Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Some of Rolling Stone's "10 Dumbest Things Ever Said About Global Warming" are not so dumb

There's no shortage of dumb things said about global warming. Compiling a list of the ten dumbest requires wading though thousands and thousands of inane extrapolations about climate change impacts, butchered explanations of the physics of the climate system, and downright wacky U.S. congressional testimonies that seem to come from an alternative universe.  There was an entire "global warming movie", the Day after Tomorrow, featuring storms that defied the laws of thermodynamics.

Given the full panoply of options out there, it is disappointing to see Rolling Stone's new top-ten list feature the following two entries:

4. Climate change is impossible because "God's still up there." 

8. Safeguarding the climate is "a worldview that elevates the Earth above man." 

These may seem dumb to people who read Rolling Stone, but not to many other people on the planet.

The entries are based on quotes from religious conservative American politicians, all of which essentially argue the climate is outside the human domain. As I've documented multiple times, the view that the climate is beyond human control is not radical. If you take a historical perspective, the opposite is true. The fact that we can change the climate is a relatively new concept, one that counters thousands of years of human culture and belief.

These two of the "dumbest" things are also not unique products of the politicized Western climate change debate. Here's an example from #4:

A close runner-up in this category: In 2009, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois) cited God's post-flood promise to Noah as evidence we shouldn't be worried. "The Earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over," he declared.

Rep. Shimkus' argument about the flood is not an invented Republican talking point. The same argument about the covenant between the Biblical God and Noah (that the seas will not rise again) is made by many elders in Tuvalu and Kiribati, when told that human activity is making the sea rise.

Certainly, we need to fight wholly incorrect statements about climate change. It is important that people appreciate the fake, uncritical and often organized skepticism about climate change out in the ether. And, sure, it is possible that the statements by Rep. Shimkus and the others fall into that category; maybe the statements were carefully designed to tap into the audience's beliefs.

Regardless, many people in many countries honestly agree with those statements. You don't engage new audiences by mocking their core beliefs.


Tony Sidaway said...

Core beliefs or not, these are spectacularly stupid. Should we avoid saying so because some people persist in stupid beliefs?

Simon Donner said...

The point is that the arguments are NOT stupid, they are actually built on thousands of years of history. This is what people believed for a LONG time. So rather than tell people their beliefs are stupid, it is more productive, more sensible and more civil to talk about how their beliefs do not contradict with scientific findings about the climate. If you check the links in my post, you'll see that the churches in the Pacific Islands have done a nice job addressing the apparent conflict between the Biblical covenant that the sea will not rise again with scientific evidence for sea-level rise.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever tried arguing with sceptics? The only thing left is to mock. If someone thinks 'god' will protect them, there's not much chance of convincing with logic after all.

Simon Donner said...

In that case, mocking certainly won't do anything, other than tick people off.

Anonymous said...

"The point is that the arguments are NOT stupid, they are actually built on thousands of years of history."

Whether or not the arguments are built on thousands of years of history is wholly irrelevant to whether or not the arguments are stupid or not. The arguments may be both.

Anonymous said...

Well said. Beliefs are well, beliefs. They aren't stupid, they are just different. To get everyone on the same page, we have to be able to adapt and use those beliefs to our advantage.

Perhaps showing those who value a Biblical God that by protecting the Earth, we are in fact protecting and valuing that creation, we might get a bit further with climate change acceptance and mitigation.

Tolerating others beliefs is one thing, but really appreciating and respecting the differences is how we get some change to happen.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps showing those who value a Biblical God that by protecting the Earth, we are in fact protecting and valuing that creation,.."

Yea, that sounds like a great way to trick all them stupid ol' Bible thumpers. Go for it!


jrkrideau said...

A problem I see with Rep Shimkus and others quoting the bible here is that they don't seem to be reading carefully.

Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Genesis 9:8

I don't see where God has guaranteed no flooding, just no flooding that will destroy the earth. Not even the most alarmist of climate alarmists are predicting a flood like that described in the bible where all the earth is covered in water.

We may have to hightail it for high ground but nobody's going to be sailing over Mt. Everest.

I'd suggest everyone read the fine print.