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Climate Hustle

2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #20

Posted on 18 May 2019 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week, i.e., Sun, May 12 through Sat, May 18, 2019

Editor's Pick 

12 excuses for climate inaction and how to refute them

Using moral clarity to counter defeatism around the climate crisis.

Globe Candle

Shutterstock

There’s a reason why the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has successfully goaded powerful politicians into long-overdue climate action in just six months.

Thunberg, who is on the autism spectrum, has become a moral authority. Again and again, she’s clearly articulated how adults have shamefully abdicated their basic duties to protect today’s children and future generations from compounding climate catastrophe. “This ongoing irresponsible behavior will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind,” she told the British Parliament.

“You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children,” she declared at the United Nations.

Her ability to sway politicians and the public, in speeches and through the school strike movement, is now evident: European leaders have called for aggressive new carbon emissions reductions, citing her movement.

Fortunately, Thunberg is just one of many great minds helping us summon moral clarity to address the tricky problem of framing the climate crisis. That includes the writers David Wallace-Wells, George Monbiot, and Anand Giridharadas; the historian Jill Lepore; and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), among many others.

As we dump more carbon into the atmosphere and the planet cooks, their arguments about what we’re up against — and why we must act now — are essential to cutting through the ties that keep us quiescent.

These thinkers have inspired us to overcome our own psychological roadblocks in facing the climate crisis. The words of writer James Baldwin are helpful here too: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

 Drawing from these and other wells of wisdom, we’ve put together 12 short answers to some of the most stymying questions to help you work through climate despair, cynicism, defeatism, and paralysis. We can’t delay any more; it’s past time for productive panic.

12 excuses for climate inaction and how to refute them by Eliza Barclay & Jag Bhalla, Energy & Environment, Vox, May 17, 2019 


Links posted on Facebook

Sun May 12, 2019

Mon May 13, 2019

Tue May 14, 2019

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Comments

Comments 1 to 10:

  1. I think Greta Thunberg has had impact because 1) she is telling the truth here and with clarity and 2) nobody is prepared to be too critical of a child, especially such a capable child. If it was an adult they would be flooded with excuses and strawman arguments and personally attacked.

    The 12 points seem really good on the whole except talking about human extinction seems like over playing the hand to me. Its easily refuted because even in horrendous conditions pockets of humans would almost certainly survive.

    The collapse of civilisation is a better position with robust evidence. Almost every climate impact puts considerable pressure on our socio economic systems and infrastructure and our system has fragility due to its complexity. We are already seeing problems for example in low lying pacific islands, with forest fires, and refugees from Syria that had a huge drought that has been linked to climate change.

    When societies have dire problems, money is always found. WW2 is the obvious example. The climate issue is challenging because the threats seem distant and we aren't hardwired to deal with those very well, and many business leaders want business as usual to contine so they can profit and put on status displays of wealth in a way they are used to. Don't reward such people when you vote and don't think you have to emulate them, there are many ways of living.

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  2. And if none of your arguments stike a chord with your favorite climate change denier, tell him or her to "forget Climate Change"  https://mtkass.blogspot.com/2010/10/forget-climate-change.html

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  3. nig - please stop talking unless you have real info. No more "I think..." or "I believe..." because none of that matters a lick.

    There is absolutely a strong possibility of total extenction, not only of humans (as if thats all that matters) but of all life, and there an increasing number of studies that support that conclusion. And yes that is rather important and worth repeating loud and clear from the highest point.

    None of this is a belief system or something you get to choose to think about or not...it is real and it is now.

    We should insist that this be the #1 issue that human society discusses and yes TOTAL EXTENCTION  needs to be a part of that discussion.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Can you please cite the studies that support your conclusion? At the moment, you are making assertions without supporting evidence. (ie sloganeering).

  4. The “12 excuses for climate inaction and how to refute them” is a great presentation of what is going wrong within human socioeconomic-political development.

    Pursuing improvement of awareness and understanding to develop sustainable new activities and correction of unsustainable and harmful activity is essential for the future of humanity and its advancement.
    The 12 Excuses and their responses are Good examples of what is going wrong. And they are not 12 substantially different problems. The 12 Excuses have a lot in common. They fit within a common understanding that human actions must be Governed by the requirement to Do No Harm (and the related aspiration of being Helpful to Others). The future generations of humanity are undeniably the largest pool of Other people. Therefore they deserve the greatest amount of consideration when evaluating the Help and Harm, the merit or acceptability, of actions in any current moment.

    Observations of what has developed in the current-moments (reality) of the World we all, as individual agents of action, share and act in response to in our series of moments (every person is an agent and the collective of the actions of all agents produces the future results), makes it pretty clear that in order for Humanity to have a better future, human actions need to be Governed as much as possible by the Encouragement of Helpfulness and the Discouragement of Harmfulness (related to the moral/ethical concept that many people, including myself, do not commonly encounter - Beneficence - which is well described in the following Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry “The Principle of Beneficence in Applied Ethics”).

    That understanding has a lot in common with other understandings of moral requirements. Where it differs is that it makes one moral principle, the principle of Beneficence (which I present as Help and Harm), the governing consideration for any other principle that is 'thought to be moral'. Other Moral considerations presented by Jonathan Haidt (and others) include thoughts of Fairness, Loyalty, Subservience in Hierarchy, Liberty, or Perceptions of Tribal Sanctity/Purity. But it can be understood that in order to be 'Good for the Future of Humanity' those Other Principles need to be Governed by the Help/Harm principle. And the term Governing needs to understood to be Over-Ruling and Limiting.

    That Governing Help/Harm Principle can even be understood to be required to govern the making and enforcement of rules (including rules in Sports). The Rule of Law can be understood to only be Good if it is Governed, based on improving awareness and understanding, to be Helpful to the future of a diversity of Humanity sustainably fitting into a robust diversity of life on this, or any other, amazing planet. And developed Law that contradicts that objective needs to be corrected.

    Helpful actions need to be encouraged, desired and rewarded. Unsustainable actions need to be discouraged (limited). And Harmful actions need to be quickly identified and rapidly shut down before they can become powerful, especially before they become popular or profitable (Over-ruled and penalized as required).

    The Sustainable Development Goals are a very good presentation of the understanding of Helpful required developments and the requirements for correction of Harmful unsustainable things that have already regrettably developed.

    That understanding needs to be at the core of understanding of anyone who wants to be Helpful or Good. Powerful interests that develop due to a lack of awareness and understanding of how harmful their desires and pursuits were/are could choose, and are likely to choose, to powerfully resist correction rather than improve their awareness and understanding and increase their helpfulness and reduce their harmfulness.

    The pressures to excuse doing harm to future generations, and the related lack of interest in helping the future generations, are well described by Stephen M. Gardiner in "A Perfect Moral Storm-The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change" published in 2011 (it is referred to in this SkS post “Changing Climates, Changing Minds: The Great Stink of London”). His earlier 2006 paper is referred to in this SkS post “The Ridley Riddle Part One: The Red Queen”.

    Gardiner's 2016 article in the Washington Post "Why climate change is an ethical problem", is a partial presentation of his ethical argument about the moral corruption that can be observed to be occurring in matters related to climate change.

    That perfect moral storm can be understood to be part of the reason for people wanting to believe each of the 12 misleading claims addressed in the Vox article, and many other claimed excused for harmful unsustainable behaviour. That moral storm has developed powers that fight against correction of the Biodiversity threat, Climate Change threat, and many other threats to the future of humanity.

    The powerful ability of harmful Status Seekers to abuse misleading marketing makes things worse (except for the Status Seekers who benefit). Particularly harmful are those misleading political marketers who understand how to directly appeal to moral principles in ways that by-pass the need for Helpfulness to Govern (and who abuse the Rules of Law).

    Similarly extremely harmful are the people who tempt people to believe that the benefit of 'some people today' can be claimed to excuse (justify) causing harm to others (including the largest group of others, the future generations, an unacceptable harm that even benefits for all of current day humans cannot justify/excuse).

    Discounting likely, or even potential, future harm then comparing it to perceptions of lost current day opportunity to justify continuing the harmful actions is morally reprehensible, if Do No Harm (aspire to be helpful to future generations) is the governing (over-ruling, limiting) moral principle.

    What is the One Easy Thing Everyone can do? Start pursuing improvement of awareness and understanding to develop sustainable new activities and correction of unsustainable and harmful activity. That starts with accepting the need to achieve and improve on the Sustainable Development Goals. All of them, not just a Favourite one to the detriment of achieving the other ones. And don't Hope for some new development to solve the problem. Be particularly skeptical of new artificial (technological) developments that are claimed to be 'solutions', especially the ones that are potentially popular and profitable. Pursuits of Status based on popularity and profit created the problem and the resistance to correction.

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  5. jef @3

    There is nothing wrong with saying what we think, because its perfectly normal conversation, and of course it matters, and ironically you do it yourself. When you say "We should insist that this be the #1 issue that human society discusses and yes TOTAL EXTENCTION needs to be a part of that discussion." You are really saying "I think we should insist...".

    What studies show climate change could cause human extinction? Are they peer reviewed or just articles on websites? Moderation policy requires we back up our assertions with specific references and / or details, which I mostly do. You never do.

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  6. Regarding the idea climate change could cause human extinction.

    Of course climate change is very likely to be disastrous for humanity, rendering some regions uninhabitable and increased human mortality and extinction of many animal species. Much science attests to this. But would it cause human extinction? I found this material through a google search (when you want something done do it yourself)

    1) Arctic News has an informal study that argues rapid methane releases from arctic permafrost and the sea floor could cause 10 degrees above normal within about 10 years! And thus human extinction.

    However as far as I know(if Dan permits me to have an opinion) this is pure speculation and the vast weight of published science says this is impossible. Realclimate.org has reviewed this issue recentlyit should be easy to find the article.

    The last IPCC report has a worst case scenario of 10 degrees above normal by 2300, which is more solidly evidence based and very worrying. But even if warming was 10 degrees this would be a extinction level event for equitorial regions, but its hard for me to see how this would apply to a place like Russia. (However they will have plenty of problems due to climate change). So telling the public we face extinction might be hard to substantiate and could make us look stupid.

    2) This published study argues extinction of animal and plant species from climate change could cause a domino effect causing human extinction, but it assumes a runaway global warming effect which is not upheld by the IPCC and mainstream science.

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  7. The issue it seems to me is that while climate change itself is very unlikely to cause human extinction, it is just the symptom of a much bigger problem.

    Ecosystem collapse caused by humans reacting to climate change could indeed cause humans to force human extinction. That's the one thing we humans do very very well. Better than any species. We can kill like none other. And while almost nothing short of a comet or similar can cause us to go extinct. We humans can do that in a number of ways, including the path we are on now that causes AGW.

    That's because all our efforts to make national parks and wilderness areas goes out the window when the hot areas of the planet no longer are capable of producing food. Starving humans struggling to survive will absolutely cut down the last tree or plow up the last prairie to feed themselves. The great untouched forests and permafrost areas of the north become warm enough for agriculture and sure enough we will be plowing and spraying biocides shortly after..... then the last few remaining biomes on the planet collapse and we humans are screwed when the whole biosphere collapses. Maybe a remnant few might survive on some well watered island somewhere. But certainly civilization as we know it would be impossible under those circumstances.

    That could happen. Some people believe that it is even the most likely result of a business as usual scenario.

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  8. nigelj,

    It is probably better to state that:

    Failure to rapidly correct the harmful unsustainable developed popular and profitable activities that are producing increased climate change impacts is a significant contribution to the future failure of Humanity to thrive, with homo sapiens carnage (including the people-on-people carnage RedBaron mentions), growing instead of improving Humanity. And many other harmful unsustainable developed popular and profitable activities also contribute to the future failure of Humanity to thrive, and the potential Extinction of Humanity.

    Humanity is a term that correlates with Beneficence. It a name for the pro-Altruistic ways of homo sapiens.

    And the lack of action to limit and reverse the climate changing impacts of developed activity of homo sapiens and powerfully resists correction is Anti-Humanity and, like all the other contributing impacts, is causing that future increased threat of failure of Humanity to thrive and survive.

    People who fail to improve their awareness and understanding and fail to help correct climate change impacting, over-consumptive, wasteful ways of living are as guilty of impeding the improvement of Humanity (and its potential extermination), as people who act in ways that impede the achievement and improvement of any of the other Sustainable Development Goals.

    And those ways of impeding improvement include attempting to mislead others about what is really going on and the required corrections. They also include defending harmful actions with the excuse that, although people have developed a liking for what undeniably is unacceptable and needs to be corrected, it is supposedly rude or inconsiderate to tell people they are wrong because everyone has the right to the freedom of their own opinion and choice of actions don't they? - Undeniably, No They Don't. Undeniably, very harmful results develop if people are not Governed by the Help/Harm principle objective.

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  9. Red Baron @7, I think you are looking at it the right way. Wars over declining resources is another thing that will make it worse.

    Extinction has a precise definition: every human dead. The term should not be thrown about lightly. I still think some people would survive, but serious population decine looks plausible. This is all more in the category of the collapse of civilisation I mentioned.

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  10. @nigelij,

    You could be right. All I was saying is that once we lose advanced civilization, we become at the mercy of nature in ways we haven't been for many thousands of years. This could reasonbly cause the remaining human population to start an ecosystem cascade that we would be unable to reverse, nor able to be immune from it's effects.

    Thus we could potentially be susceptible to the same extinction level events as any other species at that point. It may not be likely, but it is certainly a risk that needs included in any worst case scenario. We would not be virtually immune from this as we are now. 

    And it wouldn't be a direct result of AGW but rather a more traditional sort of world war mathusian collapse scenario.....but happening in a planet's biosphere already weakened by AGW and our impacts on biomes covering the entire surface. There could potentially be no "safe haven" to retreat to and recover if the entire biosphere collapses.

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