Scott Denning: Reaching Across the Abyss
Posted on 21 August 2011 by grypo
Going virtually unnoticed in the climate science world (except for skeptic blogs and certain fair minded mainstream scientists), from June 30 - July 1, 2011, an international conference on the subject of climate change took place in Washington DC, USA. If you were to have put a glass to the door, you might have heard many of the same climate myths that those here at SkS work diligently to commendably squash. One of the few highlights was the talk given by Scott Denning (video), who, by walking into the skeptic lion's den, deserves great credit for his continued attempts at reaching his paws across the abyss that separates those who favor large scale action on climate change, and those who don't.
His talk began by hitting three messages to resonate with the audience. Paraphrasing, they are 1) Everyone should understand how the climate works - meandering over minute details is a waste of time. Why? 2) Because the climate will change and policy WILL be enacted, eventually. How does this matter to his audience? 3) The political right has been virtually non-existent in its participation in establishing what that policy will be.
In an earlier post published here at SkS, my message for Libertarians was essentially the same.
I would suggest they research real free market solutions that deal with the first principles of Libertarian thought. Otherwise, this policy argument will move on without them. It's time for Libertarians to get on board and bring their principles along too.
I used Libertarian principles to try and mark off common ground on which policy could be established, but Professor Denning took another route, one that could create a broader coalition between to two political poles. From the video:
Billions of people will need more energy to lift themselves out of abject poverty
From here, Professor Denning goes into the climate science basics that most reasonable skeptics can agree on. In short, CO2 warms the planet, humans are emitting massive amounts of CO2, CO2 sticks around for a hundreds of years, and since we know the climate has changed in the past, we know the climate is sensitive to changes in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. All, which when combined with the fact that billions more will be emitting much more CO2 over the next few decades, gives the audience the unchallenged knowledge that the Earth will be going under significant change, unparalleled in recorded human history. People will develop policy to deal with these changes.
The point to Denning's talk was to lay out a challenge for those who advocate for the free market. And that challenge is to develop effective solutions that match the breadth the problem ahead of us. According to one of his final slides:
Who will advocate for effective solutions?
To which he emphatically answered, in a questioning voice:
"Do you think Greenpeace is going to advocate for this?!? Is that what you are waiting for?!? Evidentially..."
In big, bold letters, the challenge was issued:
When will you stand up and offer solutions?
And again, emphatically, aloud:
"Are you cowards?!?"
I was not in attendance at the conference, so I cannot tell you how effective Professor Denning's talk was in influencing opinions. The heading for the conference read, "Restoring the Scientific Method", meaning, if only the political right could find a different science to the (perceived) broken one that predicts rapid change to the climate in the coming century, then perhaps large-scale, globally effective solutions can be bypassed for more politically convenient policy. This is just not a realistic reaction to the problem. Perhaps a better heading could have been taken from Denning's final sentence on his last slide:
The world needs you to be engaged!