Bookends and Separations
Posted by Jeff Id on April 12, 2012
Guest Post by Thomas Fuller
Once again Jeff has handed over both gavel and podium for a guest post from a Lukewarmer–guess he’s trying to keep you all on your toes…
I want to talk about the brief period that will be known going forward as the Global Warming scare, and the inevitable atomization of the efforts on both sides following its closure.
Probably all of you who have followed this issue have your own starting date for this period of heightened interest in climate change and global warming–for many it would begin with Hansen’s testimony before the Senate in 1988, while for others it might go back to Margaret Thatcher’s need to face down the coal miners’ unions back in the 80s. For me, however, it begins with Phil Jones’ 4-page article in Nature about UHI.
This short paper, cited almost maniacally by thousands of other papers since its publication in 1990, served several important functions. First, it showed that climate had become political. Written in response to those claiming that the urban heat island effect had contaminated the temperature record, Jones’ paper was an attempt to squash disagreement.
Second, it showed that science was not as important as the politics. The stations Jones used for his paper did not have the stable histories he claimed for them. (He probably didn’t know this at the time of publication–but he found out very quickly and refused to issue a correction.) Fighting the critics meant that the flaws in the science needed to be hidden.
Third, like almost everything that has happened in the debate since then, Jones’ paper triggered a chain of unintended consequences that led in a manner suitable for a Greek tragedy straight to Jones’ own request to colleagues to delete emails, and was part of an enabling sequence that contributed to Mann’s decisions regarding the Hockey Stick and even, 20 years later, to Peter Gleick’s astonishing theft and fabrication of the Heartland Institute’s documents and strategy.
Everything that the climate consensus team has done in the past 20 years has contained elements of the same fundamental errors in thinking and strategy–from GreenPeace telling us they knew where we lived to No Pressure videos blowing up school children. There are thousands of examples that could be brought forth to show that their strategy had no human heart and no mechanism for enlisting participation–their goal was forcing opponents into silent submission instead. This 20-year war was fought at a soulless, corporate level, with campaigns designed and implemented by the media masters and mistresses of large environmental NGOs and it showed. From fighting World Bank loans for a South African coal plant to wilder statements of how few people the planet could sustainably carry, these people showed an appalling lack of humanity and an amazing excess of energy.
For me, the campaign ends with Peter Gleick. His actions were the signature at the end of the book. Coming as they did after Climategate, after Copenhagen, after five years (at least) of meditating on how to more effectively communicate on the issue, Gleick’s actions–and the lack of condemnation they received from the climate community–effectively removed anthropogenic climate change from the top tier of political issues to be considered at a global, or even national, level. Peter Gleick is still president of the Pacific Institute and will be speaking soon at Oxford. There is evidently no level of misconduct that will not be tolerated as long as the miscreant stays on message.
But people have pretty much stopped listening. They’ve even stopped writing. Joe Romm has folded his Climate Progress blog into the rubric of Think Progress’ larger efforts and now interns do much of his writing for him. Deltoid is down to one post a month, and it’s an open thread. Michael Tobis has fled Only In It For The Gold and is now writing at Planet 3–and complaining about a lack of traffic.
In a Republican primary with nine initial contestants, the amount of conversation about climate change was effectively zero. Over on the other side of the aisle, President Obama has almost abandoned the issue. The IPCC’s upcoming AR5 is, by all appearances,going to be much more subdued in its claims and much more reasonable as a result.
And what many of us, myself included, are doing now is exploring different facets of closely related issues, trying to get a handle on the many subjects briefly illuminated during the climate change debate and then discarded as it became clear they didn’t advance a political agenda. For me, the subject is energy consumption. Over at my place of business (http://3000quads.com/) I am looking at the very real possibility that respectable and highly trusted agencies have significantly underestimated energy consumption going forward. It’s just something that fascinates me–and which I’m happy to work on at my own pace regardless of blog traffic or commentary. My co-author on the Climategate book, Steve Mosher, is similarly involved in looking at complete temperature data sets. Jeff Id, our host here,is finally getting sea ice in order for public exhibition.
And this is the way it should be.
It’s the way it should be because climate change will return as an issue. Especially in America, where we love a second act to every story, anthropogenic climate change will return. Temperatures have plateaued at a high level and may even dip during this decade due to the muting effect of several natural cycles. But those cycles will end. And a new generation of scientists is readying itself to take up the argument again, untainted by the past disasters and mistakes of those currently sagging against the ropes.
The next generation of discussion may be calmer and more grounded in facts–looking at all the things humans do to influence climate and not just the CO2 we emit. It may not.
But it has become clear to people like Jeff Id, Steve Mosher, myself and others that Round 2 of the Great Game will need to be more heavily grounded in specific areas than was Round 1.
So here’s hoping