Thursday, March 22, 2007

Brain droppings

You know, watching the US Senate and Congress deliberate yesterday confirmed a feeling I've had about some conservatives -- not all by any means, but many of the most vocal ones on this issue -- that they're arguing from ignorance.

There's a shallow form of ignorance, first of all. This would be the people who lie and say that scientists used to be worried about "global cooling" (they didn't) that glaciers are in fact growing (they aren't) or that warming will be a net plus for the world (it won't.)* These people are annoying, but these claims are also transparently political and don't really surprise me much: it's just the way the game is played.

Then there's what we could call "deep stupid." The less said about James Imhofe the better, but let's simply point out (via Dave at Gristmill) that even other dyed-in-the-wool conservatives think he was a petulant little child yesterday. More than that, he's deliberately maintained a burden of incredible, fundamental ignorance about the basic science he's talking about. Ditto Brit Hume here. Ditto many of the GOP Congresscritters (and sadly, too many of the Democrats) yesterday.

The argument in Canada over Kyoto takes an impressively weird character: Conservatives can't appear to reasonably argue against emissions reductions per se, so they argue against the Kyoto Process claiming that somehow, Kyoto in particular would be unduly onerous. This is absurd, because Kyoto says absolutely nothing about how Canada must reach it's goal -- and Canada got to set the goal in the first place.

I understand that nobody can know everything, and bloggers are by definition not experts on many issues -- I've certainly stepped beyond my expertise a bit, but I try and warn you when I do. But to argue passionately from a position of total and complete ignorance really just astounds me.

Learn about actual climate science, don't just read Michael Crichton novels. If you must read science fiction, Kim Stanley Robinson's latest trilogy would be worth investigating. But try Flannery's The Weathermakers. Hell, if your conservative soul can bear it, watch Al Gore's movie. Skip the personal scenes and watch the slideshow bits -- it's as good a primer as you can ask for.

Then start reading about the solutions. They all have their pros and cons -- we've no silver bullets in our arsenal. But a few are looking more and more promising. Spain's burgeoning wind industry is now producing more power than nuclear on a good day -- this in a country who's modern wind industry is only about 10 years old. (Some guy named "Quixote" seems to have been an early opponent of renewable energy...)

The problem is real, and our solutions are real too. But none of this matters if the debate is defined by all the informed people agreeing, and those vocally opposed being unshakably hostile to anything resembling a fact.

* While Time Magazine and Newsweek ran cover stories about the possibility of "global cooling", a journal review finds no evidence of any scientist anywhere arguing seriously for such a scenario. Antarctic glaciers are thickening at the center because of increased snowfall -- exactly what is predicted in climate change models, and in any case the loss of ice at the shoreline dwarfs the add thickness. And it's impossible to see how the possible starvation of billions as the Himalayas dry out could be evened out by shorter winters for Russia.

1 comment:

zack said...

Re: Kim Stanley Robinson,
I got halfway through "Forty Signs of Rain" before putting it down due to it being a terrible book.