Why I am “angry”

A few years ago after I gave a public presentation on climate change science to a lay, but comparatively well-educated audience, I was asked during the Q&A session “aren’t you angry?”. I did not know how to answer. Was I angry? Who would I be angry at?

The organizer of the series of talks I had been part of sent me the audience’ feedback a week later. She said they had never had so many people, so much feedback, and so much praise before. Mind you, there had seemingly not been any climate science deniers in that audience. Otherwise, the result would have been different I suspect.

Why am I writing about this?

When I first got involved in the climate wars about ten years ago it was because I was searching for answers to questions about counteracting misinformation. I got involved with the volunteers at Skeptical Science and even wrote a few articles for the website. I learned about the five techniques of science denial (FLICC), and, through continued learning and later teaching, I can now pretty much identify B***S*** whenever it comes my way. Mind you, it takes practice. And one still cannot know in most cases whether the purveyor of that BS does it purposefully (disinformation) or unknowingly (misinformation). And only recently did we get a straight answer to how disinformation has worked in practice:

Climate scientists have been dealing with either dis- or misinformation in the public sphere for decades. When Trump came around, then COVID-19 related misinformation, it was déjà vu all over again for most of us. And similar to decades earlier, there was not much scientists could really do other than keep debunking the myths and telling the truth, over and over again, trying to educate where possible, and eye-rolling and hoping for the best otherwise. Been there, done that.

I realized, given the decades of pseudoscience BS and organized denialism, the relentless smearing of and the attacks on scientists, and the repeated preference many decision makers give to non-scientific rather than rational answers, that yes, I should be angry.

And I think many of us are in fact angry. But it does not manifest the same way for all. Most of us are not involved on social media, and may not talk much about their work outside of work. There are proposals to write, students to mentor, manuscripts to publish in order to stay employed. Others, who are involved, may have evolved such a thick skin that they can shut out the BS, practically ignoring it unless it becomes critically important to address. You’d wonder why scientists like Katharine Hayhoe are so successful given the BS hauled at them. It takes a certain mindset, optimism and tenaciousness to be a good communicator like her.

I do not have it.

Witnessing the current transition from climate science denialism to solutions denialism (“we cannot convert our [fossil fuel based] energy system”), alongside bold #greenwashing efforts by industry leadership, is making me angry. In my case, I see those efforts materialize and metastasize on LinkedIn. The lack of critical thinking and the simultaneous cheerleading by CEOs, “Consultants”, "Directors" and “Thought Leaders” is demoralizing. The fossil fuel industry’s “net-zero” (via unreliable offsets to process-based, not product-based, emissions), “ESG” ("potentially a dangerous placebo, a lot of marketing that answers inconvenient truths with convenient fantasies", interview with Tariq Fancy), “blue hydrogen” (think repurposing of fossil gas), or CCS (the end-of-pipe removal technology for CO2) talking points are just that. There is no winding down of fossil fuel use, on the contrary. The new myth is the old myth redressed, namely that we can reduce emissions while we increase production. Lobbying decision makers to have the public pay for it via tax breaks and subsidies does the rest.

Why would I NOT be angry?

What gives me hope is that there are people on LinkedIn who do think critically and rationally. Mind you, they have less clout, but they do provide community. So when I occasionally cannot stop myself “yelling” at a BS purveyor on LinkedIn, it is good to see a “like” every once in a while.

- gws (budding troll of fossil fuel BS on LinkedIn)

Posted by gws on Monday, 6 September, 2021

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