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Greta Thunberg is a painful reminder of decades of climate failures

Posted on 19 September 2019 by dana1981

This is a re-post from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 300 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has ignited the climate movement, most recently taking a zero-carbon ocean voyage to America to attend the September 23rd UN climate summit in New York City. She’s become so effective and inspiring that those who want to maintain the status quo—predominantly wealthy and powerful old white men—have begun to attack her. Greta has been called “the international mascot for climate alarmism … mentally unstable,” “a millenarian cult leader,” a “deeply disturbed messiah of the global warming movement,” a “teenage puppet,” a “petulant child,” and much more.

Greta articulated her views in a TEDx talk in which she accurately described the state of climate science and the fact that if we are to meet the Paris climate targets, developed countries in particular must rapidly reduce their carbon pollution. As Greta notes, the world has thus far failed to act, in part because most people don’t realize that rapid change is required.

But climate scientists have been warning about a potential climate crisis for decades, while the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers failed to act on those warnings. As a result, they frittered away the opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels with relative ease. Because of those decades of inaction, we now face a daunting task.

While some older Americans may “have no patience for teenagers who lecture adults,” Greta’s generation has every right to criticize them for endangering humanity’s future prosperity. Let’s examine the history of climate change warnings and missed opportunities.

1960s–1970s. Every American president since the 1960s has been warned about climate change. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson’s science advisory committee sent him an environmental report with a section on atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate change. These top scientists wrote: “Through his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment. Within a few generations he is burning the fossil fuels that slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years … The climatic changes that may be produced by the increased CO2content could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.”

In 1979, the world’s foremost climate scientists published a major climate report finding that if humans double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Earth’s average surface temperatures will warm 3 degrees Celsius (plus or minus 1.5 degrees Celsius)—consistent with estimates from today’s climate scientists, and an extremely dangerous level of climate change. The report included a similar warning to that in 1965, “Man is unwittingly conducting a vast experiment … marked changes in climate, not controllable through local or even national efforts, could occur.”

That year, President Carter installed 32 solar panels on the White House and called for a campaign to conservative energy during the Middle East oil embargo, but President Reagan did not share Carter’s environmental awareness and removed the solar panels in 1986.

1980s. In the early 1980s, Exxon’s climate scientists issued internal company reports warning that fossil fuel consumption could double atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by 2060, pushing global temperatures up by more than 2 degrees Celsius. In 1988, an internal Shell company report included a similar warning, but noted that we could reach doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as soon as 2030 in a scenario with high fossil fuel consumption. Shell’s scientists warned the company: “The [climate] changes may be the greatest in recorded history … the energy industry will clearly need to work out the part it should play in the development of policies and programmes to tackle the whole [climate] problem.” As we now know, the industry decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in a public disinformation campaign to undermine support for climate policies.

Several top climate scientists delivered a clear, public warning about a potential climate crisis in congressional testimony in June 1988. NASA climate scientist James Hansen testified that human-caused global warming was already detectable. NOAA scientist Syukuro Manabe discussed some climate impacts like earlier snowmelt and worsening droughts, while George Woodwell of the Woods Hole Research Center said that planning must begin for a sharp reduction in the burning of fossil fuels and for reforestation efforts.

The congressional hearing and scientific testimony had an immediate impact on policymakers. In a speech delivered on the campaign trail a few months later in August 1988, soon-to-be president George H.W. Bush declared, “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect are forgetting about the White House effect.” President Bush soon had an opportunity to deliver on that promise during the first major diplomatic meeting on global warming, held in Noordwijk, Netherlands in November 1989.

But, as Nathaniel Rich documented for the New York Times, Bush had appointed climate denier John Sununu as his chief of staff. Upon hearing a description of Hansen’s congressional testimony, Sununu declared it “technical garbage.” While EPA Administrator William K. Reilly fought for the United States to take a leadership role by demanding a global treaty to reduce carbon emissions, Sununu overruled him. The White House censored testimony delivered by Hansen and other government scientists in a second congressional climate hearing in 1989. And at the November international climate negotiations in Noordwijk, Sununu’s representatives forced the conference to abandon a commitment to freeze greenhouse gas emissions.

1990s. By the time of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, Bush was sounding like Donald Trump when speaking about climate change, declaring, “I’m not going to go to the Rio conference and make a bad deal or be a party to a bad deal.”

Bill Clinton defeated Bush in the presidential election that November, and in 1993 proposed an energy tax to begin addressing climate change. But, spooked by the close call at the Noordwijk international climate negotiations, Exxon and other fossil fuel companies had begun spending millions of dollars campaigning against climate action, eroding support in Congress and dooming the bill.

In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded, “potentially serious [climate] changes have been identified, including an increase in some regions in the incidence of extreme high-temperature events, floods, and droughts … Delaying [mitigation and adaptation] measures may leave a nation or the world poorly prepared to deal with adverse changes and may increase the possibility of irreversible or very costly consequences.”

While President Clinton ultimately signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, the Senate had already voted 95-0 to pre-emptively declare its opposition to the treaty, and refused to ratify it.

2000s. In 2001, the IPCC warned, “some extreme events are projected to increase in frequency and/or severity during the 21st century due to changes in the mean and/or variability of climate, so it can be expected that the severity of their impacts will also increase in concert with global warming … The impacts of future changes in climate extremes are expected to fall disproportionately on the poor.”

President George W. Bush took office that year, and his 8-year presidency was marred by censorship of federal climate science reports, obstruction of international climate negotiations, and a refusal to implement any federal climate policies.

The 2007 IPCC report detailed many climate change risks, including of large-scale species extinctions: “Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5degrees Celsius.”

In 2009, the United States began to turn the corner on climate policy. With President Obama in the White House and with control of Congress, Democrats nearly passed a carbon cap and trade bill. The legislation passed the House, but the threat of a filibuster from all Senate Republicans and a few Democrats from fossil fuel states killed the effort.

2010s. Lacking sufficient congressional support, President Obama was forced to resort to executive action, most notably in his second term with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and his signing of the Paris climate agreement.

The IPCC’s climate warnings grew louder in its 2014 report, which concluded, “Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability … Climate-related hazards affect poor people’s lives directly through impacts on livelihoods, reductions in crop yields, or destruction of homes and indirectly through, for example, increased food prices and food insecurity.”

Unfortunately, after his election in 2016, President Trump reversed all of the climate policies enacted by the Obama administration, including announcing America’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement and gutting the Clean Power Plan. While US carbon pollution fell over the past decade thanks to a combination of the 2008 economic recession and a transition away from dirty coal power, emissions spiked in 2018. Globally, most countries’ climate policies remain insufficient to meet the Paris targets, with the United States among the worst offenders. As the independent organization Climate Action Tracker has noted, “Reaching the [nationally determined contribution] target would have required implementing additional policies under the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, which President Trump has rescinded.”

In 2018, the IPCC published a special report that concluded, “The combination of rising exposure to climate change and the fact that there is a limited capacity to adapt to its impacts amplifies the risks posed by warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius … the lower the rise in global temperature above pre-industrial levels, the lower the risks to human societies and natural ecosystems.” According to NASA data, we surpassed the 1 degree Celsius milestone around 2016.

We wasted decades; now time is running out. Crucially, the longer we wait to substantially curb carbon pollution, the more difficult and expensive it will be to avoid a climate crisis. This is elegantly illustrated in a chart sometimes referred to as the “ski slopes.” Had global emissions peaked in the 1990s, we could have met the Paris targets by slowly and gradually reducing carbon pollution in the ensuing decades—a “bunny slope” path. Had they peaked in the early 2000s, we could have met the Paris goals with more moderate emissions cuts—the “intermediate slope.” But emissions have not yet peaked as we approach the year 2020, and we’re nearing the “double black diamond” slope requiring extremely rapid pollution cuts if we’re to avoid dangerous warming beyond the Paris targets.

In short, despite decades’ worth of warnings from climate scientists, the elder generations squandered away the opportunity for a relatively easy transition away from fossil fuels toward a stable climate future. Much of the blame lies with the fossil fuel industry and its costly climate disinformation campaign, but there is plenty of blame to go around.

While misogyny is undoubtedly at play in the attacks on Greta Thunberg, simple guilt is another likely root cause. Greta is the voice of a generation who will bear the consequences of their elders’ decades’ worth of missed opportunities and failures to heed climate scientists’ warnings and begin the transition away from fossil fuels while it could still be done gradually and with relative ease. Now, because of those failures, dramatic policies to rapidly overhaul our infrastructure are needed, in the mold of a Green New Deal. Some Republican policymakers are finally calling for small steps to address the problem like encouraging “innovation,” but while such modest measures would have been welcome 20 or 30 years ago, they are wholly insufficient to meet the scope of the problem we face today.

Until our leaders implement major policy changes to mitigate the climate crisis, Greta’s generation will be wholly justified in lecturing them for selfishly frittering away the stability of our global climate. And based on the abhorrent attacks on Greta that clumsily mask a deep sense of guilt, her critics know it.

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Comments 1 to 23:

  1. Well said, particularly the very last sentence. This climate war is unfortunately far from over: Trump strips California of power to set auto emission standards.

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  2. Excellent summary of the history.

    Some minor additional points about the behaviour of the climate science deniers.

    • Micheal Crichton was 'invited to testify' to Congress in 2005. This is not fiction. Part of his made-up rant was to question the validity of any science that has a range of possible results of 400%. He was probably referring to the possible range of warming due to a doubling of CO2 from 1.5 C to 6.0 C. He never mentions those details, just claims the 400% thingy.
    • When President Bush Jr. publicly announced that the USA would withdraw from Kyoto he decalred that Americans did not need to change how they lived. Popular then. Maybe more popular now.

    Other supporting global developments of understanding worth mentioning are the 1972 Stockholm Conference and all of the improved awareness and understanding that has followed it, and continues to be improved.

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  3. I am appalled by some of our " redneck-denier" media. I was just looking at youtube stuff about the Aussie climate strike day. I wont even link to Sky News Australia, nearly all the comments from their biased reporting/interviews were so similar to Trumpists/ conservative Rep viewpoints, i thought i was reading an American webpage!. So sad to realize some/many? in Australia believe this right wing propaganda..

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  4. prove we are smart,

    The "Propaganda Model" developed by Edward S. Herman and presented in the book and movie "Manufacturing Consent", and recently reviewed and updated by Alan MacLeod in "Propaganda in the Information Age" continues to be one of the best explanations of what is going on.

    Summarized and paraphrased: The undeserving powerful people in the status quo who desire more ability to personally benefit from defending and excusing increased freedom for people to believe what they want and do as they please (that Libertarian Free-Market fantasy they benefited from to the detriment of Others), have many ways to get stories told the way they prefer them to be told (and silence any story presentation that they dislike). Note that even science reports are Stories.

    And the stories that get told often enough tend to get believed more. And the stories that connect with a passionate developed desire, including desires to resist being corrected, are powerfully believed even if the harmful incorrectness and ultimate unsustainability of the belief is glaringly obvious.

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  5. prove we are smart 

    "I am appalled by some of our " redneck-denier" media".

    So am I, however these politically motivated clowns are like puffer fish trying to make the sceptical community look bigger than they really are. For example I've just read this article polling climate opinion among local government politicians in New Zealand, and the vast majority think humans are warming the climate, and that local government should play a part in solving the problem, and our local government includes a range of politicians from left to to right.

    Of course actually getting meaningful action is the hard part, but its revealing about their views. The main scepticism about the science is in the farming communities, and we have a lot of dairy farming, so no surprise there,

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  6. Nailed it Dana! Congrats. Hope it gets spread/replicated.

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  7. prove we are smart,

    Here is further understand of how/why harmful and incorrect beliefs and actions become popular and resist being corrected.

    As a person allows their pursuit of status or benefit for themselves, or a sub-set of current day humans they identify with, to become more powerful, that desire can overpower their ability or interest in improving their awareness and understanding to pursue sustainable improvements for the benefit of all of humanity, current day and into the distant future.

    A robust presentation showing the reasons why self-interest is fundamentally unhelpful and unethical was made by Derek Parfit in his 1984 book "Reasons and Persons". You can read it to have a solid basis for that understanding, but simplistically it is common sense that self interest can get in the way of Helping Others, and can even result in popularity of excuses for acting in ways that are personally beneficial but are undeniably unnecessarily risking harm done to others or are actually harmful to others.

    And Jonathan Haidt has identified a set of innate (fundamental) human characteristics. Those characteristsics can amplify a person's tendency to allow personal or Tribal self interest to overpower their ability or interest in improving their awareness and understanding to pursue sustainable improvements. The innate human concern for Caring/Helping (not harming), can be compromised by innate concern for:

    • Fairness (from a selfish perspective - fair to me),
    • Loyalty (to the tribe a person chooses to identify)
    • Respect for Authority (in the Tribe identified with)
    • Purity (beliefs of what is Best held by the Tribe identified with).
    • Liberty (freedom to believe and do whatever is desired).

    Related understanding is that people are not fundamentally unchangeably selfish or altruistic. They can start life with a higher level of selfishness or altruism than others. But the experiences of people can change them from their starting point. And telling stories based on the belief that it is Fundamentally Best for 'everyone to be freer to believe and do whatever they want', having that be the preeminent consideration, can be understood to be an unsustainable and potentially toxic environment for humans to develop in.

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  8. OPOF @7

    Jonathan Haidt's list doesn't seem quite right right, or at least it is not very well developed or worded. Please dont take this criticism personally.

    Demanding fairness to the self is not a bad thing, and does not crowd out fairness to others because such things are not mutually exclusive. Haidt's simple definition will likely be dismissed by the target audience as absurd. There is not a quantity of fairness to be rationed. One is fair to others as much as is feasible and one has the right to demand equal fairness in return. However demanding fairness to the self can only exist if one is fair to others, because an agreed principle of good behaviour has to apply equally, or its pointless and defeats the purpose of having the principle.

    Ditto loyalty to the tribe is not always bad thing, and is intended to form a unified defence against threats. It becomes a bad thing if the threats are imagined threats, ie they are not real threats but are based on blind panic and assumptions not careful consideration, evidence and caution.

    Respect for authority within the tribe is not a bad thing, because authority starts at a local level. It is only a bad thing if it excludes the recognition of higher or wider levels of authority.

    Purity of beliefs within the tribe is not always a bad thing as beliefs start at a local level. What is bad is if this leads to minds being closed to beliefs outside the tribe, which might be better beliefs. But the tribe is not compelled to accept beliefs coming from outside the tribe, in a democracy.

    Liberty is not a bad thing and does not crowd out the well being of others unless it compromises their well being in measurable, physical, and significant ways  that are agreed to by the tribe as a whole and which people cannot reasonably escape from.

    It would have been better to simply say that virtues such as wanting to be treated fairly must also extend to others in order to make sense, and tribal loyalty must be based on reason and evidence and not fear mongering about others, and obedience to authority must have conditions attached, because or blind obedience to authority in every circumstance can lead to people suffering needlessly.

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  9. nigelj@7,

    The innate characteristics identified by Jonathan Haidt in his fairly robustly developed (based on research) Moral Foundations Theory are (as presented in Wikipedia - an accurate presentation confirmed by my having read Haidt's book more than once):

    • Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
    • Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
    • Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
    • Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion
    • Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation

    Haidt's continued research added an innate desire for Liberty (I paraphrase it as 'freedom to believe and do as one pleases').

    My point is to expose that it is important for the Care (Help Other/Do No Harm) innate characteristic of humans to govern all the other innate characteristics. That aligns with your comment. In every case the innate characteristic is OK as long as it is governed and limited by the Care principle.

    A serious fundamental problem is people developing into adults who allow the non-care innate drivers to be important enough 'to them and their thoughts and actions' that those Other Drivers of thoughts and resulting behaviour over-power the Care considerations. And a socioeconomic-political system that motivates rather than discourages that type of personal development needs to be fundamentally corrected to be sustainable.

    What I take particular issue with is Haidt, and others, naming these innate characteristics "Moral" which implies "Ethical". For an innate driver to be Moral or Ethical the result of it governing all thoughts and actions would have to be sustainable improving humanity. Only the Care driver does that. Only the Care innate characteristic is Ethical or Moral.

    As the Wikipedia presentation states in the discussion of the addition of Loyalty to the set, Libertarians almost exclusively allow themselves to be driven by ungoverned Liberty (primal selfishness - Barbarism).

    And Haidt's research has indicated that Conservatives generally have equal consideration of all drivers. They could easily allow other drivers to over-power the Care driver.

    In Haidt's research it is the more pro-social(ism) groups, commonly slightly incorrectly referred to as Liberals in the USA, that have the Care principle significantly dominate their considerations, with a reasonable helping of Fairness, and some Liberty.

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  10. Excellent historical summary, Dana. I'm a boomer, who went through the 1970s and '80s as a conservationist without being aware of anthropogenic global warming. In 1988 I happened to be newly employed in the Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, when GISS's James Hansen made his historic appearance before Congress. I remember the Earth scientists in LTP discussing Hansen's claim, and quickly (within weeks, IIRC) reaching a consensus that it was well-supported by the evidence. Again if memory serves, three basic items clinched it for me personally: the known radiative properties of CO2, the steady annual increase in atmospheric CO2 recorded by C.D. Keeling, and estimates of the rate of the anthropogenic transfer of fossil carbon to the atmosphere (e.g. Marland et al. 1985). The 1989 EPA Report to Congress was further persuasive. The costs of ensuing climate change were still mostly hypothetical at that time, however.

    In the early 1990s, with a Democratic POTUS in place after three terms of Reagan-Bush, the 'Wise Use' movement was gaining momentum in the US, with the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress an early payoff for its backers. I was thus aware but still shocked at the success of efforts to conflate concern about climate change with political environmentalism and therefore liberalism, and the subsequent public backlash against climate science. Having since learned damning details of the long-term strategy, by fossil fuel producers and investors, to build an AGW-denial industry that could forestall collective action to decarbonize the US economy as long as possible, I'm over being shocked. Now, as the public's attention is caught by ever greater weather extremes, dare I be optimistic about Greta Thunberg's global youth movement? Al Gore says in the NYTimes that I can be. With due respect to the former VPOTUS through the political debacles and missed opportunities of the '90s, I'm not sure his is the voice America needs to hear now. OTOH, the US contingent of all those protesting youths will start voting soon. More power to 'em.

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  11. OPOF @9, Haidts list as typed in your comment at 7 was a bit odd for the reasons I stated, but Haidt's list in your comment at 9 makes much more sense. I read up on moral foundations theory some time ago, and found it quite compelling.

    I suspect Libertarians brains are wired up a bit differently. They reject rules or constraints on principle, where most people have a more normal level of scepticism. I would  say that if libertarians don't like a  rules based society, they should go and live alone in the bush somewhere. We don't have to be dictated to by this crowd of ideological fanatics.

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  12. Mal Adapted, I've read and ejoyed several of Al Gores books, but I agree about him.  Republicans use him to try to discredit the science by linking it to liberals and it wont stop until he keeps quiet. He would do us all a favour if he withdrew from the climate debate completely. I hate this, but its the only way.

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  13. Nigelj,

    Do you really think the deniers should choose scientists representatives? Al Gore has educated himself and sticks to the science.  The deniers also demonize Hansen ad Mann.  They are going after Greta Thernburg.  

    We should strongly back everyone who supports science.

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  14. michael sweet @13, surely the difference is Mann and Hansen keep their politics to themselves, while Al Gore has a huge political profile, and was in a position of political power. The denialists (falsely) accuse Gore of inventing climate science and given hes a liberal by conflating these things it almost certainly discredits cimate science with the Republican base. This has to be a key reason the climate issue is so polarised in America.

    So I just think Gore needs to keep a low profile. That's not to say we shouldn't defend Gore if he does speak, out or if he  is discussed. I certainly do.

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  15. "the difference is Mann and Hansen keep their politics to themselves, while Al Gore has a huge political profile, and was in a position of political power"

    It seems like you're holding his background against him, which is an Appeal to Purity.  Deniers do this, surely. 

    The difference is that Gore has gotten more right about the science than any randomly-selected 100 deniers. Unusual, for a politician.  Yes, Gore is not a scientist.  So what?  He never claimed to be one.

    Allowing deniers to dismiss Gore is ceding the field to them by allowing them to control the narrative surrounding the science.  While not a Gore fan myself (I never voted for him, despite having the chance), I repect his temerity, backbone and his standing up for the science.  Also unusual for a politican.

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  16. Daniel Bailey @15

    “It seems like you're holding his (Gores) background against him, which is an Appeal to Purity. Deniers do this, surely. “

    Sometimes background counts. It depends on the circumstances. This website talks about how scepetics use "fake experts" for example. However having certain qualifications neither makes someone's argument right or wrong.

    But a political background is something else, because it makes Gore an especially easy target for the denialists as I stated. You have not told me why you think I'm wrong about that aspect of things. His advocacy has probably been very effective outside of America, but he has probably split opinion within America. Given this is he the right person for the Democrats to champion any more as a climate expert? Wouldn't it be better if he kept a low profile?

    “The difference is that Gore has gotten more right about the science than any randomly-selected 100 deniers. Unusual, for a politician."


    “Yes, Gore is not a scientist. So what? He never claimed to be one.”

    Your argument is a strawman. I never claimed Gore was not a scientist and therefore lacked the right or credibility to speak out or was less believable. I simply said his politics is so huge it has made him an easy target. Why ask for trouble?

    “Allowing deniers to dismiss Gore is ceding the field to them by allowing them to control the narrative surrounding the science. While not a Gore fan myself (I never voted for him, despite having the chance), I repect his temerity, backbone and his standing up for the science. Also unusual for a politican.”

    Strawman. I never suggested we allow denialists to dismiss him. In fact I specifically said we should defend him, just that it would be advantageous if he kept a low profile.

    I respect him as well, and he's mostly right about the science, maybe 95% right. But that was never the point of my comment.

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  17. I personally don't have any beef with Gore whatsoever, and I dismiss appeals to purity. I agree with Daniel's assessment of him. OTOH, like nigelj I'm uneasy about his already having been made, through no fault of his own, into a green boogeyman by the aforementioned disinformation strategy of fossil-carbon capitalists. My hope is to elect a Democratic POTUS and senate majority, and I'm worried Gore is too big a target for skilled mercenary culture warriors. Am I a coward? Maybe, but in the present circumstances I'd rather be a live jackal than a dead lion.

    Al Gore will say whatever he wants through this election cycle, regardless of what I think, and the NYT will give him a moderately left-leaning platform. I'm just nervous, on account of the stakes.

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  18. nigelj@11,

    The list of Haidt's set of drivers in my comment @7 were the Heading Names. I introduced the list with the following "And Jonathan Haidt has identified a set of innate (fundamental) human characteristics. Those characteristics can amplify a person's tendency to allow personal or Tribal self interest to overpower their ability or interest in improving their awareness and understanding to pursue sustainable improvements. The innate human concern for Caring/Helping (not harming), can be compromised by innate concern for:"

    What was included in (brackets after each name) was a simple presentation of each driver to show its potential for Harm. They each also can be seen to fit the Libertarian mono-driver (each person chooses their Tribe, but their choice can be understood to be Not Helpful - meaning it is an unethical choice). Choosing to care about a Tribe without caring about the Tribe's impact on others is not ethical. Universal Care has to govern, especially for leaders.

    As I am learning from reading more, particularly Noam Chomsky, the more I appreciate that "Telling a story that supports the status quo is easy to do". More time, and a lot more words, is needed to provide a detailed context for any story that challenges the status quo. Without that added presentation of a robust context, the story can easily get misinterpreted through the status quo filters.

    Defence of Self-interest (selfishness from the individual level through to any Tribal sub-set of humanity level) is a powerful part of the status quo because it can be a powerful driver of human behaviour - it takes constant effort, and a willingness to sacrifice potential personal benefit, to not be governed by it. This continues to be the case in spite of robust arguments proving the fatal flaws of being governed by self-interest presented by Derek Parfit in the 1980s (and less robust presentations of that understanding that were made far before Parfit's very detailed arguments).

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  19. OPOF @18, regarding selfishness. I suspect Ayn Rands dreadful book "The Virtue of Selfishness" has underpinned neoliberal economic thinking since the 1980's. Imo it's one sided, superficial and unscientific,  but you and others might be interested. I found a free copy here:

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  20. Al Gores movie An Inconvenient Truth was the main thing that really got me interested in climate change. It communicates brilliantly and is correct on the key issues. My point is Gore is a liberal politician expounding on the science, so its easy for denialists in America to rubbish his liberalism and so the science as well by association.

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  21. Mal Adapted @17 .

    I agree except I wouldn't even call it cowardice. It's just being  pragmatic about the issues, and not shooting ourselves in our own feet.

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  22. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

    'Twenty five years before Greta, there was Severn, and we ignored her.
    “Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future. Losing my future is not like losing an election, or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come . . . We hear of animals and plants going extinct every day, vanishing forever . . . Did you have to worry of these things when you were my age? All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you. If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.”
    Reading this you could think it was from any one of the youth climate strikers. Greta Thunberg, or Saoi O’Connor from Cork. Instead, these words were spoken more than 27 years ago, by then 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki at the plenary session of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.'

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  23. nigelj,

    I appreciate the feedback. It helps me increase my awareness and understanding of the fundamental problems that are challenging the achievement and improvement of the Sustainable Development Goals - what is reducing the rate of progress of humanity toward, or setting it back from, all of that understanding (not just the climate action goal).

    I think the following may be a better way of talking about the innate human drivers identified by Haidt.

    Organizations of humans take many forms. And those organizations are held together by what is driving them to be together. All of the 6 identified drivers can play a part.

    Religious/nationalist groups, military groups, political groups and Business groups can be seen to be able to hold together through a combination of all of the characteristics. Without Caring being the governing characteristic, the groups can still hold together through a combination of the other 5 drivers being powerful enough. But they are then challenged by people who make Caring about Others the most important driver.

    Caring challenges harmful United:

    • religious and nationalist groups (desired superiority of Their group and intolerance of people who are different)
    • military groups (willing to inflict harm on others, especially if they think they will be less harmed than those others they attack, worse if they think they will benefit from harming Others)
    • political groups (using passion-triggering misleading marketing that focuses on the drivers Other than Caring)
    • Business groups (the worst examples being blatantly criminal economic organizations)

    I think most people would see the connections from that presentation.

    And the way that the harmfully United can influence the telling of Stories through the mechanisms of the Propaganda Model should also be able to be seen.

    And though Parfit's critique of Self Interest can be difficult to get through, it is very hard to argue against.

    Self Interest, ungoverned by Caring for Others, can be a very bad thing.

    The hardest thing for the Caring is the way they can end up divided into sub-groups of narrow focus, caring more about their special concern, claiming that Other Caring concerns are not as important. As the SDGs prove, all of the caring concerns are important and should be United in their collective achievement.

    That is what concepts like the Green New Deal do, they try to Unite a diversity of Caring concerns in the hopes of collectively over-powering the undeniably powerful Unity of the diversity of groups opposed to being governed by Caring.

    The likes of Gore and Greta (Soros, and Hansen and so many others) have become the faces of the challenge to the United Harmful, and the targets of their wrathful fight to be freer to be Harmful, freedom from the limitations of Caring about Others and the future of humanity.

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