The global-warming discussion: what are the lessons?


Richard Moore


I've found this whole discussion to be very educational. Thanks to 
all of you who sent in material for our consideration, and who shared 
your concerns about the issues. From our discussion, and from that 
material, I've noticed that people tend to fall into one of three 
camps as regards global warming.

First there is the 'consensus camp', those who believe that global 
warming is the single greatest problem faced by humanity, that 
reducing carbon emissions is the solution, and that it can be 
achieved without changing the system as a whole. Members of this camp 
tend to be angered by anyone who questions this position, and 
outraged at contrary pieces in the media.

Second there is the 'skeptics camp', which includes a number of 
sub-factions. There are those who are in denial, being attached to 
their SUV lifestyles. There are those who are skeptical of all the 
hype, and who notice a herding effect in the published science. And 
there are those on the right who see global-warming hysteria as being 
yet another liberal conspiracy. Members of this camp see themselves 
as 'campaigners for truth', and victims of media hegemony.

Finally there is the 'big picture' camp, those who see global warming 
itself as a secondary issue, and who are paying attention to the 
political context, the propaganda messages, and the camp-formation 
process. Members of this camp see themselves as lonely voices in the 
wilderness, with no established camp to seek comfort in.

Throughout this discussion, I've been intrigued by the anger element 
of the consensus camp. Despite being in the majority, being well 
represented in the mainstream media, and finding support from 
government leaders, there is still this intolerance for dissenting 
views. Why not simply a smug chuckle at 'the uninformed minority'? 
Why anger? And why do people who profess to believe in reason and 
science want to squash dissent? These are sure signs of 
defensiveness, which is itself a sure sign of some kind of denial. 
But denial of what?

To begin with, I see a denial of elitism. Those who are angered by 
dissenting material are not themselves swayed by the material, but 
fear the 'uninformed masses' will be swayed. This camp wants to make 
its consensus universal by suppressing differing views. But being in 
denial of its elitism, it wants to see its complaints as informed 
critique, rather than as suppression. In fact their style of critique 
is typically characterized by ad hominem attacks, and the anger 
reveals that the real message to the questioners is, "Shut up, the 
masses are listening!" --"Don't argue in front of the children!".

But why is the consensus camp so worried about what the masses might 
think? Why must the consensus view be unquestioned? What I see here 
is more denial -- a denial of powerlessness. This camp wants to 
believe that public opinion matters, that elites respond to it in 
productive ways, that 'the system works', and that progress is real. 
If there is a split in public opinion, that sends a mixed message to 
elites, so a split must be avoided. It is of course psychically 
stressful to maintain this denial of powerlessness, particularly in 
this era of emerging naked fascism and unending warfare. This stress 
compounds the anger.

There are not many of us in the big-picture camp, but among those who 
share its insights are the strategic thinkers of the elite community, 
and the managers of public opinion. With their focus groups and their 
Madison Avenue techniques, they are well aware of the various camps, 
their psychological subtleties, and their attitudes toward one 
another. This is the managers stock-in-trade, their means of control. 
Let us examine how they are creating a context that enables them to 
pursue their own agendas. This too is something I've been learning 
from the material we've looked at, accompanied by our discussions.

The context they are creating is a new one, whose launch was marked 
by the release of Gore's documentary. Up until that point, the 
context was 'denial from above', enabling business as usual, and 
costing only a bit more disdain toward lightning-rod Bush. With 
Gore's PR campaign for carbon consciousness, the consensus camp is 
presented with an offer they can't refuse. Not only are they given 
hope that 'something will be done' about global warming, but they are 
reassured in their fantasy of elite responsiveness. This is a broad 
offer that the camp wants to hold onto, and they fear anything that 
threatens it. But knowing deep down that the offer must be tainted, 
they exhibit defensiveness.

Gore's offer of hope and reassurance to the consensus camp is only 
part of the new context. Another part is the presentation of the 
opposite message to the skeptical camp, particularly to those on the 
right. There was for example the Channel 4 documentary (The Great 
Global Warming Swindle), that started off this whole discussion, and 
which appealed to a large audience.  Here are two more such media 
items that I posted to newslog:

     15 Apr  -  Richard S. Lindzen: "Global Warming Fears Overblown" (Newsweek)

     16 Apr  -  Global warming: what the right is listening to (about 
a denial film)

The second one above is particularly interesting. The fellow taking 
his film to conservative audiences, he's identifying 'liberals' as 
'the enemy', and he's equating them with the anti-carbon movement. It 
appears that 'they' are setting up a framework where being 
'conservatively correct' will include being a global-warming skeptic, 
along with being a creationist, anti-gay, anti-liberal, 
anti-abortion, etc.

They run a very disciplined ship over there in the right-wing world, 
the world of true believers. They have a very efficient top-down 
propaganda system, with end-user distribution via pulpits, radio, and 
Internet. They create a world view that interprets events in certain 
ways -- a vaccination against the truth. We watch a documentary and 
feel we've learned something about climate change. Those on the right 
watch the same documentary and see a liberal conspiracy, particularly 
because the narrator always sounds like a liberal. Thus the same 
propaganda  / message can fulfill different missions with different 
audiences at the same time. It's a subtle game. If you don't believe 
this is the level they play at, you're either naive or in denial.

It is important that the skeptic camp be nurtured even as the 
official agenda claims to be moving in the consensus direction. This 
keeps those in the consensus camp fearful, and willing to accept 
whatever 'gains' they can get. They will spend their energy being 
angry at the skeptics rather than on pushing the government to do 
something real. Divide and rule. It's down to a science. In this way 
our rulers will be able to do whatever they want, do it under the 
banner of fighting global warming, and achieve the acquiescence of 
the consensus camp, the majority camp.

In the mail today I received a brochure from the Irish government, 
called "National Climate Change Strategy". The goal is not to move 
away from carbon dependence, but to limit carbon emission to a 
certain amount, a high amount, an amount that will keep the world 
heating up. And of course they're pushing bio-fuels, that produces 
just as much co2, and that take land out of food production, leading 
directly to famines 'down there', 'out of sight' in the third world...

     11 Apr  -  Murray Dobbin: Ethanol Will Not Be Our Clean, Green Savior!

And they're definitely gearing up for a resurgence of nuclear power. 
They're starting by ensuring a supply of uranium:

     16 Apr  -  Australia and uranium: the 'three mines' debate

Now consider this article:

     16 Apr  -  Global Warming Hysteria to Further North American Union?

This talks about a tax of $1/gallon that is being proposed as a 
'penance tax' that will go to help create a union of Canada, the US, 
and Mexico. This is something we should take seriously and get angry 
about. But I fear the divide-and-rule strategy will succeed in 
causing most of the consensus camp to reject such an article, as it 
challenges the validity of the 'offer we can't refuse'. It spoils the 
flavor of the 'we're getting somewhere' bandwagon. It undermines the 
denial of powerlessness.

Just as the skeptic camp is being programmed to see climate-change 
information as a 'liberal conspiracy', so the consensus camp is being 
programmed to see any challenge to the offered 'solutions' as being 
either an 'industry conspiracy', or a 'right wing conspiracy theory'.

c'est la vie,


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