Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who's winning the climate wars?

Enviros are stumbling in the war over human-caused climate change, and a new report by Matt Nisbet dissects some of the failures and recommends solutions. It's heavy reading for us eNGO types mired in the trenches.

A completely predictable explosion has ensued, with defensive attacks on the messenger.

If you're interested here is an even-handed summary and set of links to some of the back-and-forth, a more open-minded look at the issue of why no major action yet on climate change, and a plea to consider that Nisbet may actually have uncovered some real problems.

Overall, I think Nisbet's Climate Shift report is more right than wrong, and he's done us all a service with his Climate Shift analysis and follow-up. In brief, he uncovers the weak strategy that fails to win support, exposes flaws in the David vs. Goliath story we tell about why we're losing, undermines the claims of media bias, and scariest of all, demonstrates the strong liberal leanings that blind many advocates of climate solutions. Ouch.

I think we'll be hearing more about this in the next months.


Russell L. Carter said...

After reading through the comments on Chris Mooney's post on the topic (which had quite a few rejoinders by Nisbet), I think your analysis is wrong. Scientists don't view the scientific questions about the world in the same way as evangelicals do, but asserting they do is an important part of Nisbet's argument. In fact, reading his comments, I'm not sure he even knows how scientists go about doing their work. He's a journalist, after all.

Mark Powell said...

Fair points. However, I do think that we scientists believe ourselves to be purveyors of truth and don't worry about how to make our findings matter to people. We need to help people see why scientific findings matter, that is not automatically obvious, and it's not a science literacy issue.

Mark Powell said...

Matt Nisbet is a social scientist and he relies heavily on data, scientific analysis, etc.

Russell L. Carter said...

I wrote:

"Scientists don't view the scientific questions about the world in the same way as evangelicals do, but asserting they do is an important part of Nisbet's argument."

Nisbet does this, and Mooney quotes the text right in the comments and Nisbet weakly tries to defend it. How is Nisbet's "technique" science?

I think there is capture in evidence here, and it's not the scientists, in general.

All that said I agree with Mooney that some ideological capture probably happens but it can't possibly be anywhere near the magnitude of that of evangelicals. In any of the labs I've worked in being exposed as someone not data driven is a serious ethical failure.

Faith != Science.

So think about it. How does Nisbet writing sciency reports that will be used by the paid ideologues to equate scientists with evangelicals in the public mind help solve The Problem?

Unknown said...

see comments in http://bit.ly/hbtRCa and http://bit.ly/g9Si0P as they remain just as relevant to this conversation

Mark Powell said...

Thanks Benjamin, I think ecoAmerica does have a lot to offer in solving these problems!