The climate crew: alienating allies and fighting the wrong fights

As readers of this blog know, I am a pragmatic environmentalist. I believe in the dangers of climate change and unlike most of my critics, I live a low-carbon lifestyle and have actually helped achieve policies that reduced my province’s carbon footprint. From my pragmatic perspective, I can only marvel at the blockheadedness of the activists in the climate change community who seem intent on doing everything they can to set back the implementation of the policies needed to achieve our climate goals. They do this by alienating potential allies, demanding absolute purity of thought from everyone who might be interested in helping to advance the cause and showing a bull-headed unwillingness to compromise on energy technologies needed to achieve our common goal.

I have written previously about this topic in a post the climate crew, alienating potential allies and worshiping false idols where I highlighted the folly of Michael Mann insulting and alienating Dr. Andrew Leach, the Chair of the Province of Alberta’s Climate Change Advisory Panel. For those who don’t know, Dr. Leach and his panel spent three months of their lives travelling the province doing the consultation necessary to build up the technical support and political and social goodwill necessary to allow Alberta to put a price on carbon. This is the man Dr. Mann went out of his way to insult calling him a “troll”.

This last couple weeks the climate crew has once again gone out of its way to alienate allies and potential allies while setting back the cause all in the name of intellectual purity and goodthink. In the following post, I will discuss how the climate crew are systematically sabotaging their cause and simultaneously hamstringing our ability to fight climate change.

Let’s start this discussion by talking about the New York Times. As people interested in achieving a low-carbon future know, Brad Plumer was recently hired by the New York Times to work on its energy and climate desk. For those of you who don’t know him, Brad Plumer and David Roberts are two of the writers who turned Vox.com into the place to go for intelligent, but readable, stories on climate change and energy.  For the New York Times to scoop up Brad Plumer is an boon for those interested in seeing intelligent, readable stories on energy and climate in the paper of record. Coincidental to the Times hiring Mr. Plumer, they also hired an op-ed writer by the name of Bret Stephens. Mr. Stephens is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who specializes in international affairs but has also written some controversial articles about climate change.

So how have the environmental activists responded to these two hires? Well as expected they have said almost nothing about the arrival of Brad Plumer while organizing a campaign to cancel subscriptions over the hiring of Stephens. Yes, you heard that right, in a country where the Republicans control Congress and Donald Trump is President the climate activists have decided the organization they want to de-fund the most is the New York Times. A paper that has dedicated more ink to climate than virtually any other news organization in North America. Does anyone wonder which jobs will be the first to go if the environmentalists manage to damage the Times’ bottom line. I’m guessing the climate beat will take the hit as the remaining subscribers will be heavily tilted to other topics.

The most frustrating part of this whole debate is how the environmental activists claim this is all about punishing the Times for allowing contrary voices to be heard. The best way to understand the people you are fighting is to listen to their arguments and formulate responses. Unfortunately, in this era of media fragmentation we see the exact opposite with groups collecting themselves into silos while simultaneously insulting anyone who doesn’t hew to their exact world-view.  Purity of thought is the only thing that matters. In the process these blinkered thinkers stop bothering to even try to understand what the other side is trying to say. Instead they argue against cartoonish strawmen and parade around bragging about how right they are.

Any reasonable read of Mr. Stephen’s first piece identifies some very important arguments that the climate activists have failed to address. The unrealistic confidence the climate activists have placed in their models even though those models are barely able to hindcast, let alone forecast. The growing divide between what climate scientists are saying about climate change and what the climate activists claim they are saying. Most importantly the growing disconnect between what the scientists are saying about the risks of climate change and public sentiment about the topic. Having read numerous “rebuttals” of the Stephens piece let’s consider a top rated one on Google which fails to acknowledge that the climate activists are anything but pure; insists Mr. Stephens is a dumb f..k; and the people who disagree with Mr. Stephen’s critics are too stupid and/or selfish to care that we’re mutilating our planet. Yes, that is how you bring people over to your side call them stupid and selfish.

From a Canadian perspective we see this insane approach to allies clearly with Bill McKibben’s recent Guardian piece where he claimed that Justin Trudeau is a disaster for the planet and no better than Donald Trump. Let’s look at this from a sane perspective. Justin Trudeau was recently elected with a mandate to completely change the political landscape of Canada after over a decade of rule by the Harper Conservatives. This has left Trudeau with dozens of potential issues to concentrate on. Given all these alternatives, one of the first files Prime Minister Trudeau chose to take on was climate change. Our new PM used his political clout to essentially strong-arm a bunch of hesitant Premiers into accepting a national price on carbon. For outsiders a quick note, under the Canadian constitution both energy and environment are provincial jurisdictions so the Prime Minister could not act alone. It took a lot of work and political capital from Prime Minister Trudeau to get this win. He pulled a lot of Premiers along with him and went much father than many thought was possible. It was a tremendous win for the fight against climate change against a backdrop of an Australian Prime Minister who eliminated their carbon tax and a US government under Trump which appears to be actively working against advances in fighting climate change.

So how does the environmental community thank Prime Minister Trudeau for his environmental leadership? They call him an environmental laggard and compare him to Donald Trump. Honestly folks do you think Prime Minister Trudeau is going to spend his remaining political capital on another of your political causes when he has so many other alternatives to work on. Do you expect him to take an international leadership role next time and stake his political career for a group of people that not only don’t have the decency to acknowledge what he has done but instead compare him with Donald Trump.

From a BC perspective, we have another example where the climate folks insist it is their way or the highway. As I have pointed out previously, British Columbia gets approximately 25% of its energy from low-carbon sources. If we are going to fight climate change we need to electrify everything which means we will have a need for new, low-carbon electricity. One of the biggest low-carbon electricity projects in North America is the Site C Dam in northeastern BC. Now climate activists aren’t fans of large reservoir hydroelectric or nuclear energy. They have a mistaken belief that we can achieve 100% renewable using technologies that exclude new large-reservoir hydro and/or nuclear. So when our government starts building a hydro project do they accept that low-carbon energy is better than high-carbon energy? No, they fight the low-carbon alternative tooth-and-nail while spouting platitudes about how we can all do this with wind, water and sun but failing to do anything about it. To argue against this project, they compare the cost of the fully built facility (connected to a newly upgraded power grid) to the cost of an installed wind turbine unconnected to the grid with no associated storage. You see they want to fight climate change, but only if we do it their way; otherwise they would prefer that we do nothing. Being pure is better than being effective.

Look at today’s People’s Climate Marches. They include entire sections dedicated to the anti-nuclear movement. Can anyone tell me what happens when you pull nuclear out of your energy mix? Well Energieweinde showed that the nuclear was not replaced by renewables, but rather by coal. When Diablo Canyon closes in California, the result will be an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted as they will be making up that low-carbon power with natural gas.

So what have the climate crew done for us recently? They are punishing one of their biggest allies in the free press, while alienating political leaders who have gone to bat for them. They are fighting against low-carbon energy alternatives because those alternatives don’t represent their preferred technologies. Rather than accepting compromises that could help advance their cause and implement policies that can provide realistic reductions in carbon emission they are out on the streets holding their protests. Protests where they reserve entire sections for groups intended solely to the task of attacking potential allies. I despair for my cause and have started to resign myself to failure because these people are more interested in political and intellectual purity than they are to fighting climate change.

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41 Responses to The climate crew: alienating allies and fighting the wrong fights

  1. Morley Sutter says:

    Your comments on the inappropriate language and actions of “protesters” are accurate and obviously the product of a fine intellect as well as hard work.
    Would that you would apply that intellect and effort to the problem of what is the evidence that CO2 is the “control knob” of world temperature and therefore must be reduced.
    This lack is striking and inconsistent with your abilities.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. mark4asp says:

    Their politics is all about recruiting for the Party. They call it “building the Party”. They latch onto causes and try to hijack them to recruit members for their more extremist agenda: the overthrow of capitalism, or some such. The rhetoric of extremism against the NYT and Bret Stephens is as much about polarizing their supporters into taking extreme positions as anything else. Of course, they also want to see Stephens sacked. I’m not saying what they do works. You liken Bill McKibben to some individual working alone expressing his POV, and seem to take, on face value, that his primary concern is to “save the planet”. Very fanciful. If Bill McKibben was worried about climate change he’d support nuclear power too, rather than oppose it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For a critic, you’re quick to say the sort of thing you take offense to. The overthrow of capitalism? Such a tired and empty critique — yeah, right, that’s the real, hidden goal of “environmental advocates.” And McKibben’s obviously not actually worried about climate change, because you don’t agree with how to think about it. Instead of claiming True Insight into the minds of those who disagree, make your case instead of engaging in the exact kind of alienation the Langley Chemist describes.

      Like

      • mark4asp says:

        I don’t really care what McKibben thinks. I look at what he does. At how McKibben features as a cog. Alarmists sacked R.P.Jr. using this same approach, accusing him of “denial” because he was not alarmist enough. Yet R.P.Jr. accepts mainstream IPCC science of AR5 WG1! I don’t care who takes offence at what I say. I’m offended by what the alarmists do. If they behave like Stalinists they may as well be Stalinists.

        Like

      • Have re-read both of us twice. My statement stands solid. You contradict yourself with “don’t care what McKibben thinks” and “don’t care who takes offence.” Don’t forget, you’re the one who was offended. If you need further explanation of this, ask the Langley Chemist. He gets it.

        Like

  3. R. Wright says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful, reasonable comments. However, the rabble in the streets isn’t interested in reason or logic. It is interested only in “resistance. ” As poorly as the petty infighting among environmentalists looks to someone like yourself, can you imagine how it looks to independent minds outside of the environmental movement? Independent minds and independent voters will decide the next election, not the drum beaters in the weekend marches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eco-worrier says:

      The ‘resistance’ is against Trump – a psychotic liar who says Climate-Change is a Chinese plot. Its so moronic that the threat to the web of life that’s supports us all is turned to a left/right, Dem/Con shitstorm. Preservation of a stable environment with drinkable water, clean air and sustainable agriculture is the one thing which should be common ground to all.

      Like

  4. John Catley says:

    Of course, there is always a possibility, perish the thought, that the climate crew are working to a predefined agenda where shooting the messenger is the prescribed approach since other approaches may reveal the flaws in their argument. But that would never happen, would it??

    Liked by 2 people

  5. R. Shearer says:

    Just cut down all the accessible rain forests in the tropics for cane sugar and palm oil plantations to make biofuels, or at least accelerate it because it’s already happening. That will make it all better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thoughtful article, cynical comments.

    Like

  7. Blair says:

    Nope I worked to get a carbon tax implemented under the Gordon Campbell government…but feel free to keep doubting. You seem to be such a good researcher I will leave it to you to find out my involvement…actually I will give you a hint. Look at who my graduate supervisors were and then look at what groups they were involved in. Then look for all the research that was produced by those groups…..

    Best regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blair says:

      Nope, I choose not to have this sort of debate with an anonymous/pseudonymous commentor. Anyone familiar with my history can confirm my words and I feel little need to argue with someone who chooses to snipe from the bushes.

      Like

  8. I think the whole man made global warming meme is on the way out –

    In 2016 29% of meteorologists who thought climate was largely or entirely man-made, but that fell to only 15% this year.
    In 2016 67% of meteorologists said that humans have caused most or all climate change.In 2017 that fell to only 49%.

    The coverage in the MSM is declining. The Democrats have probably by now realized it’s a non starter story in gaining votes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reasonable Skeptic says:

      I believe you are correct. These folks have pushed the envelope and now the envelope is pushing back.

      The climate crew are a bit like Jihadists, if you are not pure, they will attack. Eventually they will eat themselves and the author sees that as well.

      I may disagree with the author on the severity of the issue, but I totally respect his approach. If there were more pragmatic .environmentalists like him, I would offer more of my support.

      Like

    • CMS says:

      I think we are entering what Crane Brinton in his “Anatomy of Revolution” referred to as the “reign of terror and virtue” . In this period the “”the radicals are aided by a fanatical devotion to their cause, discipline and (in recent revolutions) a study of technique of revolutionary action, obedience to their leadership, ability to ignore contradictions between their rhetoric and action, and drive boldly ahead. (p. 155-60)”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Anatomy_of_Revolution#Radicals_and_.22Reigns_of_Terror_and_Virtue.22 The moderates in the Revolution are hampered by to diffuse a focus, and committment, and a tendency to see no enemies to the left no matter how much they are disparaged by those of purer heart.
      This phase is followed by the Thermidorian Reaction which includes a turn towards an autocratic leader, the replacement of revolutionary chaos and the emphasis on the overturning pre revolutionary ideals and institutions, with aggressive Nationalism.

      Like

  9. Chip says:

    What are your thoughts on the IPCC scaling back its estimate of temperature sensitivity to CO2 and the trend of studies doing so as well? As empirical temperatures continue to lag modelled predictions, it seems we should be getting more skeptical about current policies on a carbon tax.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blair says:

      If you search my site for the terms “lukewarmer” and/or “sensitivity” you will see my discussions on the topic. All the reduced sensitivity estimates mean is that we have more time not that the problem is going away. Since we are already looking to massively overshoot the emission estimates under the old sensitivity numbers it doesn’t give us much room for comfort.

      Like

      • Critical Thought says:

        >”All the reduced sensitivity estimates mean…”

        *sigh
        http://www.washington.edu/news/2017/04/17/models-observations-not-so-far-apart-on-planets-response-to-greenhouse-gas-emissions/

        I find it interesting, if not hypocritical, that when it comes to risk assessment you play the high card for pipeline vs rail, yet when it comes to climate sensitivity you cherry pick the low end of the probability density function. That would show a personal bias influencing your beliefs. I mean, when it comes to gambling, who in their right mind would choose anything else other than the most likely result? That’s 3C Blair, not 1.5C.

        Like

      • Blair says:

        and yet a few year ago that number was 4.5. My number is based on the theoretical effect of carbon dioxide with minimal feedback effects. From a global system perspective we know that virtually all global feedback systems ultimately dampen, rather than enhance, change. I’ve yet to see an argument that explains why this should be the one system where the net effect of change was that far in the direction of enhancement rather than dampening.

        Like

      • E. Swanson says:

        Blair, If net feedbacks “dampen” change, please explain what caused the Ice Ages over nearly all the past 3 million years (mol) when the Earth is colder by some 5 C colder on a global average . There appears to be no way to explain that transition unless the net feedback amplifies the postulated forcing due to orbital variations.

        Like

      • Chester Draws says:

        There appears to be no way to explain that transition unless the net feedback amplifies the postulated forcing due to orbital variations.

        We are utterly ignorant of why the world has had such severe cold eras. More importantly, we also don’t know how we got out of them. If they were CO2 caused then they should not have lasted long, and should not have been that severe.

        Arguing it must be CO2 because you don’t know what else it could be is not helpful. Especially since CO2 is said to be warming.

        Like

  10. jorgekafkazar says:

    The insanity of the hard line AGW devotees shows that it’s (at least for them) more akin to religion that science. Expecting logic from them is like shopping for bread at a hardware store.

    Like

  11. Since you value the work of David Roberts at Vox, I highly recommend his latest piece on why the hiring of Bret Stephens was, in fact, a dumb, dumb move.
    https://www.vox.com/2017/5/1/15482698/new-york-times-bret-stephens

    Like

    • And once you’ve read Robert’s post on Vox, I also highly recommend his subsequent tweetstorm (41 tweets!) on the same topic, which begins here:

      Like

      • Blair says:

        If you have read my posts you will see that while I agree and approve of D Roberts on energy we have disagreed a lot on the politics and I fear this is another case where he and I diverge. Nothing he writes in his tweet-storm counters my points from my blog. When anyone from that group address those specific points then I will engage but until them I think we are drawing the wrong message from that NYT piece

        Like

  12. Brenda Fall says:

    Very interesting read.

    Like

  13. Pingback: Nye’s Quadrant | Climate Etc.

  14. Pingback: Nye’s Quadrant – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  15. Not a badly written piece, but please remove all of the misplaced question marks. There’s a bunch of them.

    Like

  16. Blair says:

    You are welcome to read someone else’s blog if don’t like my approach. I am a known quantity in BC as is my history and my background. I recognize as a relatively recent arrival to our province you don’t know the people or the players from that era, because if you did you wouldn’t questioning me on this topic. I am not going to play on my connections and past work to satisfy your whims so you can believe me or not because in either case it makes no difference to my case.

    For the others reading this thread, the reason this individual’s pseudonymous approach is an issue is that under his real name on Twitter he has repeatedly tried to discredit or challenge me and his issues/concerns have been repeatedly demonstrated to be incorrect/unfounded. His behaviour/history there is directly relevant to how I respond to his behaviour here.

    Like

    • Blair says:

      A note to commentors, this is my blog and I am not willing to accept being called a liar, even when done so deviously using the classic fallacy “just asking questions” fallacy http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Just_asking_questions

      Of further note, due to phishing issues on this and other sites it has been recommended that blogger no longer treat @mailinator email addresses as being safe. As a consequence comments sent with an @mailinator will be treated as spam and erased unopened.

      Like

  17. Critical Thought says:

    >”and yet a few year ago that number was 4.5. My number is based on the theoretical effect of carbon dioxide with minimal feedback effects. From a global system perspective we know that virtually all global feedback systems ultimately dampen, rather than enhance, change. I’ve yet to see an argument that explains why this should be the one system where the net effect of change was that far in the direction of enhancement rather than dampening.”

    Where are you getting a most likely ECS of 4.5 from? The IPCC AR4 had it from 2C – 4.5C (https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/tssts-6-4-2.html) and I quote, “with a most likely value of about 3°C”. The IPCC AR5 report increased the range, but maintained a most likely value of 3C. My argument remains; based on the probability density function the most likely value is 3C and has been for numerous reports. You don’t cherry pick the values that positively skew the tail (and there is evidence that suggests ECS increases over long periods), and you don’t select the most likely value… you consistently select 1.5C (or less). You may be able to justify your choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s a reasonable justification. If anyone was to look at your reasoning, provided a hypothetical risk assessment, I can almost guarantee you it would be given a failing grade by the vast majority. It’s bewildering to say the least.

    From a global system perspective we can’t actually make the claim you’re making without the required knowledge of the system in question. Luckily, however, we have enough information in our present day to understand that we are strongly perturbing the global climate system, and it will not find a new equilibrium over such short term geological time scales (ie. those of which we are currently concerned with when it comes to climate change). Heck, you start sucking CO2 out the atmosphere today, and the oceans will continue to expand for a century or more. I’d like to know where your claim that virtually all feedback systems ultimately dampen, rather than enhance, change comes from – perhaps it’s your improper use of scale that is throwing me off. Perhaps it’s your misleading use of the term dampen, too. Climate fluctuates (ever look at the paleoclimate concerning the Pleistocene?), it constantly adjusts in order to reach the new equilibrium, only to change yet again because of this feedback or that. Heinrich and Dansgaard–Oeschger Events… are those what you are calling dampening? Are abrupt warming episodes what you are calling dampening? I’m lost on your use of the term here, perhaps you could clarify what you mean?

    Like

  18. What we invest in foresight will prevent much regret in hindsight. Any construct without proper foresight will fail. I have learned over the past 69 years that if a concept is poorly constructed that concept will naturally self-destruct. Very quickly AGW became a division of politics pushed very hard by Liberals and their media as being gospel and denied by Conservatives. This is a poor construct. As an engineer the promotion of wind and solar as a “free” source of power that only exists because of taxpayer subsidies is a very poor construct being promoted by investment firms. Intermittent sources is a poor construct to drive a nation’s life-providing energy requirements. Its like this entire AGW construct is operating from the inside out. We are confronted with temperature observations today, being compared to 1880 temperature observations and performing a direct comparison like that data is apples to apples. This is an obvious falsehood. Like this author, I see things being done for all the wrong reasons and with repelling purpose. None of this is making any sense. So I say, following the money, the politics and the rhetoric as hype for both and the movement by world government attempts in changing the economics of the planet. None of this is about climate.

    Like

  19. Blair says:

    A note to commentors, this is my blog and I am not willing to accept being called a liar, even when done so deviously using the classic “just asking questions” fallacy http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Just_asking_questions

    Of further note, due to phishing issues on this and other sites it has been recommended that bloggers no longer treat @mailinator email addresses as being safe. As a consequence comments sent with an @mailinator email address will be treated as spam and erased unopened.

    Like

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