An upside to all of this lack of attention

John Nielsen-Gammon thinks that perhaps it is better that climate change isn’t being given much attention in the 2012 election

Maybe it’s a good thing that the major political parties are not engaged in a pitched battle over climate change.  Maybe this presents us with an opportunity to remove the political baggage from the scientific evidence.  We can start thinking rationally about the problems we face and start considering those tough questions that really matter.   Then maybe, in two or four years’ time, we can leave behind the partisan extremist positions and start building the groundwork for common agreement rather than mutual distrust.

10 thoughts on “An upside to all of this lack of attention

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  1. Yeah, that worked so well for gun control. The gun lobby didn’t win, we’re just waiting for the right time to dialogue with them, right?

    1. Well, I’ve had the same thought as John.

      Perhaps the fact that Al Gore is associated with this issue and was also a candidate for US president was a very unfortunate turn of events. There definitely are liberal vs conservative philosophical approaches to the problem. It would be nice if somebody in the US could actually step up and make a case for the latter without being disowned by the Republicans. At present they have backed themselves into this ridiculous corner, somewhat by accidents of geography. It could be a good idea to leave them enough slack to wander away.

      This isn’t as dyed in the wool as gun control. More to the point, at this point the corporate sector is increasingly interested in moving toward regulations if only in the interest of having a more predictable economic environment. Left to their own devices they will eventually wake the Republicans up.

      I think it can be argued that by not raising the issue the Democrats are showing admirable tactical restraint in pursuit of larger strategic goals. But I suppose that’s absurd – when did any political party last look beyond the next election? But maybe by not pushing the Republicans on this we can allow the fever to abate. That means that for once we are getting a lucky break in American politics.

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m an unabashed liberal and prefer internationalist and somewhat socialist SOLUTIONS. (Dan and John N-G for that matter do not.) But as long as there will be a vigorous right wing in America (which looks to be a long time) I hate to see the PROBLEM defined as a left-wing problem. That’s a disaster.

  2. My reaction is of a similar level of incredulity as Steve’s. John speaks of “an opportunity to remove the political baggage” as if that baggage had no specific origin. But of course the politicization of climate science was (and is) a deliberate one-sided effort driven by people who have become vastly wealthy extracting fossil fuels and who (rightly) fear a worse fate than the tobacco companies. That effort will continue unabated whether AGW mitigation is an election issue or not, because the goal of politicizing the science is to make an unscientific position part of the cultural identity of a significant fraction of the population. Yes, that fraction mostly belongs to one party, but just like the racist fraction, it doesn’t go away when it’s not making headlines. It’s quietly nurtured and “dog-whistled”, and is probably the stronger for not being continually exposed and mocked.

    One phrase in particular that John used – “partisan extremist positions” – is either a very poor choice or a deliberately misleading one. There may be more than one specific extremist position, but there’s only one extremist side. All the extremism is on the side of claiming there is no AGW or that there’s no harm in AGW. Sure, there are a few individuals who have exaggerated beliefs about AGW leading to a Mad Max scenario quickly, but John said “partisan” so let me ask for a single example of a Democrat running for any significant office who has said anything as extreme as James Inhofe has.

    I think a more realistic view of the silence was presented … damn, I can’t find the link, although I almost certainly read it via Planet3 blogs … anyway, the argument was that the deniers gained momentum during a period post 2007 when the scientific argument wasn’t being loudly trumpeted.

    1. I don’t disagree with your analysis in any way.

      But I see some benefits to the Democrats not running on the issue, whether it is a political winner or not. Yes, we are stuck with this as a new dog whistle. It won;t go away altogether for a long time. The question remains as to how many dogs are so trained.

      Remember that climate disruption hits rural communities first. Inhofe-ism is unsupportable by itself; it needs an identifiably liberal enemy to thrive. Let’s not give them that satisfaction.

    2. It’s not the dogs so much as the many related whistles. IMO you’ve got a forest for trees perception problem here, Michael. It is admittedly a very unpleasant thought that our society can be manipulated in this way. And also, how many variations on the “we’ll just fix things by changing our mesaage” theme have we discussed here and elsewhere over the years? The problem is not with us.

    3. There may be more than one specific extremist position, but there’s only one extremist side.

      This aspect of John’s article was the weakest; both ‘sides’ are clearly not equal. That being said I do think there is some value in toning down the blame game in order to give politicians room to change their positions.

      Giving denial a graceful exit seems like a good idea to me

    4. Well, notice how quickly Romney was able to shift his position. He and those like him will have no problem shifting back as soon as they perceive the political wind direction to be changing. If someone asks, all they need to say is “new evidence,” of which there is (sadly) a ceaseless stream.

    5. Helpful for perspective, Dan. It should be hard to miss the arc of history from the Powell memo to the present seamless garment of the Republican party (re-aligned to a southern base via Nixon’s “southern strategy”), the dedicated wingnut media, the wingnut “think” tank network and related fake grassroots operations like the tea party, all funded by and aligned to the interests of the wingnut billionaire network (notice that these people even have an annual meeting?) anchored by fossil fuel interests. Intentionally giving them room for maneuver seems like a failure to grasp the big picture, especially as we have no time to spare given the climate trends.

    6. We have less than no time to spare. We have already bought ourselves some serious consequences. The question is how soon we can turn it around.

      We will not have an international agreement with teeth for a decade at the least, probably two, and this is to a very large extent because Republicans in the US have the power to prevent it. That they are acting against the interests of their constituents is nothing especially new. What we have to wait for and work for is for their constituencies to understand that.

      I for one think that exacerbating the red-blue divide is no way to achieve that. And painting the issue as a red-blue issue is false. If politicians on one side do that, they are doing the world a terrible disservice. If those of us more naturally aligned with the other side take the occasion to chime in, though, aren’t we making matters worse?

      It’s farmers, hunters and fishermen, amateur and professional, that take the brunt of the growing disruption, not us head-in-the-clouds (in the case of climate scientists, rather literally so!) urban or academic intellectuals. Much as I like rural white Americans I can’t fathom their political inclinations.

      But I really do like them. Those of you who find “red” culture merely contemptible are not helping matters.

      Either way, they are in the catbird seat for now. They may succeed in making themselves so many enemies that this changes someday, but that isn’t the way it is shaping up, is it? So for the foreseeable, it is the so-called “conservative” we have to convince, not to defeat. A narrow Waxman-Markey style bill simply won’t stand for more than a year or two at “best”, if you even think such a thing would be a productive step.

      We can’t effectively address the problem without a social consensus in the US. Maybe the CHinese don;t need one. The Europeans already have one. Anything China, America and Europe agree to, everybody else will sign on to. But without America there is no deal, and without Republican participation, no foreseeable American administration will have the power to sign on. And with no deal, it’s almost impossible to achieve adequate progress.

      So the upshot is we have to convince most of the people who vote for Republicans. I know. It’s hard to convince them that Wednesday follows Tuesday if a liberal said it first. Don’t blame me. I didn’t set it up like that.

  3. None of which is to say that it was particularly encouraging to watch Obama compete with Romney as to who was going to drill more oil and gas wells.

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