Climate change activists need a new strategy


Robert E. Meyer, Community columnist
Published 7:26 a.m. CT Aug. 13, 2017

Regardless of your position on the issue of human induced global warming, one thing remains undeniable: Those who are apologists for the “save the planet” approach have done an abysmal job of graciously persuading the public to participate in the cause.

If I were on that side of this issue, I would emphasize the economic benefits of reducing emissions and encourage the virtues of environmental stewardship.

Instead, they have chosen to bully or insult people who don’t subscribe to a fully-orbited “humans are responsible for destroying the planet or bust” narrative. Is that really necessary?

What such antics have accomplished is further fortifying resistance against the cause. It’s yet another example of otherwise intelligent people acting in ways detrimental to their own objectives. Embracing ideology has become more important than voluntarily engaging in responsible practices.

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To pretend that skeptics don’t have rational reasons for their cynical posture is intellectually dishonest. Even if they ultimately are wrong, they believe global warming is about more than a changing climate. Space here will allow us to consider only a few reasons.

The most blatant observation summarily ignored is that viewpoints on this issue are so closely aligned with political ideology. That alone can’t help leaving the impression that this issue, as so many others, has become politicized. The varying narratives seem to be products of location on the political spectrum rather than conclusions of independent investigation.

Of course, people will frequently appeal to scientific objectivity when making their case. We habitually conflate the positive definition of science with the normative applications and procedures.

This distinction is best articulated by the late Harvard paleontologist Dr. Stephen Jay Gould. He was a committed and uncompromising evolutionist, but scoffed at presumptions of pure scientific objectivity:

“Our [scientists’] ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective ‘scientific method,’ with individual scientists as logical and interchangeable robots, is self-serving mythology.”

Concepts such as consensus and peer review seem impressive and decisive, until we consider the possibility of groupthink relationships existing between the presenter and the reviewers, resulting in an unchallengeable orthodoxy.

Baby Boomers who were high school students from the late 60’s to mid 70’s, probably remember reading a 1968 blockbuster by Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, as part of required social studies curriculum. Ehrlich made numerous dire (but unrealized) predictions that seemed plausible, if not inevitable, to highly impressionable minds.

Concurrently, there was also the highly publicized prognostication of “Peak Oil,” featuring a bell curve graph that illustrated maximum petroleum extraction occurring around 1970.

These hypotheses were buttressed by scientific/empirical evidence.

The point is that taking a snapshot of current conditions, then extrapolating out to a theoretical “tipping point,” has hardly been a fool proof methodology for actually predicting future events.

Some see calls for “carbon taxes” as ploys for wealth transfers and further encroachments on individual freedom.

It’s part and parcel of what literary luminary C.S. Lewis decried as “government in the name of science.” It isn’t that people disrespect the scientific enterprise, but they are suspect of ideology cloaked as science, backed by coercive compliance.

Much angst has been generated over the U.S. dropping out of the Paris Accord. Is a global treaty required for responsible stewardship? Insisting on “treaties” that transparently penalize our country are harmful economically and threaten our national sovereignty, which will obviously generate opposition.

If they desire more cooperation, climate change activists need a different playbook that addresses the concerns of skeptics.

Robert E. Meyer is a Kaukauna resident. He can be reached at mjydr9591@gmail.com​​​​​​​.

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