article on lessons learned from Climategate. Obviously, the dream is credible politicians are advancing strong policies, backed by credible scientists that have vetted the science. When statements are made on whose policy is better, I shouldn’t have to sit there figuring out the credibility of the person making said statement based on my preconceived notions on what their agendas and ideologies are. While you have to accept this as a fact of life in public discourse and debate, you shouldn’t have to do this when it comes to science. And so the dream remains a dream. And the wider public smelled something off the second Climategate broke.
“I don’t know why you think carbon taxes wouldn’t incentivize conservation and/or technological advances in alternative energy sources. Free markets are like this altar at which conservatives worship but suddenly in this situation there is no way they would work even slightly.” Those conservatives who believe free markets are the answer to everything are as stupid as this attempt at getting me to support a policy to which I might be ideologically inclined (see previous paragraph re: my dream). The big assumptions being made with this statement is that all conservatives believe free markets are the answer to everything and that I am a conservative as defined in the current all-powerful media narrative. Firstly, those on the right-of-center don’t buy into everything Fox is selling (Fox targets a particular segment of the right). Secondly, coming up with policy prescriptions based on ideology is the ass-backwards way of solving any problem, not just the environmental one. I’m just not interested in judging which shit policy stinks more. It’s also why I continually stress that looking at every problem that needs solving through the lens of “Right v Left” is just not helpful at all. Lets stop doing this please?
I stand by my point:
Why is a pox on both your houses not a valid statement? I do believe it has nothing to do which side is in power. To me, its almost very simple. Humans have impacts on the environment. Governments should have environmentally sound policies and scientists should be advising the crafting and implementation of them…
Governments are acting like shitheads and so are the scientists. And until that changes, environmental policy is going to advance just like everything else: slowly and stupidly.