Friday, April 06, 2012

Global Warming Catastrophists

(HT: Bird Dog at Maggies.) Climate change skeptics accuse catastrophists of selling their wares with purely emotive, nonscientific arguments. It's a nasty accusation, actually. I find it insulting when opponents suggest that any of my arguments, or those of writers I admire, are founded in fear, revenge, wishful-thinking, or class loyalty rather than reason. I sometimes just ignore such accusers of my beliefs, regarding them as disputants one simply can't have a discussion with.

Thus, I rather cringe when a skeptic makes such an accusation full-throated, with no qualifiers, demurrers, or exceptions noted. Well sure, some of the catastrophists' motives seem a bit overwrought, and you can find examples of completely emotional appeals if you look for them, but that's not a fair summary of the whole group.

 Okay, then. Is the National Wildlife Federation mainstream and respectable enough for you? Because this is from page 1 of their new report, "The Psychological Effects of Global Warming On The United States," and it is flipping insane. The nasty accusation holds, dammit.
Having the reality of the destructive forces presented by climate change fully register with people, so they will to act with the needed urgency, is indeed a challenge. And, while the physical and environmental effects of global warming are studied and described, what has rarely been addressed, and is as compelling a topic as any, are the psychological impacts.

This report aims both to fill in the gap in our awareness of the psychological impacts of climate change, and by exposing the emotional side of the issue, to find the place in our hearts that mobilizes us to fly into action, forewarned, determined, relentless. It also is a call for professionals in the mental health fields to focus on this, the social justice issue of all times, with their capacity to work through denial and apathy, to bring insight and commitment before it is too late.

The language of science is, admittedly, not a stirring call to action. Scientists are by nature cautious, and restrained. While this report does not aim to present the forum participants as flame throwers, for this work to accomplish a primary goal, the reader will need to feel something in reading it. The language used here, and some of the questions asked, may feel uncomfortably probing, as they pierce our armor. After all, most of us want to be patriotic, to be optimist about the future. But we need to fully confront certain realities.

If we continue the adolescent-like disregard for the dangers we are being warned of, driving green house gasses up with only casual concern, there will be consequences. As our world begins to unravel and our role is undeniable, all eyes will be on us.

Questions beg to be asked: • What will the rest of the world think of us? • Where will we be safe? • How will we feel about ourselves?
Where to begin?

If you have loud voices in your head telling you you are scum that deserves to die, or are so depressed that you are literally unable to bother to get out of bed to go to the toilet, how exactly is global warming a remotely important psychological issue? Hell, if your real mental health problems are even one-tenth that bad, how is AGW even on the list of worries for the day?

They want the reality to register so we will act with urgency. They hope we find the place in our hearts that mobilizes us to fly into action, forewarned, determined, relentless. Yhis is the social justice issue of all times. And one of the questions that asks to be begged - I'm sorry, begs to be asked - is "How will we feel about ourselves?"

Let me explain this to you. Look just above the questions, last line: all eyes will be on us. There are dual and treble meanings there, for someone to make that statement. Turn that over in your mind.


Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

Interesting post from a geologist’s perspective because the history of geological study was once dominated by catastrophism – the earth is subject to big, sudden, and usually short-lived events as described in the Bible (i.e., Creation, Noah’s Flood, etc.) and as observed in daily life (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, etc.). The science of geology eventually came to the understanding that most earth processes are better described through uniformitarianism or gradualism – slow incremental changes such as erosion and steady deposition over very long periods of time. Actually, the pendulum probably swung too far in rejecting the faith-tainted catastrophism for quite a while. Most earth scientists now give full recognition that both processes have, and continue to shape our planet and its habitat (asteroid hits the earth causing mass extinction, demise of dinosaurs, etc.).

It’s always interesting to me though when interest groups hijack earth science for their purposes or to be used with their particular set of blinders. “The climate is a catastrophe! – So please make your checks payable to….” I think “alarmism” should be recognized as another branch of science (just kidding). I do believe in man-made climate change, by the way. I just object to the hijacking of science for political purposes. All human actions seems to come down to power, don’t they? Who has it – who is trying to get it.

Texan99 said...

"Where will we be safe?" is an interesting question to throw into the heroic-call-to-action-at-all-costs mix, too.

It's unsettling to watch yet another hysterical movement persuade itself that this new issue is so important, so unprecedented, so crucial to life as we know it that all the old restrictions on behavior simply cannot be permitted to apply. We have to smash through that denial and convert people for their own good. Once they've seen the light, they'll thank us.

What's so weird is that I really care about the kind of dangers they're invoking. They don't have to do anything magical to break through my crust of indifference. All they have to do is persuade me that their models work better than, say, their previous crazed enthusiasm for healing crystals. I'm already preconditioned to believe that science can identify early warning signs of deadly systematic problems. I'm simply not conditioned to believe in the predictions of people whose methodology, theories of causation, and scientific ethics are suspect and whose previous predictions have not panned out. They appear to me to be engaged in a money-and-power grab that is only incidentally related to the climate.

Sam L. said...

Predictions of impending catastrophe and doom need to be very strong with lots and lots and lots of evidence--pretty much none of which we've seen, and some of which is clearly guesswork and some of which is made up or severely cherry-picked.

And the appeal that "we must do this/something immediately" doesn't play well, either. Especially since they want a lot of my money to do it.

And then there's AlGore's immense mansion on the California coast ("soon to be inundated" as the seas rise)--they don't live like they believe what they're claiming.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

FTR, I believe there is slight warming. I believe it is likely humans have something to do with it.

I have yet to be convinced of impending catastrophe, or even that the A part of AGW is enormous.

Sam L. said...

And 40 years ago, "The Next Ice Age Is Coming!"

Someday, the doomsayers will be right. But for twenty years, I've been hearing "We have only 10 years before..."