The Conspiracy-Theory Conspiracy Theory

Our previous post, and one the week before looked at the arguments emerging from climate activists about what to make of the existence of an email news circular, operated by Marc Morano, the Communications Director at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, under Republican Senator James Inhofe. They say it’s evidence of a sinister network intent on distorting the climate debate for oil interests. We say it’s just politics, and that there are many email lists on both sides of the debate, distributing news and opinion to people – even if we happen to disagree with (probably a lot of) Sen. Inhofe’s politics.

One of our favourite readers has sent us a link to a similar conversation going on at ‘The Reality Based Community’ blog – a misnomer. Mark Kleiman has posted an article there called ‘Global-warming denialism as a conspiracy theory.’ Hmm.

One largely unremarked aspect of global-warming denialism […] is that it amounts to a conspiracy theory. All of the world’s actual climate scientists, and everyone in an a allied field capable of understanding their models, would have to be co-conspirators in the plot, with only a rag-tag group of economists, meteorologists, petroleum geologists, astrologers, and political pundits capable of seeing, and willing to say, that the emperor has no clothes.

All of the world’s actual climate scientists? Really? And everyone in an allied field capable of understanding the models? Really?

Of course, it’s nonsense. Kleiman doesn’t know how the scientific community divides on climate matters, because no decisive poll has ever been taken. Neither does he know how so-called deniers divide on matters of climate science. He takes one case of an (admittedly rather silly) opinion piece in a newspaper to identify a phenomenon of ‘denial’. The interesting part of his claim is that this phenomenon – a ‘movement – of ‘denial’ can be explained as a ‘conspiracy theory’.

Most of the glibertarians, cultural conservatives, and gadget-heads who constitute the useful idiots around the core oil-and-coal-company global-warming denialist constituency would be horrified to imagine themselves playing the role of 9/11 Truthers, or RFK Jr. pumping the thimerosal/autism link, or Thabo Mbeki claiming that AIDS isn’t caused by HIV. But all four “movements” are alike in depending on compete mistrust of actual scientific experts. (Holocaust denialism is similar in that respect, but different in being almost entirely insincere: the Holocaust deniers seem to be saying, “Hitler didn’t kill all those Jews, and I’m glad he did.”)

We pointed out previously that there is an irony about David Roberts and a network of activists complaining about misinformation and distortion spread through a network of activists operating on the blogosphere on the … erm… blogosphere. (If you still don’t get it, imagine if the Governor of California were to start complaining about vapid Hollywood actors using their celebrity to achieve political influence – it’s a bit like that).

And with the words ‘the useful idiots around the core oil-and-coal-company global-warming denialist constituency’ Kleiman demonstrates exactly the same failure of logic. His conspiracy-theory-theory is just a conspiracy theory. He continues:

Global-warming denialism is a special case, of course: the policy implications of the facts about climate change threaten some very large economic interests and some dearly-held political beliefs. So global-warming-denialist brochures are printed on glossy paper. Other than that, though, it’s fairly standard-grade fringe pseudoscience, not much different from the folks who write endless papers full of gibberish proving that Einstein was wrong.

There is a palpable failure on Kleiman’s behalf to test his own argument by the logic he’s applied to others’. Pots calling kettles black, and all that. Such unreflectively is par for the course in normal discussions. We kind of expect comments on our posts linked to from activist sites (such as this one) to vary in their sophistication. Some of our critics have been barely worth responding to. Others have made us think hard, at least about how we’ve presented our argument. Some even cause disagreements here at Climate Resistance HQ.

But Kleiman’s words aren’t the frothing of any old internet troll. According to the site’s About page…

Professor of Policy Studies at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research, Kleiman teaches methods of policy analysis, political philosophy, and drug abuse and crime control policy. He is also the Chairman of BOTEC Analysis Corporation, a Cambridge, Massachusetts firm that conducts policy analysis and contract research on illicit drugs, crime, and health care. Previously, he held teaching positions at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the University of Rochester.

Maybe Kleiman has been taking his drug abuse research a little too far into the field, and it has adversely affected his judgement. Shouldn’t we expect a Professor of policy analysis and political philosophy to make just slightly more robust and sophisticated criticisms of the players and sides in the climate debate, rather than reduce these putative camps to cartoonish heroes on the one hand, and evil villains on the other?

His blog’s slogan states that ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts’. But Kleiman just makes his own ‘facts’ up while accusing others of ‘denial’. We’ve pointed this sort of thing out often enough that we no longer believe this is just a mistake, or mere hyperbole. This is a phenomenon far more widespread that ‘denial’. This kind of argument is rife amongst people who seem to feel the need to explain their lack of success in convincing the world of their politics. Blame the conspiracy.

But what kind of phenomenon is it? If we were only able to think about it only as deeply as Kleiman has, we might say that there is a deliberate attempt to distort the public’s perception of the debate. In other words, we would be inventing a conspiracy theory. So we’re not saying that, because we have no reason to doubt that Kleiman doesn’t believe his own words. he just hasn’t thought very hard about what they are supposed to mean.

What we think is going on is that the reality that the likes of Kleiman think they are in touch with isn’t as real as he imagines it to be. His slogan protests too much about being ‘reality-based’, which only serves to demonstrate that he lacks confidence in subjectivity. ‘The science’ plays a similar role in the arguments that emerge from environmental activists. The ‘science says’… The ‘science is in’… ‘According to the majority of the world’s top scientists’… We know the script. We’re asked to engage with moral and political arguments not on the basis of human values, but by appeals to climate science. Necessarily then, environmentalism rests on the authority of climate science. Demands for political action on climate change sit behind claims about climate science, and are assumed to flow from it, a priori.

Climate science seems to act as a kind of metaphysics in today’s political arguments. It serves to orientate the frameworks through which the world is seen and gives structure to the arguments about what is good/bad, right/wrong, forward/backward, and in the case where climate scepticism and denial is judged to be equivalent to Conservatism, Left/Right. To deprive environmentalists of this framework would leave them disoriented, a bit like if one were to rob Catholics of the Holy Trinity. Kleiman is just as vulnerable without climate science. How would he be able to criticise his opponents without it?

Kleiman might well respond by claiming that he is applying the label of denialism to those who, by definition, reject the science outright. Indeed, he compares his climate deniers to those ‘pumping the thimerosal/autism link, or Thabo Mbeki claiming that AIDS isn’t caused by HIV’. But for every such ‘nutjob’ in total denial of ‘the science’, there is at least one environmental campaigner/politician, exaggerating ‘the science’ beyond recognition. The problem is the centrality of the ‘scientific’ claims to the debate – and it’s not the deniers who are putting it there.

For instance, if we accept that there is a phenomenon of ‘denial’ in the climate debate that is a factor in the outcome of the debate, then we can agree that this is a problem. But it is a problem because it states that the science – real or not – is decisive in the question about ‘what to do about climate change’ in exactly the same way environmentalism does – it expects science to be instructive. We can agree, furthermore, that even if we accept that (i) the climate is changing, and that (ii) we have caused some of this change, and that (iii) this will cause a problem of some degree, we don’t necessarily have to agree that these three premises safely take us to a conclusion that demands special politics and ethics, moreover, that it creates any unassailable moral imperatives. We might argue, for instance, that the plight of the poor doesn’t need climate change to be recognised. Yet nearly all the major UK poverty and development NGOs, for example, have absorbed the language of climate change ethics into their discussions – at the expense of ambitious large-scale development projects, in favour of ‘sustainability’. As we have argued previously, this represents a failure to develop a substantive understanding of poverty and development and a criticism of what causes them to happen. Environmental metaphysics fills the void. It is used to explain that moral actions are transmitted through the biosphere. This phenomenon is a much wider, much deeper, and much bigger problem than ‘denial’.

The Great Global-Warming-Denial-Echo-Chamber Echo-Chamber Irony

Last week, we posted about David Roberts’ conspiracy mongering about the email list operated by Marc Morano, which like its many green counterparts, serves to keep people in touch. Roberts said:

Morano’s entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post. [Our emphasis]

In our view, there’s nothing spooky, or illegitimate about people – even people you have political differences with – talking to each other.

Unless you’re paranoid.

That’s politics. In fact, it’s democracy, and as we pointed out, Roberts’ objection seemed to be that people were actually allowed to talk to each other. There’s clearly something up with Roberts, who seems to believe that, without Morano’s list, the climate-sceptic argument in the news, and on the blogosophere, would disintegrate.

Roberts’ story made its way today to the Wonk Room blog, where Brad Johnson wrote

Morano’s “entire job,” Gristmill’s David Roberts explains, “is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts” to the right-wing echo chamber. The Wonk Room has acquired Morano’s email list, and we can now reveal the pack of climate skeptics, conservative bloggers, and corporate hacks who feed the misinformation machine. [Our emphasis]

Echo chambers, eh?

Over at Desmogblog Kevin Grandia had this to say in reply to Brad Johnson:

One of the oldest public relations trick in the book is called the “echo chamber” and it plays off the idea that if you repeat something often enough it becomes the truth

Senator James Inhofe’s political spindoctor Marc Morano knows this technique well and he has been using for years to shotgun blast out misinformation on global warming to right-wing media and bloggers for years.

In turn, these bloggers and media outlets blast out their own rendition and before you know it the misinformation is bouncing around the internet and inboxes all over the world. [Our emphasis]

What these complaints seem to relate to is the existence of a mode of communication between climate sceptics, through which pointless and made up stories are passed, published, and, by repetition, the profile of these stories is raised in the public mind.

Without an echo-chamber network to propagate silly stories, Roberts, Grandia, and Johnson wouldn’t have much to talk about. But the irony of the nonsense they propogate is beyond their understanding.

Ragin' Roberts

Over at Gristmill, the angry David Roberts gets his knickers in a twist about an email list:

Barnes gets his information on climate change the same place everyone in the right-wing media world gets it: from Marc Morano, the in-house blogger/agitator for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Morano’s entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post.

How did we know about Roberts’s latest blog post? Well, we got an email from Marc Morano about it.

Roberts finishes his otherwise pointless post with the very revealing words,

The conservative movement gets its information about climate science from the office of James Inhofe.

What more really needs to be said?

Well, quite a bit more really needs to be said. Such as what is supposed to be wrong with that, even if it were true? Which it isn’t, as there are a number of email list servers of interest to sceptics. And it’s not as if there are no green newswires spewing less than perfect information. And it’s not as if that transparently false information never comes from Grist.

As we discovered a year ago, for example, when Professor Andrew Dessler wrote on Grist that the IPCC consisted of thousands of climate scientists, all uniquely qualified to look after the sick planet, and that we ought to ignore social scientists and computer programmers. Unfortunately for him, we pointed out that the IPCC in fact consisted of a great number of social scientists and computer programmers – we counted them. Dessler was hoisted by his own petard. But he continued his tired analogy, just as Roberts and his ilk trot out the same old lines about oil-industry-funded-corporate-shills, the scale and the substance of the ‘scientific consensus’, and of course, the equivalence of climate scepticism and conservatism, all of which, many times, have been shown to lack foundation. They are myths. This makes it all the more a surprise that Roberts once uttered these words:

Long-time greens are painfully aware that the arguments of global warming skeptics are like zombies in a ’70s B movie. They get shot, stabbed, and crushed, over and over again, but they just keep lurching to their feet and staggering forward. That’s because — news flash! — climate skepticism is an ideological, not a scientific, position, and as such it bears only a tenuous relationship to scientific rules of evidence and inference.

Roberts’ inability to self-reflect is painfully obvious to anybody who is not him. As we pointed out, scepticism cannot be in itself ideological. On the other hand, Environmentalism – which, after all, demands that we reorganise the global economy, monitor every productive endeavour, and regulate lifestyle – is an ideology. But it hides its politics behind science. ‘Science’ is environmentalism’s fig leaf. Behind the green veneer is its shame.

What a cautious lifting of the fig leaf reveals is that the object of Roberts’ anger is democracy itself. He doesn’t seem to like people having email lists with which to communicate ideas. Just as he doesn’t like people being able to travel, or to consume according to their own needs and desires.

Accordingly, Roberts needs to turn democratic expression into a subversive, nefarious activity. In this fantasy, what are in fact normal forms of communication appear as sinister conspiracies. Two people knowing each other is an element… a cell… of a dark network standing against science…. truth itself.

But the reality is that the recipients of Morano’s emails are people who can see for themselves what an email from a – shock horror – Conservative actually consists of.  We’re not conservatives, and you don’t have to be a conservative, for example, to know that when James Hansen says that there are just four years left to save the planet, he’s talking unmitigated BS. And yet it was an email from Marc Morano which first drew our attention to the story. It’s just a way of distributing news. Everybody who comments on the news is connected to many similar services. We get daily digests on topics from the newspapers themselves, from Government departments, NGOs, Quangos, political parties, charities, and from Google news alerts. Some of these sources are neutral. Some have a clearer agenda.

Of course, Sen. Inhofe is a Conservative. But his take on the climate issue is a little deeper than Roberts gives him credit for.

It is becoming increasingly clear that man-made global warming is not a partisan left vs. right issue. It is a scientific question and the promoters of global warming fears now realize they have significantly overreached.

Roberts frames the debate as ‘Science versus Conservatives’. But it doesn’t stand. Roberts can’t tell left from right, forward from backward, progressive from retrogressive, sceptic from conservative, liberal from deeply illiberal. As we recently said of George Monbiot, he

… emerges dizzy from his own spinning and thinks it is the world that’s confused about what direction it is moving in. And this is his fundamental problem. Everything he writes is a projection of his own inability to understand a world that fails to conform to his expectations. The ideas he uses to orientate himself fail to give him purchase on his own existential crisis; they crumble underfoot.

Like Monbiot, Roberts see a challenge to his perspective as a catastrophe. He cannot countenance dissent. It would be the end of the world. Roberts’ can only explain his objection to conservatism in terms of environmental catastrophe, because he doesn’t possess a principled, coherent objection. Fantasy takes the place of insight and shrill posturing the place of careful argument.

Environmentalism: "frustrated, angry and confused"

Over at the Daily Kos, and European Tribune, blogger ‘Johnnyrook’ attempts to connect ‘denialism’ with an ideology. The piece itself is an answer to a blog post elsewhere by Joseph Romm, The denialists are winning, especially with the GOP. David Roberts tried this approach on the Nation blog back in February:

Long-time greens are painfully aware that the arguments of global warming skeptics are like zombies in a ’70s B movie. They get shot, stabbed, and crushed, over and over again, but they just keep lurching to their feet and staggering forward. That’s because — news flash! — climate skepticism is an ideological, not a scientific, position, and as such it bears only a tenuous relationship to scientific rules of evidence and inference. 

We replied that environmentalism used ‘science’ as a fig leaf. Environmentalism is an ideological position, whereas scepticism encompasses a range of objections to it, some of which are, in fact, perfectly valid on scientific grounds.

What Johnnyrook writes in Why Climate Denialists are Blind to Facts and Reason: The Role of Ideology is, frankly, unmitigated and unimportant crap. But it does offer some insight into the ‘thought processes’ of grass-roots Environmentalism. Johnnyrook whines that

Anyone who has tried to discuss Climaticide with a climate change denialist knows just how frustrating it can be. No matter how well informed you are, no matter how many peer-reviewed studies you cite, or how many times you point out the overwhelming agreement based on the evidence that exists among climate scientists that global warming is real and is principally caused by human fossil fuel use, you will get no where. Your adversary will deny the facts, cherry pick the scientific evidence for bits of data that, taken out of context, support his/her denialist view, or drag out long-debunked counter-arguments in the hope that they are unfamiliar to you and that you will not be able to refute them. If you succeed in countering all of his arguments he will most likely reword them and start all over again. 

Climaticide? Climaticide? Is it even possible to kill a climate? But moving on, Johnnyrook clearly believes himself to be in possession of a faultless argument. So it must be the rest of the world that’s wrong. Who said environmentalism was emotional, arrogant, and infantile?

After a couple of hours of this, you end up frustrated, angry and confused. You give up and storm off vowing to study and learn even more so that next time you will be better prepared and able to convince the denialist of the error of his/her ways. 

Our advice to little Johnny is that perhaps his tantrums would be easier to manage if he reflected on why his arguments aren’t convincing, rather than sought to find other reasons to explain his failure. But Johnny’s tantrums are characteristic of the environmental movement as a whole – a movement that is unable to take responsibility for its own failures.

No, the true climate change denialist is an ideologue. Understanding this fact is key to comprehending the denialist mentality and to knowing how to respond to denialist arguments. Ideologues are adherents of closed, ideological systems, in which all problems are ultimately attributed to a single cause: original sin (Christianity), the accumulation of private property (Communism), restrictions imposed on a superior race by inferior ones (Fascism), the destruction of “freedom” by “Big Government” (Conservative/Libertarian).  

And here Johnny gives us some insight into why he fails to make convincing political arguments. First, he doesn’t recognise his own perspective as ideological, and that it is, in his own terms, about a ‘single cause’. Perhaps we can help him – spell it out for him, in fact – with the aid of some emphasis to illustrate our point:

ENVIRONMENTalism

Environmentalists see society as intrinsically, fundamentally, inextricably linked to ‘nature’ – manifested as the ‘environment’. To the Environmentalist, all moral actions are transmitted through the biosphere. Your wealth, relative to another’s poverty is not seen in terms of the political, sociological, or historical background to your circumstances and those of your counterparts. It is instead seen in terms of biological and geological processes. You buy a big car, and the consequence is that it rains too much/doesn’t rain at all on the poor, starving child in Africa. So, instead of addressing the poverty of the poor child through developing a critique of the socio-political relations throughout the world in order that we might begin to help, the Environmentalist just wants you to withdraw from your evil lifestyle. This moral framework is unchallengeable, according to the Environmentalist, because the causal chain between your consumer choice and the plight of the child in can be explained in ‘scientific’ rather than social terms; the car, the combustion, the CO2, the greenhouse effect, the warming, the climate change, the drought. (Forget any sense of proportion between these steps).

This perspective takes poverty as a given. Indeed, it needs poverty. Without poverty to designate a moral absolute, Environmentalism’s moral calculations would cease to have meaning. Its objectives are, therefore, not to abolish poverty, but to make it ‘less bad’. And, of course, the abolishment of poverty is, according to Johnny’s maxim, ‘ideological’. Thus, we are prevented from approaching the problem of poverty – or even the effects of climate change – through politics. In other words, poverty is not seen as a political problem. After all, poverty is natural. Just ask Malthus.

Second, Johnny gives us a particularly ignorant description of ideologies. Christianity is all about ‘original sin’, apparently. But can we comfortably say that Christianity is an ideology? It may well offer us an account of creation, but not necessarily to the exclusion of other ideological ideas. Can a Christian not be committed to free trade, on the one hand, or the abolition of private property on the other? There are interesting moral arguments for both. But why should Jesus be bothered, either way? And isn’t that a problem for Christians, rather than political scientists? Communism, apparently, blames all problems on the accumulation of private property. Actually, Marx’s contention was that the accumulation of private property is necessary to create a working class in an industrial – rather than feudal – society. In this sense, the accumulation begins to solve many of the problems of oppression and inequality. And Johnny is very much mistaken with his conception of Fascism, which he confuses with nazism. Nazism is indeed a racialised form of Fascism. But Fascism itself isn’t a necessarily a racist ideology, and there is no consensus amongst historians about how fascism can be characterised; it is an issue of much debate, somewhat clouded by the fact that, at the time of fascism and Nazism, ideas about race such as eugenics were mainstream and orthodox – dare we say, the subject of a consensus. Finally, Johnny confuses libertarianism with conservatism. Yet conservatism, as the name suggests, seeks to use the state to preserve social orders, traditions and cultures, while libertarianism is a broader term, in that a libertarian would generally object to the state’s intervention in such matters. Johnny’s grasp on political ideologies is weak. No wonder then, that he fails to recognise
his own.

He continues, oblivious,

Once the initial conclusion is reached (often after a long, complicated chain of deductive reasoning–Marx’s Capital, the writings of Ayn Rand, etc.) that factor X is the source of all of society’s ills, all debate outside the ideology’s framework ends.

Hmm. Hasn’t Johnny opened his story by telling us that carbon is the source of society’s ills?

One may deduce new positions from the ideology’s fundamental principles, but the fundamental principles can not be questioned because such questioning might undermine the entire ideological system and the psychological security that it provides, leaving the true believer in that most urgently to be avoided of states: UNCERTAINTY. Ideology is thus, inevitably, by it’s very nature, anti-empirical. 

We repeat:

ENVIRONMENTalism

Moreover, is it not precisely uncertainty that blights the environmental movement? Isn’t it the environmental movement that needs to tell us that ‘the science is in’? Wasn’t it Johnny who was, just a few paragraphs ago, evincing his own sheer and absolute rightness? Isn’t the entire momentum of the environmental movement predicated on a ‘scientific consensus’?

Johnny borrows from Naomi Oreskes’ critique of the “tobacco strategy”, which we discuss – at some length – here. Oreskes’ thesis is that doubt has been manufactured against the scientific case that smoking causes cancer and that global warming is caused by anthropogenic CO2, out of an ideological conviction. This forgets two things:

1. That, whatever the scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer is, and whatever the evidence that humans are influencing the climate is, our response to that evidence is necessarily political. Only a lack of response – indifference – is apolitical. In the case of smoking, the possible political responses to such information are many: we could put out the information that smoking causes cancer; we could restrict the sale of tobacco; we could ban it altogether; or we could even decide that we should all smoke more and die horribly. But all options are political.

2. That any objection to a political argument in favour of a course of action, founded on a scientific case, will necessarily ‘doubt’ that the scientific evidence is sufficient to warrant the political action to which one objects. To point that out is to state the obvious.

Johnny’s uncertainty and Oreskes’ ‘tobacco strategy’ hypotheses are meaningless. They say no more than “objectors doubt the proposition”. But Oreskes and Johnny have convinced themselves that scientific evidence exists in some separate, apolitical space, from where it can make scientifically sound political arguments; they hide their political ideology behind their scientific fig leaves.

He continues with another mischaracterisation…

The Soviets understood this way of thinking perfectly because Marxism too is an ideology, only in Marxism the great enemy is not the State but private capital. 

Actually, the state is the ‘enemy’ in Marxism. For Marx, communist society is a stateless society, and the state is the apparatus of the bourgeoisie; it maintains the conditions in which the working classes are oppressed. Marx explicitly seeks the abolition of the state. Johnny is completely wrong.

He goes on to argue that it is pointless to argue with people who hold an ‘ideological’ objection to climate change alarmism, because ‘facts’ are not important to them. He offers a psychological account of his political opponents:

ideologues find psychological safety from an uncertain world in the certainties of their ideology. What you think of as an argument about global warming, they perceive as an attack on their entire world view. And they’re right of course, even though it’s not your intention. 

We have seen attempts to profile the psychology of ‘deniers’ before. Here, for example.

What is interesting here is that Johnny, who, as we can see, fails to recognise his own ideology as an ideology, now makes an attack against all ideology – against all political perspectives. Ideology is now a symptom of a pathology, in much the same way that religion is seen as a pathology by Richard Dawkins et al; it is a comforting delusion, with a biological basis. This scientistic nihilism allows Johnny to diminish his opposition, rather than confront them. Isn’t this what the Nazi’s do, according to Johnny’s account of ideology, to other races? Aren’t other races, by virtue of this pathology, not only morally and intellectually inferior, but biologically inferior too? Johnny has just diminished his opponents to sub-humans, who do not have the right to engage in political discussion or to raise political objections. Disagree with Johnny and you are persona non grata. Johnny isn’t even capable of identifying the opposition – of which he is evidently utterly ignorant – to his ideas. He doesn’t need to know what ideas in an ideology might commit an ‘ideologue’ to an objection to Environmentalism, and it would seem that he doesn’t care. All he can see is that convictions to ideas appear to stand in the way of his own beliefs.

Johnny’s claim to empiricism belies his blatant anti-intellectualism. He too wants ‘facts’ but only in the sense that a caveman wants a club. He says that “one should generally ignore the denialists and concentrate on persuading the open minded”. But anyone who is open-minded has to agree with him, or they are suddenly closed-minded. Johnny finishes:

For those of us in the reality-based community, understanding the role that conservative/libertarian ideology plays in determining Climaticide denialist behavior, whether sincere or simulated, can be very useful in making sense of the denialist position, a position which, ultimately, is rooted not in facts and critical thinking, but in political and psychological needs. 

For Johnny to tell us that ‘denialists’ are blinded by ideology seems as reasonable as, say, somebody who wants to completely reorganise society around a principle of, ohh, let’s say, ‘harmony with nature’, telling us that they are against reorganising society around a particular principle. Of course Johnny has an ideology – Environmentalism. And of course he is an ‘ideologue’. Why then, does Johnny protest so much about ideology?

Johnny’s inability to reflect on his own ideology, his poor grasp of politics and his disregard for others all go some way to explaining his frustration, anger, and confusion. This is a symptom of the environmental movement. We have written before about the many different ways that Environmentalists have tried to diminish their opponents by questioning their psychology and moral character, and by trying to locate a conspiracy – in every way, in fact, other than through careful, honest, political argument. Johnny’s emotions characterise the shrill, impatient, self importance of the environmental movement, which prefers trantrums to debate, and panic and alarmism to convincing arguments. It prizes emotion over intellectual engagement. Environmentalism isn’t so much a cause to fight for, than a symptom of belonging to nothing. It is, nonetheless, an ideology – one that needs to be challenged.

'Science' – Environmentalism's Fig Leaf

On The Nation blog, David Roberts of Gristmill (another blog) writes:

Long-time greens are painfully aware that the arguments of global warming skeptics are like zombies in a ’70s B movie. They get shot, stabbed, and crushed, over and over again, but they just keep lurching to their feet and staggering forward. That’s because — news flash! — climate skepticism is an ideological, not a scientific, position, and as such it bears only a tenuous relationship to scientific rules of evidence and inference.

Let us put him straight. Climate scepticism (or skepticism) is not an ideological position. Climate scepticism is not an ideology. Climate scepticism does not offer a perspective on the world from which follow moral imperatives, and climate scepticism is not a doctrine, around which climate sceptics wish to organise society. There is no “world view” of climate scepticism.

Environmentalism,on the other hand, is an ideology. It does create moral imperatives. It does wish to organise society around its principles. It is a world view.

Of course, climate orthodoxy and environmentalism can be challenged from political or ideological perspectives. But there is no consistent “climate sceptic” position. There doesn’t need to be; It’s not an argument for a course of action, and its objections to environmentalism are varied. There have been criticisms of climate politics from the left, and from the centre (or center), and from the right. But these perspectives are not unique to climate scepticism.

To make his point, Roberts links back to a March ’07 post of his on Gristmill, where he makes the claim that,

The scientific contest — at least as it relates to the basic facts of global warming — is over.

If the science is settled, he reasons, then the idea that “The contest between climate advocates and their critics is primarily a scientific contest — a debate over who has the best science” is false. By elimination, the argument with no science must be political. Of course, both of Roberts’s premises are false. The scientific debate is not over – it’s never over, and can never be over. That is itself an unscientific statement.

Environmentalists hide their moral and political arguments behind science. If you challenge them, they will tell you that “the consensus” science is settled. There ensues a scientific debate about whether or not something “is happening”, not whether or not it follows from “something happening” that the appropriate course of action is the one which the environmentalist has proposed. But rarely is it the case that the political statement actually tallies with the science on the matter. What drives the political argument of environmentalists is catastrophism and images of polar bears clinging to ice floes. We have highlighted many times on this blog cases where the political language bears no resemblance to the scientific research on an issue. Our various posts looking at Caroline Lucas’s statements, for example, reveal that in most cases, she has simply made the science up. The “science is settled” argument is used as leverage in political arguments to diminish unqualified opinion, but even scientific authorities overstate the strength of research.

The claim that science has shown that “climate change is real and is happening” leads to an array of political arguments from environmentalists, as though all that need be shown to legitimise drastic action (the more drastic the better) is that mankind has influenced the climate. But ask any number of environmentalists what “climate change is real and is happening” actually means, and you will get as many different answers back. The “science” of the matter is portable, in that it is used to arm any number of arguments. But what is happening is not that the science of the argument is being used to illuminate the discussion. Instead the fact of the consensus is being used to avoid the argument being challenged. The moral and political argument is deferred to a “scientific fact”, which is neither. On Gristmill, Roberts continues:

Remember: the goal of political debate is not to establish scientific truth, or even to establish which side is closer to it, but to triumph in the realm of public opinion and public policy. No matter how much some people wish that having science on their side is an automatic trump card, it just isn’t. The relationship between accuracy and political advantage is tenuous at best.The most vociferous critics of global warming advocates — far-right conservatives — understand this viscerally, instinctively, if not consciously.

It is revealing that the issue on which Roberts choses to confront the “far right” is climate change. Environmentalism has thrived in an atmosphere of political exhaustion and cynicism. It therefore appeals to “science” to make it look like it isn’t political. It is. Nonetheless, Roberts is unable to challenge the “far right” – whoever he imagines them to be – on either any political basis, or any substantiated scientific basis. And in any case, it’s not as if there aren’t any far-right green perspectives. Environmentalism is not incompatible with some very nasty views about the human race.

Environmentalism has a lot to hide, and uses science as a fig leaf. Sceptics (and skeptics), in whatever political colours (or colors) they wear should not be afraid of bringing political perspectives to the discussion. It’s not about science.

Nobody Expects the Cimate Inquisition

‘Sustainable’ blogging (geddit?) is a bit difficult when even the green news-makers have jetted off to catch some sun… This isn’t climate change, it’s silly season, and there’s not much news around.

We have reported before how the environmentalist’s view of the future shares something with the Taliban. Now we bring you… calls for a climate inquisition. Jamais Casico, futurologist and founder of http://www.worldchanging.com/ isn’t the first to call for trials for global warming ‘denialists’. Gristmill’s David Roberts can claim that honour. But that doesn’t make Casico’s comments any less shocking.

Speaking/fantasising about the possibility of a second event such as Hurricane Katrina to hit the USA, regardless of whether or not global warming is the cause (and it seems, regardless of whether or not humans caused it), Casico writes on his blog,

For the global warming denial industry, congressional hearings will be the least of their worries. In a post-Katrina II America, aware that some of the largest companies and the most influential think tanks worked hard to make sure that attempts to mitigate climate disruption were stopped, the perpetrators of this crime may face far greater trials. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch. 

The ‘crime’, it seems is not that corporates and individuals are responsible for the material act of releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, but that daring to voice their opinion influences people to continue to consume, which causes CO2 to be emitted. Casico can charge ‘the deniers’ with nothing more than thought crime. Casico cannot comprehend that anyone might have a reasonable objection to either climate science or political orthodoxies, and so speculates as to what is driving ‘denial’:

The companies and think tanks involved in the denialist effort come across not as defenders of their beliefs and industry, but as people willing to say and do anything to protect the accumulation of short-term profits, the future (and the world) be damned. 

Aside from the sinister fantasy of lynch mobs rounding up his political enemies, which Casico seems to be indulging in, what this commentary reveals is another case of the escalation of rhetoric against ‘sceptics and deniers’ that is designed to close down debate and claim the moral high ground. This time, not by making equivalents of sceptics and holocaust deniers, but by equally hollow appeals to victimhood on behalf of people who don’t even exist yet, whose lives have been ruined by something that hasn’t happened yet.

If a dark, nasty future didn’t exist, Jamais Casico would have to invent it – which is precisely what he’s doing. It is only by fantasising about the future that Casico can find people guilty in the present. And for all the complaints about corporates gambling with the future, he has carved himself quite a profitable niche with his bleak visions. Yet this contemporary Nostradamus has a lmited imagination; all he can think of is reasons to avoid the future, not ways of making it better.