For the last four years, I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to do my bit to undermine the pseudoskeptical claptrap that passes for criticism of the idea that humans are responsible for global warming. And I’m getting tired. It doesn’t seem to matter how many bloggers and journalists who understand the science of climate change point out the facts as climate science understands them, pernicious long-debunked ideas (it’s all the sun’s fault, the hockey stick is a fraud, water vapor is a forcing, etc.) refuse to die. Is there any point?
For example, over the holidays, Jeremy Jacquot at deSmogBlog felt compelled to write a few thousand words dismantling the nonsense issued by one of the more annoyingly popular pseudoskeptics, Joanne Nova. I applaud Jeremy’s patience, and I hope I can find the time and energy to continue doing the same in 2009, but I am beginning to wonder if perhaps all this banging of heads against walls is a waste of effort.
The comments section of this blog, among others, has been overrun by those with nothing intelligent to say, no studies to cite, no science to explore, just moronic epithets. Every now and then I receive a kind word from someone who appreciates my efforts to draw attention to relevant and interesting peer-reviewed literature, but for the most part it seems like there is nothing any of us can say that can actually change any minds. So I ask, so why even try?
First, America finally has a president who respects science, and the findings of climatology in particular. He is on record supporting a reduction in greenhouse gases of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. He has surrounded himself with the strongest panel of science advisers and administrations this country has ever seen. And he’s already started talking about using the opportunity of the economic crisis to introduce some of the clean-energy solutions we do desperately need.
So should we even care if people like Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh and their legions of blog-commenting minions still don’t get it?
I fear that the answer is we still have to care. Although the national love affair with the president-elect shows no sign of abating, that doesn’t mean Obama can push through a climate change bill that actually accomplishes much. Remember that Clinton and Gore didn’t bother offering the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate, as it was quite clear that it would have attracted no more than single-digit support there. Even if the Democrats did have 60 filibuster-proof votes in the next Senate, which they don’t, the chances that every single Democrat would be on board for legislation that introduced a carbon tax (or even a gas tax hike) of sufficient heft to make a difference are pretty slim. The situation among congressmen isn’t much different.
This means that pressure is still required from the grassroots, and that means that those of us who believe the scientists know what they’re talking about can’t let up. Not a for a minute.
But there is also the argument that all this effort to counter the pseudoskeptical nonsense could be better spent somewhere else. We could be assembling little flash videos testifying to the non-existence of clean coal and distributing them across the net. Or we could be writing letters to members of congress. Or we could be out in the community, engaging people one on one, in person, on the relative merits of carbon taxes or cap and trade systems.
Instead we’re still devoting enormous amounts of time to countering the ignorant and mendacious arguments against anthropogenic climate change.