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Trump begins filling environmental posts with clowns

Posted on 17 November 2016 by John Abraham

Come on, you can admit it. I admit it. I admit that after Trump’s election victory, I secretly hoped and even though that his rhetoric was worse than its bite. He only said those crazy things during the campaign to get elected. He wouldn’t really follow through on his plans to completely gut the US commitment to keeping the Earth habitable. Oh how naive we were. Trump’s plan to fill positions in his administration shows things are worse than we could have ever feared.

According to recent reports, Trump has picked long-time climate denier and spokesperson for the fossil fuel industry Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency transition. This basically means the EPA will either cease to function or cease to exist. It also appears that the US will pull out of any agreements to limit greenhouse emissions. 

It means we have missed our last off-ramp on the road to catastrophic climate change. That may sound hyperbolic, but I study the rate that climate change is happening – the amount of heat accumulating in the Earth’s system. We didn’t have any time to waste in implementing Obama’s aggressive plans, and Trump will result in a decade of time lost.

So who is Myron Ebell? He is a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and chair of the Cooler Heads Coalition. Where did he get his PhD in science? Nowhere. In fact, he isn’t a scientist at all, but he does have a degree in economics. Yeah!

Is there any conflict that Ebell’s Competitive Enterprise Institute is funded by companies such as ExxonMobil and groups such as the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation? Surely not.

Myron Ebell is not new to obstructing action on climate change. Years ago, it was reported that he favored editing Bush-era scientists’ reports on climate change.

It isn’t just Ebell. Trump has other insiders, some of who represent fossil fuel companies, working on the transition.

What this selection also tells us about Trump is that he is surrounding himself with people who are not knowledgeable in a topic and will not effectively educate him. Not that educating Trump was ever possible. But there was always the outside chance he would take his contrarian streak to a new level and be contrarian to the contrarians. We now see that is not going to happen. If Trump listens to anyone, it will be people who think like he does and represent special interests who would be most affected by his policies. We have a fox guarding the hen house.

I know Trump won’t listen, but I have a wager for him. I could randomly pull an Earth scientist’s name out of a hat and any name I pulled would be better than Myron Ebell. I challenge Trump and his administration to actually include real scientists in forming legislation and action on environmental issues. And I am not talking about scientists that are connected to rightwing thinktank groups. I am talking about independent unaffiliated scientists. Cripes, just go down to the neighborhood university, pick anyone – they will be better than what you have now. 

Or Trump could attend the world’s largest geophysics meeting, which occurs in just a few weeks (American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting).

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 52:

  1. Upon reading and listening to the reasons that Trump's supporters give for backing him, I have lost all hope.  

    His supporters brains have been hijacked by Breitbart, Limaugh, and Fox.    When things get bad, those "newscasters" will find a way to blame it all on Obama.  Eight more years?

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  2. I'm fast losing hope as well. Remember half the population have a limited education, and I would say they figure high in Trumps supporters, and you only need to look at the demographics and groups who supported him. And they are preyed on by ignoramuses like Rush Limbaugh, and will be exploited, fooled, and walked all over by people who actually weild power in Congress.

    Trump and the Republicans are retreating into a giant intellectual, economic, and cultural bubble. They have become massively defensive, and are hunkering down. Yes globalisation has hurt some groups, but they are selecting exactly the wrong mindset and responses.

    By flooding their ranks with such same minded people, like the appointment of Myron Ebell, they will generate the most destructive form of group think imaginable. Braver and smarter people ensure they have a range of advice.

    Remember Trump is a business person, and is used to abrupt decisions and risk taking. This is part of the business ethic, but Trump does it on largely gut instinct and is taking a huge risk with the climate and also his protectionist trade policies.

    The devil is in the detail, and I can see from his rhetoric that he is definitely incorrect on many details, crucially important details, so the sum of the parts will be a disaster. Trumps business history came close to bankruptcy several times. America, what have you done electing this guy?

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  3. John's resentment of US president elect (especially his final conclusion, snipped here, that you find in the Guardian) is no dobt shared by all of us. I resent this president and his office more than John does, up to the point that I think he does not deserve to be called by name (T-word, is in my household a forbidden swear word, just like N-word) and I extend that practice to my posts on SkS.

    But contrary to John, I have no illusion that the new president be "contrarian to the contrarians" only to be even more disappointed later. Instead I concentrate on the reasons behind such absurd election results: what happened to the US voters that they elected the most unimaginable clown that ever existed? This outcome did not come from "deplorables" (eg. white supremacits such as KKK), these are marginal poeple. The outcome came from average decent people but blind GOP supporters and from DEM supporters who turned away from Clinton for various reasons. Here is a confession from such an average voter that I cite after smh:

    I'm a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump

    This woman is from Muslim Reform Movement, and voted unreasonably, because he didn't like Clinton's dealings with Arab states and her lack of rejection of radical Islamism. Well, as muslim reformist, she should have listened to someone like Sam Harris, and unreasonably, she didn't but that aspect is not to be discussed on SkS. The important aspect is that she said she accepts climate science and is concerned about AGW but clearly voted irresponsibly against her own concerns here.

    That should tell us that voters still place AGW very low in their priority list. Concerns like muslim reformation, lost emails, or other petty concerns are higher than the most important issue facing policy makers in this century. Where was the media whose job was tohighlight it during the campain? They concentrated on "pussy bus" instead. Although itself disqualifying the actors (including Bush) of that comedy from any public office, the media should cut the show short with the statement: such clowns are unable to grasp any serious issues like e.g. AGW.

    The media failed us. Our job is to continue remind voters to sort their priorities according to the common good, not the petty concerns, in the next election to eliminate the root of the problem we're in.

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  4. chriskoz:

    Here's another perspective on why many voters flocked to Trump. 

    Trump’s anti-intelligentsia revolution, Op-ed by Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg View, Nov 14, 2016

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  5. chriskoz,

    What was astonishing about that Muslim lady was her criticism that Obama's social programs were insufficient to her needs. She was seemingly not aware that Trump's Congressional Republicans plan to gut those same programs, and Trump made not a single promise to defend them. She could not afford Obamacare, but under Trump she will even lose that aspiration to have health insurance, as there will be no program at all - at least that is what he said during the campaign.

    She seemed a very good example of a general electorate who vote from their intuitions or heuristics - fast thinking, in other words, instead of the slow thinking where the policies of both candidates are rationally evaluated. The last is the ideal of the electorate in a democracy, which exists nowhere. 

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  6. Chriskoz @3, I agree that the media failed America. I live in another country, but I did follow the whole thing, and all I heard about was emails, sexual material, and nothing much on policies or climate change. This is pandering to the lowest common denominator and sensationalism. If you feed garbage into the public, garbage will come out in the way of their voting behaviour.

    As to why Clinton lost, there are many reasons. However Clinton went into the election hobbled over the email thing. I don’t think she has done anything sinister, but it seems odd to me the Democrats would risk promoting her as a candidate when there were clearly plenty of other people.

    Trump has a silver tongue like a clever used car salesman, and monopolised on some genuine discontent in America with free trade, and various elites, however Trumps policies are very poor quality. This sort of populist dogma will end in tears for everyone.

    Regarding The EPA, it’s chilling that Trump has appointed such an obvious and strong climate sceptic and apparent libertarian as Myron Ebell. This is a scorched earth policy which shows Trump wants to neutralise the EPA as much as he can. There’s no ambiguity or softening here, he has declared war on science, or any science he doesn’t like.

    Trump is surrounding himself entirely with yes men (and the odd token yes woman) and people of almost identical extreme right wing views. We now have severe group think. Trump is like a quasi dictator in charge of America, who through force of personality is bending everything to his will. Americas system has so called checks and balances, but the Republicans have all branches of government, and soon to have a dominance of their preferred Judges on the Supreme Court, so I dont see any checks or balances. 

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  7. What if the man actually IS is what he said he was all along?

    I wonder if the voters considered the most obvious possibility.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please use bold font to highlight words, not all-caps.

  8. citizenschallenge: Your posts of yesterday have been deleted because the SkS website is not an appropriate forum for creating a political movement to prevent Donald Trump's "official" election by the US Electoral College. In that regard, your posts were "off topic" and therefore in violation of the SkS Comments Policy.

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  9. John's frustration is based on historical facts, but I would caution against the use of the word "clowns" in the title. I believe the spirit here is a form of mocking and thus a form of ad hominem. Instead of "... with clowns", I would suggest the objective "... Climate Action Oppositionist". Gandhi refused to engage in ad hominem tactics (link), and I think this strengthened his case in the long run. We should fight the 'sin' (the wrong policy, the wrong action), not the 'sinner' (the person). Yes, we should absolutely speak out with all our might, with all our power, with all the political & economic tools we have available, but we should still speak in a sense that is respectful to the human we are talking to. This will defuse the opposition's rebuttals, and appeal to the moral sense of all individuals. Remember: The battle of words is only partially with those we are directly speaking to. Just as important, if not more so, are how our words are processed by those on the side lines, who are listening to what we say, sizing up both sides with open, unbias, skeptical minds (especially the youth). The words we use, how we speak, the spirit that emanates from those words, is critical in gaining respect from open minds. We must train our minds to this ideal. I think, that if we use words that 'kill' (in spirit) the other side, then the result will be for both sides to embrace & rationalize (more & more) a demonizing position (result: no change from status quo). I believe a point-for-point historical correlative of this escalation of demonization occurred between 1770 & 1860 on the struggle over slavery in the US (in that case, to the point of arms).

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  10. America, what have you done electing this guy?

    Technically, "America" did not elect this guy, because Hillary won the popular vote. To phrase the question more correctly:

    Electoral College, what have you done electing this guy?

    Trump's election is bad, to be sure, but the individual still primarily determines the carbon footprint of the individual; ditto for the corporation, and for local and state governments. The smaller the entity, the greater the level of independence. For example, Hillary was hoping to cut all of our carbon footprints by something like 30% by the year 2025. Almost anyone who decides to care about climate change can exceed that cut in a few days with a little instruction. The higher an individual's carbon footprint is now (for example, because he or she flies a lot), the more easily he or she can cut it.

    The failure of Prohibition in the USA illustrates that not even a Constitutional Amendment means anything unless sufficiently many people agree with it. People can and do change even deeply held beliefs - that's how we abolished slavery, and gave women the right to vote - but it doesn't happen by lobbying politicians or with the stroke of a pen or even by fighting a war. It happens over the course of billions of interactions between individuals in which persuasion occurs.

    If there is any positive to flow from the unfolding catastrophe that is Trump, it's that enviro-hypocrisy isn't going to cut it. No longer can environmentalists pretend they can protect the climate by flying around on jets, imagining that only grandiose government action (that is, action by someone else) is relevant. There isn't going to be effective government action, and there was never going to be, as long as we have a country in which the overwhelming majority of people see no moral problem with everyday activities that make our biggest contributions to climate destruction: flying, driving, heating, cooling, eating meat, owning meat-eating pets, procreating, etc.

    Most of the environmental movement seems to have bet the house on bypassing the individual. That worked for fixing the ozone hole (unless Trump decides to wreck that too), but only because almost no individuals had to become aware that their spray can propellants were changing. And also because sales of ozone-wrecking propellants were already dropping as consumers had been taking notice. With climate change, as anyone who has looked at carbon footprinting knows, the solution is not so simple.

    Figuring out how to minimize our personal indulgence in the most climate-destructive activities, and then figuring out how to persuade our friends and neighbors to minimize theirs, is the only rational basis for "hope" on climate change. There is no purely technological, transparent solution. To get the deep emission cuts we need on the tight schedule we need requires individual "sacrifice" similar to, but exceeding in intensity and duration, what citizens did to win World War II.

    Regardless of who sits in the White House, the difficulty of persuading your neighbors to stop driving, flying, etc. remains about the same. Consider that according to Wikipedia:

    It is estimated that 134.5 million Americans cast a ballot in 2016. Considering a voting age population of 251.1 million people and voting eligible population of 231.5 million people, this a turnout rate of 53.6% and 58.1% respectively.

    Over 40% of the voting eligible population was so unconcerned about all the issues at stake in this election that they didn't even vote. Let that sink in for a while. Most of those apathetic voters probably do not even have a strong position on climate change, given that this election gave voters just about the clearest opportunity to express a position. Persuading them to take real action on climate change - the only action that matters for anybody at any level of society, cutting the emissions they control - did not just suddenly become harder, because these people are apparently oblivious to who is running the Federal Government.

    Imagine if we could persuade all 61 million Americans who voted for Hillary to take serious action to cut their carbon footprints, and train them to persuade their apathetic friends and neighbors - we could realize Hillary's 30% emission cut target for the year 2025 in a few months.

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  11. Someone made the point the other day that I have a hard time condeming. There is a real chance that this coming presidency could bring the world to its knees which in turn could stifle industry and therefore lower co2 emissions. If there is any chance... well, this is it - Economic Collapse.

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  12. Daniel Mocsney: Members of the 2016 Electoral College have not yet voted. They will do so on Dec 19. 

    For details about the Electoral College system, go to the U.S. Electoral College website created by the National Archives and Records Administration.  

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  13. Daniel Mocsny @ 10, thanks for the comments. I agree combating climate change starts with individual initiative and individual responsibility, and making personal commitments to some changes in our daily lives. However I disagree that this will be enough by itself. Some government rules or carbon taxes help promote beneficial behaviours.

    The obvious historical example is tobacco, where in my country society encouraged people to give up, and promoted education campaigns, but this had useful, but limited effects. We combined this with taxes on tobacco to discourage smoking and also help with the costs of healthcare for smokers and numbers of smokers dropped. I think the parallels with climate change should be obvious. It’s a pragmatic approach and the majority supported government legislation.

    The fact is in America the majority of people do seem to want some form of government legislation to combat climate change, yet have been let down by congress. I think this is disgraceful but I think that Trump will only last 4 years and sanity will prevail on climate change. I just hope its not too late.

    It’s actually similar to the overall election. The majority wanted Clinton, but the election was won on the electoral college result, (but only just by a handful of votes). I just find the electoral college system strange, and can’t see why you don’t just decide the president on the popular vote. This would seem more democratic and more direct.

    You quote the ozone layer issue, but this could never be remedied by personal choice. The main culprit was fridges, and their refrigerant chemicals, and no alternative fridges were on the market or likely to ever be. The manufacturers would be very unlikely to move on the issue. The only “practical” remedy for the problem was to ban ozone.

    Here is a related issue. Individuals like you or me may take initiative on climate change, but I doubt companies ever would. The profit motive is just too powerful. This is why some government controls become inevitable.

    On prohibition, I take your point. Prohibition of alcohol never worked. Prohibition of hard drugs struggles to work. We are entering a very difficult ideological and theoretical minefield, on the role of the government. I think one reason prohibition of alcohol failed was that it never made any sense to ban alcohol, as its just not harmful enough to have a total ban. The public treated the legislation with utter contemp.

    I think governments are entitled ideologically to ban things, but should use this power sparingly. We already ban people from buying deadly poisons, or stealing! Who would argue with that?

    But if the government “bans” things it removes freedom of choice, so there is a downside. Government can also ban things to preserve and increase its power, and abuse that power and we have seen examples.

    The philosophical answer to this problem and series of conflicts is government should only “ban’ things if theres a compelling case. They need to prove an activity or substance causes serious harm and that the user of a substance becomes a significant threat to other people. I also think there has to be a majority of popular support for some ban.

    Now let’s apply this principle to climate change. Burning fossil fuels is a threat not just to this generation of people but hundreds of future generations. I can’t think of a clearer case that would philosophically justify some action by government, as well as individuals.

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  14. Daniel Mocsny:

    Nice summary, it got me out of my despair a little bit, after reading the equally good argument of the article. There are multiple benefits in petitioning our cities to increase density. I would like to drive less, but because American cities have this unified objective to limit building height, maximize floor footprint, and minimize density, it is very hard to find housing that is not 60 miles out of areas of interest.

    On the other hand, you are right: My all-electric house bill varies from $265 to $45 by using windows to heat and cool the house(I also painted roof and walls with titanium dioxide rich paint, my own mix), and watching light efficiency and use. That’s and 80% reduction. My Prius yields 3 times that of my Titan. I also avoid flying, I had time to do research in Mexico, but avoided the flying, and am successfully, Googling my information. My water bill similarly went from $85 to $35 by converting my yard to a vegetable and fruit garden from lawn. So your argument is sound, by logic, and my own anecdote.

    Still, I wish people would support finding planetary scale solutions, of the sort I research and recommend. It is just as important, and may be critically valuable if the worst feedback loops result. Having intelligent people, at least constructively, arguing such solutions is as critical for environmental security as is convincing people to do their individual bits that you suggest. For example, I am not allowed to mention my arguments here because it hurts people’s climate-change sensibilities. I accept it and fully understand the reasons, but it shows the narrowness of our thinking and searching.

    Trump Demigod phenomenon is not be the worst we must face: Demigods are built on fear and greed, and fear will only increase as tribal division is propagated by ever tougher economic conditions resulting from environmental damage. There you have it, if you want to get really depressed.

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  15. Apologies for the typo. I meant that the only realistic solution to the ozone hole problem was for the government and industry to ban ozone depleting chemicals which is what they did in the end.

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  16. I think it's time for biologists step up efforts to preserve as much DNA from at-risk species as possible in doomsday vaults, because it looks like the odds that doomsday might well be on its way have grown astronomically.

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  17. Sauerj @9, you say "John's frustration is based on historical facts, but I would caution against the use of the word "clowns" in the title."

    The counter argument is the 'warmists' have generally played nice for decades and been almost painfully polite, me as much as anyone and it hasnt worked too well. It just seems 'clowns' is the truth. Trump likes to call "a spade a spade" and not be politically correct, so why shouldn't we do the same?

    Are we coming down to Trumps level, or is blunt language the only way that will get through to Trumps people?

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  18. Nigelj @ 13: I think DM @ 10 didn’t intend to downplay the importance or necessity of government action. Rather, wasn’t his main intent to emphasize that many of us in the US, as individuals, hide behind that action, as if we don’t need to change our lifestyles? And, secondarily, that we individuals can exert some impact with our lifestyle choices?

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  19. PluviAL,

    Your anecdotal evidence indicates the scale of greenhouse gas emission cuts available to the individual. Even if people cannot figure out how to live car-free, there is still a factor of three or four difference in emissions between driving a large SUV or light truck vs. the most fuel-efficient cars. Another factor of three or four reduction comes from filling the empty seats. Four people in a Prius gives around a tenfold reduction in emissions per passenger-km compared to the single-passenger land yacht. This does not require rocket science or drastic lifestyle change, just having enough concern about climate change to overcome whatever obstacles keep people living in ridiculously damaging ways.

    Of course grandiose government solutions are nice and have their place. But there is no dichotomy or competition between individual and collective action. Rather, individual action is a necessary precursor to collective action. For example, we abolished slavery only after sufficiently many people decided slavery was immoral and freed their own slaves. Once enough people had taken individual action, the ground was prepared for government to make it official and take the credit. Individual states were able to abolish slavery - without fighting wars - before the nation as a whole did. Abolitionists had won the persuasion contest in those states after decades of work.

    To get a carbon tax high enough to make a difference (which might be hundreds of dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide) first requires having a large fraction (perhaps a large majority) of the population already behaving as if emitting carbon dioxide costs that much. Many of those people who live low-carbon without requiring coercion will be buying offsets as well, which is like paying a voluntary carbon tax - so of course they will support an official carbon tax. As for the other people, whose behavior we need to change, will they vote for policies that force them to behave in ways they wouldn't choose voluntarily? I doubt many tobacco smokers vote for increases in tobacco taxes. We can't punish smokers until they are a shrinking minority - something which had to happen voluntarily before the government could start tightening the thumbscrews. The same is true for carbon taxes - the holidaymakers in the world's vacation spots are not going to vote for a tax high enough to price them out of their destructive vice. Only people who have already adopted a moral behavior will vote to impose it on others. (See turkeys voting for Christmas.)

    Having a large population taking voluntary action provides another benefit: what I call a "social carbon tax." Before you have enough political support to pressure the government into raising the direct monetary cost of destroying the planet, you as an individual can raise the social cost for your profligate neighbors and peers through your disapproval of their irresponsibility. By analogy, during the California drought, individuals who visibly consume too much water become subject to "drought shaming." This is the social equivalent of a water tax - calling out people who rob the commons and thereby threaten everybody else who shares that commons.

    Humans are social animals and we care deeply about how others view us (other than the 3% or so who are sociopaths - apparently they don't care what anybody else thinks, so I guess we can take comfort in knowing Donald Trump is probably not a sociopath, given his hypersensitivity to insults). Each person who makes deep cuts in his or her personal emissions has then earned the moral high ground to add another increment to "carbon shaming." People who don't care much about the environment can still be sensitive to the opprobrium they will earn by living as if they don't care. Particularly if this opprobrium begins to cost them opportunities for employment, or romance - things that really matter.

    Therefore, when see your friends on Facebook posting brag photos from their recent planet-raping holiday excursion, you can start giving them negative feedback. Many will simply un-friend you, so they can carry on in their insular high-carbon bubble, but as more people voluntarily dial down their destructive behaviors, they make it harder for destructive individuals to hide from all of them.

    Consider what would happen if someone posted photos on Facebook showing how they were cruel to a housecat. We need the same level of outrage against photos depicting cruelty to the climate. How insane are we to care more about a single cat than we care about the entire biosphere?

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  20. I have admired John's input for some years. I'm Irish and now live in the UK but spent a large part of my Astrophysics PhD at the Harvard Smithsonian in Mt Hopkins Arizona during Carter. I have never seen John so rattled; my American friends are pretty much in shock at the Trump election. I try to cling to the hope that Trump will only serve one term and there will be a backlash of historic proportions in the next few years; towards truth, scientific credibility and decency. I have worked with dozens (if not hundreds) of American scientists and the great America still exists. Take courage; the administration will be totally dysfunctional and not last long.

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  21. By flooding their ranks with such same minded people, like the appointment of Myron Ebell, they will generate the most destructive form of group think imaginable.

    That's certainly a possibility, maybe even a solid bet. But let's take a deep breath first and consider that until now, the response of the scientific community to deniers like Myron Ebell has often been to marginalize rather than engage them. In my experience with science deniers (albeit of lower rank), their denial has always been tightly bound with ignorance. None of them seems to have read a single book containing actual climate science. All of them continue to restate the climate myths so thoroughly debunked right here on Skeptical Science, as if they are playing a game of chess where the opponent has not already made a dozen moves past them.

    Well, there's no getting around engaging with them now. There are still some Democrats in office. Hillary won the popular vote. The scientific community hasn't gone away or become any less critical to increasing prosperity and maintaining the modern way of life. People like Myron Ebell who have lived comfortably in their echo chamber with no real challenge to their views will now get to spend time directly engaging with the world's leading actual scientists. It's one thing to dupe Trump's beloved "poorly educated voters" and another thing entirely to face the tough crowd of science.

    Climate change skeptics/contrarians/deniers can change their minds, for example Richard Muller. Since we can no longer pretend we have the option of just shoving the deniers aside, it's time to study every available case of belief change and try to get the remaining deniers onto the same trajectories.

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  22. John Hartz: Members of the 2016 Electoral College have not yet voted. They will do so on Dec 19.

    Thank you for the correction. I did not mean to imply otherwise with my parallel sentence structure. However, Hillary conceded the election, and the press and Obama, and terrified governments around the world, along with all the rent-seekers and opportunists flocking to Trump Tower, and the Russian intelligence agents celebrating their successful manipulation of US politics, are carrying on as if the election is a done deal, because it almost certainly is. According to Wikipedia's article about faithless electors, there have been 157 instances of faithlessness as of 2015, but none has ever affected the Presidential election.

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  23. amhartley @ 18


    You say " I think DM @ 10 didn’t intend to downplay the importance or necessity of government action. Rather, wasn’t his main intent to emphasize that many of us in the US, as individuals, hide behind that action, as if we don’t need to change our lifestyles?"

    His comments were good, but his  intent was not clear. I was responding to him, but also used the opportunity to discuss the philosophical role of the state. Some people object to virtually anything government does, apart from a minimilist criminal law. Some even prefer total anarchy.

    I was simply pointing out that the most basic nature of government is harm prevention, or deterrence and punishment, (exemplified in the criminal law)and the real question is how far government are entitled to extend that sort of principle and legislation. I was arguing some simple principles that might form a basis, and thus the justification of climate change legislation.

    Of course the more government intrudes the more the risk people will rely on government. I think its ultimately a balancing act.

    I do agree theres a risk people will hide behind actions of government, however if government action makes some logical sense then I think you minimise this risk and things compliment each other. For example America only has clean electricity legislation and people may assume thats all thats needed. If Americ a also had a carbon tax, or cap and trade scheme this would show that more is expected. I think it would reinforce individual initiative.

    Regarding Lincoln and the slaves. Public sentiment was moving against slavery, but only to a point. It was only Lincolns firm stand on principle, and legislation that really resolved the matter.

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  24. Daniel Mocnsy @21, yes all thats possible, it occured to me, and I hope you are right. Richard Muller did change his criticism of the surface temperature data and concede NASA were right all along, once he came face to face with the "nitty gritty" real science. You can make silly climate denialist statements on websites, but its not so easy face to face with real scientists in a meeting where decisions have to be made. People don't take bulldust in those situations. It's interesting how at least some sceptics change their stance when serving on the IPCC.

    However here are a couple of points. Group think will pervade Trump and his inner circle. Thats not healthy at all.

    And the new climate denialist will be head of the EPA. His employees will explain some realities to him, but employees have to be careful how far they push things. Myron Ebell is the boss, and the guy is clearly badly informed on climate and worse is driven by strong ideological convictions of a libertarian leaning, as opposed to more evidence based leadership.

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  25. Are we coming down to Trumps level, or is blunt language the only way that will get through to Trumps people?

    Blunt language just won Trump the White House, but Trump constantly shaped his message in response to the crowd reaction at his rallies. If Trump wanted to change the mind of someone on the other side, he'd have to use entirely different language than he used to whip up his own rabble.

    It's hard to persuade a hostile audience by tossing verbal grenades over the wall. Real persuasion typically requires synchronous, one-on-one interactive dialogue. Unfortunately, most online communication is asynchronous. We write our screeds without the ability to see exactly how our target audience members are responding, sentence by sentence.

    Plato's dialogues featured Socrates engaging with his various interlocutors via what we now call his "Socratic method." The book A Manual for Creating Atheists adapts the method to talking people out of faith (that is, talking people out of the religious habit of basing their beliefs on the unsupported assertions of one particular person). Since climate science denial is contrary to evidence, it is also a faith-based position, and as with any position not grounded on evidence it is riddled with internal contradictions. Socratic questioning can lead the person of faith to become consciously aware of these contradictions and to experience elenchus (or cognitive dissonance). When dissonance rises to sufficiently catastrophic levels it can lead to belief change.

    Here is a brief sample Socratic dialogue with a climate skeptic.

    Furthermore, one should not assume that just because a person identifies with a group that the person necessarily aligns entirely with the group's claims. Sometimes a person may not even align entirely with his or her own assertions. Daniel Dennett documented some examples in his fascinating paper Preachers Who Are Not Believers. When dealing with climate "skeptics" we must first be skeptical about whether they really believe what they are saying.

    Climate science deniers nearly all seem troubled by indications of an overwhelming scientific consensus against them. Therefore, deniers routinely try to undermine the multiple studies showing the 97% consensus and so on. The reason for their discomfort is obvious: science is something truly special and unique. Every day we all benefit from consuming miracles of science. Virtually no one wants to give up those benefits. Even Young Earth Creationists, who claim evolution and mainstream geology are false, behave hypocritically by driving around in automobiles fueled by the very science they deny. No oil company on the planet figures out where to drill by assuming the book of Genesis is literally true. Every oil company employs large numbers of geologists who know how old the Earth is and the history of life's evolution on it.

    There is no way your computer could work unless all the scientific theories it embodies are true or all but true. We can be confident that if science should continue to progress for 500 years, there will never be a new discovery that magically stops your computer from working by disproving all those theories. Even though every scientific claim is in some sense provisional and subject to revision, the science that gives rise to billion dollar industries is pretty well settled, perhaps for all time.

    Given the overriding value of science in our society, nobody can take a logically consistent stance against it. They can only try to carve out subsets of science they want to deny, and pretend those subsets can exist in isolation from all the other parts. But it doesn't work that way, especially for such a large and interdisciplinary field such as climate science. That's why the science academies endorsing the mainstream position on man-made climate change represent all the sciences, not just climate scientists. A celebrity physicist such as Stephen Hawking can recognize the vast overlap between climate science and his own specialities. It would be very hard for one area of science to go completely off the rails - for decades - without creating vast and deep conflicts with many other areas of science.

    Thus one approach to engaging with climate science deniers is to question them Socratically to lead them to realize the wider implications of what they are claiming. They don't yet understand all the science - and scientifically-provided goodies - they would have to toss out if they really want to believe climate science is untrue.

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  26. Well.... 'tait over and Mr Ebell has not yet assumed office.  I posit, while offerining no proof, that screech about how Mr Ebell is a 'denier', a voice for the ignorant, a filthy capitalist, industry shill and so forth, will cause the transition team to dig in regardless of any truth contained in those statements.

    Pointing out that he was promting the idea that smoking is not bad for you (if true), that he knows no science, and that he knows nothing about either creating jobs or maintaining clean air and water may yeild a better result.  

    Mr Trump is neither a conservative nor a Republican, he's a former Democrat and Clinton supporter who say an opening with a rebranding. Better would be pointing out the Ebell won't help our industry compete and bring back jobs we've forced offshore, has no part in making America's air and water better than China's, Russia's, or Mexico's (something to be proud of), and offering an alternative. The alternative had better not be a doctrinaire eco-hardliner, but someone who can get 85% of the results at 50% of the regulatory costs, and find tangible things his agency can do that non-elite Americans see as a benefit.  In short, someone who draws less flak, isn't nuts, can compromise and makes Trump look good.   

    As far as climate change & US policy, perhaps try the method of accepting half a loaf (some attempts to reduce carbon output) combined with rebranding low-carbon living as Prarie Farmer Methods or some such.  Even with cheap fuel, going from $200/month to $75 month after month, year after year does one a lotta good.  

    OH, and don't own a Prius. It is a technical marvel, hidously ugly, and a truly wretched car unless one is is the sort who likes lite beer.  The thing makes a nasal, groaning sound whenever attempting to gain momentum, blocks traffic and is hideously ugly. Did I mention it's ugly?  This is not a good brand when you want to use the government to make people do things ;-).   There are hybrids of equal technical cleverness which don't cause gastic distress. Most lack the Prius's hatchback feature, a huge plus is daily use, but I believe the Volt is so equipped.   Personally I like a bicycle with a manual shift Hellcat for the rare times one needs to drive, but it's that's royally impractical for most in the USA.  

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  27. nigelj: I agree combating climate change starts with individual initiative and individual responsibility, and making personal commitments to some changes in our daily lives. However I disagree that this will be enough by itself. Some government rules or carbon taxes help promote beneficial behaviours.

    Personal action is a necessary condition for government action. As I pointed out in the case of Prohibition, government action fails when too many people refuse to act in accord with policy and thereby raise the enforcement costs too high. We're seeing the same "problem" today with copyright infringement. Computers have made it cheap and easy for everyone to create exact copies of information and share it at almost no cost. No matter how many schoolchildren get sued by the RIAA or MPAA for sharing a song or movie illegally, the content industry's business model (charging consumers artificially high prices to make copies) is doomed. But that won't stop the content industry from buying politicians to ram through more unenforceable laws. An industry in its death throes can still create a lot of mayhem.

    Prohibiting fossil fuels is probably even harder than prohibiting booze or illegal file-sharing. None of those prohibitions stand a chance without large-scale voluntary individual behavior change. No society can afford to imprison more than a very small percentage of its population, so coercion can only have a correspondingly limited reach. Government can only effectively outlaw behaviors which are already highly unpopular.

    That is why speed limits on the highways are largely a joke. On many roads the entire flow of motor traffic is above the posted speed limit. The problem is so unsolvable that many police departments continue to issue tickets for years on end, not with any hope of forcing compliance but simply as a revenue stream. We probably won't see lawful driving become the norm until self-driving cars remove human drivers from the equation. (And by the way, self-driving cars might make the roads safe for bicycles and pedestrians, thus enabling a massive increase in low-carbon transport.)

    Could personal action be sufficient to solve the climate crisis? I'm sure many readers of this site have already cut their emissions as far as any government target for the year 2030, 2050, or whatever. You can cut your carbon footprint far faster, deeper, and cheaper than any government can cut it for you. The question is not whether individual actions works, but whether we can persuade enough people to take it. But as I keep saying, if we can't persuade people to cut their carbon footprints voluntarily, no government is likely to force them.

    To claim that personal action is insufficient is premature, because we've never seriously tried it. Most official messaging on climate change disparages individual action as insufficient - a message that seems to resonate deeply with many commenters, and especially among those who see Trump's rise as The End, since Trump effectively takes government action off the table.

    But what if we had a massive propaganda effort from everyone who believes science is true, calling for massive individual behavior change? What if the Bill McKibbens, the Jane Goodalls, the Naomi Kleins, and so on led by example and just quit flying? We don't have that type of messaging, because the entire ruling class consists of people in the top centile of individual greenhouse gas emitters. Power brokers like Trump and Clinton pretty much live on jet airplanes, spewing a year's worth of emissions for a normal person every few days, or more than once in a day. Many leading environmentalists do the same thing. So of course the elites who control the messaging emphasize collective action, to deflect attention from their own outsized contributions to climate destruction. And what better way to do this than to promote the idea that individual action can never be enough.

    Disdain for individual action (that is, for individual responsibility) may also reflect leftist bias. Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate discusses the Marxist view of human nature, with the individual as a mere product of social shaping, an empty vessel to be filled by government edict. To the Marxist, reshaping society means seizing the levers of government power, where the only real action is. There is some truth to that, but it isn't the whole story. Indeed, any social campaigner of any political stripe can only succeed by persuading massive numbers of people to do something. They can't just walk in unvited and start yanking the levers of power. They have to somehow get lots of people on their side before they can start shaping those empty vessels with coercive policy.

    The fact is in America the majority of people do seem to want some form of government legislation to combat climate change, yet have been let down by congress.

    But not an effective form of legislation, which would raise the cost of fossil fuels. In America the majority are completely habituated to automobiles and measure their personal well-being inversely to the price of gasoline. To get the level of greenhouse gas emission reductions we need, we need to rapidly phase in carbon taxes high enough to at least double the price of motor fuel. Consider that in Europe, motor fuel is already twice as expensive to the consumer as in the USA, yet average per capita carbon footprints are still much too high even in Europe.

    Of course governments can do a lot to assist individuals who want to cut their carbon footprints. Governments can build bicycle paths, subsidize home insulation, set efficiency standards for appliances, and on and on the list goes. It's easier to cut your carbon footprint today than it was 20 years ago, thanks in part to government. But you can easily cancel everything the government does to reduce your carbon footprint just by booking one more flight per year.

    Only two things can cut off those avenues for emission "leakage":

    1. A massive across-the-board carbon tax (which nobody will vote for unless they have already voluntarily adopted low-carbon living)
    2. Individual moral restraint

    The rise of Trump kills option #1, so let's stop pretending we don't have option #2.

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  28. I think one reason prohibition of alcohol failed was that it never made any sense to ban alcohol, as its just not harmful enough to have a total ban.

    We ban lots of things that are far less harmful. According to the CDC, alcohol kills 75,000 Americans per year. It ruins the lives of countless more, fueling crime, domestic violence, sexual abuse, destruction of careers and families, accidents, and diseases.

    Imagine if a terrorist attack were to kill 75,000 Americans. Trump would probably retaliate by nuking some innocent Muslim country off the map. Yet booze does that every single year.

    That most people remain largely oblivious to the staggering destruction wrought by alcohol represents a triumph of messaging, both from the booze industry and from our drunken sellout elites.

    The Prohibitionists of a century ago were early feminists. At the time, most drinkers were men, and most victims of their drunken rages were their families. The booze industry managed to recruit women as customers rather than as hostile political campaigners through the simple technique of getting them drunk. So today the feminist movement blames everything and everybody for alcohol-fueled violence against women except for the alcohol.

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  29. Daniel Mocsny @25. I totally get that. I couldnt agree more. I have written many posts on climate change and tried to stay with the key facts, back them up with solid sources, be polite, and acknowledge other peoples point of view. You will find a couple on earlier articles on this website. I will end up staying like that because its just me and I dont like enraged debate and nasty confrontation. As you say calling people names doesn't usually change their minds.

    But lately I wonder to some extent. I think Obama would have done well to make a few blunt comments on certain issues. Just sometimes there's a place for anger and bluntness, without being nasty and I think you would know the difference. I repeat, just sometimes. A clown is a clown for example.

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  30. I might add that Hollywood's movies during the 20th century played a huge role in glamorizing a number of destructive vices, including booze, cigarettes, and automobiles. As well as firearms, which remain less deadly than the first three. About the only movies which don't glamorize those things are historical epics whose settings pre-date them. (Although a movie's setting has to be pretty ancient to pre-date booze.)

    If we want serious action on climate change, which now clearly means deep voluntary individual cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, we need Hollywood's help. Given that Hollywood is not exactly a conservative bastion, there might be some hope. But unfortunately Hollywood is the world's leading promoter of climate-destructive lifestyles.

    In an ideal world, the power brokers of Hollywood would learn about carbon footprinting and associate only low-carbon behaviors with all the sexiness and desirability in their films. But most Hollywood movies will probably continue to feature protagonists with Trump-level carbon footprints.

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  31. Daniel M, points well staked and taken; I wish I could be as clear as you and others on this BLOG; I struggle with every word. The one point I made, and which you demonstrate, is very common. Your write off "grandiose government projects" without even considering if there are market based solutions, or effective as opposed to "grandiose", government projects. Think Interstate highways, or rail roads, or public water systems, my argument is that there are effective solutions that intelligent people are not even thinking of giving a chance to by habit of thought, rather than merit.

    As far as people caring: I turn off the shower at the gym while soapping out of habit, but a local guy, turned on the shower and stepped out to soap himself to shame me out of being concerned for water use, in the middle of our drought. The echo-chamber effect, fracturing of media channels, and fear or hate based tribalism is hard to overcome, especially as problems get worse, and fear and anger flare higher: that's what fuels civil wars, and feuds. But I still like and see the value of incrementalism you argue for.

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  32. Daniel Mocnsy @28, that is interesting about alcohol and prohibition. However you are contradicting yourself, because in a post above you certainly appeared critical of prohibition, in principle, but now seem to be defending it.

    Alcohol is certainly harmful, but Im dubious that it is harmful enough to ban and I doubt you would get public support. We already have drink driving laws to deal with at  least that aspect. Many people are able to drink moderately and it is a minority that cause problems, and Im not sure that minority is large enough to try to ban alcohol.

    Yet as you say alcohol is implicated in violence and women are often the victim. It's a tough one, and this is very clear in the public debate and discourse. I certainly think alcohol use should be regulated, with age restrictions and there should be limits on advertising. But then ultimately I'm a pragmatist and into harm minimisation.

    I tend to think cannabis should be legalised as has happened in Colorado. However some things should probably be kept totally illegal, like the supply of the hard drugs like cocaine. I dont think there are any easy answers to these sorts of issues, and you end up with shades of grey, but there is no guarantee that all problems in life will have simple answers. In a sense it seems clearer that we should reduce CO2 emissions!

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  33. Just sometimes there's a place for anger and bluntness, without being nasty and I think you would know the difference. I repeat, just sometimes. A clown is a clown for example.

    I would know the difference, but would the clowns? If you can change Myron Ebell's mind by calling him a clown, then great. I've never met the guy so I have no idea what might get through to him. Maybe a sit-down with Richard Muller or some other denier-turncoat who still has right-wing cred.

    One imagines that it's harder to get through to the professional deniers than to the rank-and-file. You probably won't find too many Trump voters who can mount anything like a coherent defense of climate science denialism. Not that anyone can, of course, but the professional deniers at least know how to avoid breaking character when you stump them.

    I could add that individual action eliminates the standard libertarian objection to coercive policy. If we can persuade people to want to destroy the climate less, then any true libertarian would defend their right to act according to their conscience.

    Thus the environmental movement's nearly exclusive focus on government action makes natural enemies of people we don't need to be our enemies at all.

    There is nothing inherently leftist about environmentalism. It just worked out for some reason that leftists tended to embrace environmental values first. Conservatives could easily develop an environmental ethic based around core conservative values of modesty, thrift, and personal moral responsibility. Kind of like what I'm doing, not because I'm terribly conservative but because I'm nearly certain it's the only approach that can work, for all the reasons I outlined in my comments in this thread.

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  34. Daniel Mocsny @27, you have some good points in your post, too many to comment on right now. However I'm not entirely sure personal action is always a precondition for government action. It is sometimes but not always. The majority may decide a course of legislative action is justified, even if they know there own actions are currently not ideal. As I said above the majority of Americans do support more action on climate change like carbon taxes, at least to a modest degree. Its a start. It's Congress that are holding things back and voting these sorts of measures down.

    I think its dynamic. Clearly politicians wont pass legislation unless they see some tentative public buy in and personal efforts. But legislation then encourages those efforts, in a feedback loop.

    I guess its ultimately a moral choice, or certainly requires a genuine change of personal mindset. But once the government take issues seriously, this helps.

    Conservatives promote individual action, left leaning people look at collective action. We all know that. I do genuinely think we need a good deal of both.

    It would be good if more celebrities set examples. Some already do. However I think air travel is a somewhat invalid point, as its the only viable way of doing certain forms of business, however theres no stopping people buying electric cars, and they have all sorts of advantages in addition to low emissions.

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  35. Regarding Lincoln and the slaves. Public sentiment was moving against slavery, but only to a point.

    That "point" may be an artifact of history, since the Civil War happened, Abraham Lincoln held the USA together through his political genius, and emancipating the slaves was critical to cutting off foreign support for the Confederacy - because most other civilized nations had already moved against slavery. In an alternate history, is there any chance a breakaway Confederacy could still maintain slavery today? I don't think humanity's moral arc would have allowed it.

    However you are contradicting yourself, because in a post above you certainly appeared critical of prohibition, in principle, but now seem to be defending it.

    I object to killing 75,000 Americans every year and ruining the lives of millions more, therefore I defend sobriety. If Prohibition could give us sobriety then I'm all for it. When I criticize the failure of Prohibition, I am really criticizing the fantasy of top-down Prohibitionists that all they needed was a Constitutional Amendment and then - problem solved! Unfortunately for the 75,000 Americans who will die from booze this year, and next year, and the next year, Prohibitionists only succeeded in persuading the wrong people - politicians. Not the people who actually determine how much booze gets consumed - the drunks.

    The history of Prohibition illustrates that all the marches, protests, lobbying, bought politicians, and Constitutional Amendments in the world accomplish nothing unless you persuade enough ordinary individuals to comply with the law.

    Getting rid of booze is much like getting rid of fossil fuels. In both cases you have substances that deliver clear immediate benefits to the consumers while dumping large external costs on other people, or on the future selves of the consumers. The only way to abolish such vices is to persuade people to be far less selfish in the short term. Morality is the force that takes the fun out of inflicting harm on other people, other species, or one's future self - therefore when I say "less selfish" I also mean "more moral."

    The kind of person who would voluntarily cut his or her carbon footprint close to the global fair share (currently under 2 tonnes of CO2e/yr) is probably also the kind of person who does not become an alcoholic - or even feel comfortable supporting that murderous industry with "social" drinking.

    That's clearly a tall order in the modern world, given the massive propaganda in favor of immediate self-gratification. (The same force that caused the 2008 financial collapse - people borrowing excessive amounts of money to fuel their immediate consumption.)

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  36. Daniel Mocnsy @33 and 35, you were critical of the environmental movement focussing so much on government action. But do they? The message I get is a combination of government action and personal change with considerable advice personal change and what people can do, so it just seems some people only hear what they want to hear. A common problem.

    Yes well I said that top down prohibitionism of alcohol was doomed to failure as well. The thing is no matter how much you talk about the harm alcohol does or the moral stance we might like people to ideally take, alcohol also brings pleasure. Maybe we would be better off without it, ideally. I sometimes think that. But in the real world people look for pleasure and it would be immoral to deny them that right.

    All we can do is have some government regulation to minimise harm and stop things degenerating into chaos. Clearly the majority support this. In the fullness of time hopefully we find better answers, and something better than alcohol.

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  37. Daniel Mocsny, I generally agree with striving to raise awareness and trying to get others to better understand things. However, as a pragmatic person I understand the need to change tactics when dealing with someone who makes it clear they are determined to resist or deny awareness and better understanding that is contrary to a strong personal interest.

    As Katharine Hayhoe mentions in Episode 4 of her Global Weirding series some deniers at high levels of society, like Senator Inhofe, are well aware of climate science but fight against it because of the understanding of the change or cost required. The proper response to better understanding climate science is a loss of wealth and power by many people who have gotten away with developed a taste for the benefits they could get away with and have been gambling on continuing to get away with behaving less acceptably.

    I am fairly certain that Trump and Myron Ebell are well aware of the science. What they are also aware of is how many wealthy people will be losers if the proper action to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all is successfully globally pushed for by civil society humanitarians. What they also understand is how easy it can be to tempt people to selfishly share the desire to deny the science because it is contrary to their interest. And they understand that many of those easily impressed people will ignore the cognitive dissonance of that position and also be willing to dismiss or excuse the appeals by Trump to radical white supremacy ways of tribal thinking. They may even try to deny that their support of Trump means that they support the clearly contrary to the advancement of humanity belief in White English Christian exceptionalism.

    So that means that I disagree with any of your beliefs that action on climate change is to be limited to trying to better educate the likes of Trump, Ebell, or Inhofe. I also disagree that leadership will only happen through people freely choosing to behave better. Behaving better without rules ensuring all others have to behave better or penalties for those who try to get away with behaving less acceptably is admirable, but as Trump would probably say, it is for losers.

    So leadership contrary to the self interest of many people is required. The caring and considerate cannot succeed in advancing humanity while those who care less can get away with behaving less acceptably. This climate science issue has provided irrefutable proof that advancing humanity requires the acceptability of any desired actions to be based on a rigorous assessment proving that it will advance humanity to a lasting better future for all, especially the desired actions and promotions of wealthy powerful and impressive appearing people (many people only have an unsustainable undeserved appearance or perception of personal prosperity or success).

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  38. Suggest that the world's scientists just boycott all US representatives who spout the nonscience until Trump gets the message.

    I did not htink it could get theis bad... Being selfish, I am relieved that, although I have tried to do my bit, the consequences of science denial will only really hit when I am dead.  I really feel for younger people.

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  39. Just one word of caution on the subject of labelling people.

    I am - possibly unusual in this blog - right wing. But that doesn't mean that I  (and many others) necessarily lose the power of critical thought, although reading many deniers' responses in forums might so indicate.

    What seems to have changed over the last few decades is the insertion of political leanings into what logically are questions that can be answered by science. If you are right wing then the science of climate change is rubbish. If you are left wing then there should be universal health care regardless of economics.

    Western countries have a high degree of education yet there are still creationists, homeopathy is publically funded in many countries and Bookshops have shelves full of books on the occult, crystal healing etc often alongside "A brief history of time".

    Perhaps it's time to accept that the planet really isn't worth saving?

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  40. Wol @39, economics is not a science.  It has some potential to be pursued scientifically, but major practitioners seem disinclined to do so - preferring ideology to emperical findings.  Certainly the claim that universal health care is not economically viable is falsified by the examples of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all of Western Europe.  These are examples of systems of universal health care in capitalist nations which are economically viable, and in many cases flourishing.  They are also examples of nations with lower per capita health care costs combined with better healthcare outcomes than those of the US.

    With regard to your further point, yes, there are creationists and faith healers and astrologers and what have you in all nations.  And nor do people of any one political view have a monopoly on rationality - but the politicians of the right in the US have launched as sustained, and vitriolic campaign against rationality.  In US, indeed, in Western politics, that has been an exclusive trait of the right.  In the process, they have taught a large part of the electorate, particularly among their voters, to spurn rationality in all political discourse.  The outcome is that they have trained an electorate ripe for a master class bullshitter, and given us Trump.

    No person with right wing views, therefore, can speak on rationality without utmost hypocrissy unless they have severed all financial, organizational, and electoral connection with any of their politicians who do not stand absolutely behind the need for rationality, ie, who does not utterly and publicly repudiate any climate change denial, conspiracy theories or all the other tripe right wing politicians and media have been feeding the electorate over the last few decades.  Have you done so?

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  41. A smidgen of good news?

    Myron Ebell, a prominent climate change skeptic who runs the Competitive Enterprise Institute libertarian think tank, has been leading Trump's EPA transition team, but sources said he is not likely to become the administrator.

    Ebell declined to comment.

    Trump looks to Bush-era for new head of U.S. environmental agency by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, Nov 15, 2016

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  42. The Irish viewpoint. At least Borris is only forign secretary not PM. Made me smile. In these dark times

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  43. One Planet @37, You appear to basically say wealthy people are in denial about climate change, as they see emissions reductions, as a threat to their further wealth creation. You say they secretly acknowledge the truth of the science.

    I would totally agree they deny climate change for precisely the reasons you give, a fear it will affect their wealth creation, beyond a level of wealth any individual really needs. I would add they probably see emissions reductions and state carbon taxes as a threat to their economic ideologies as well. They are now in a highly defensive mindset from what I observe, a mindet not willing to compromise.

    However I do also think many of these people, although not all, are also genuinely sceptical about the science. We have some very crafty and seductive denialist arguments, althought they are of course wrong. But unless you have the time to look carefully at both sides of the climate debate science, its easy to get sucked in by denialist claims.

    So I'm just saying we have a particularly frustrating combination of things influencing peoples conclusions on the whole climate issue.

    Regarding Daniels world view. This is how I see it. He is basically claiming only when sufficient people show a change in behaviour will governments move to develop legislation (like only when people start buying electric cars in sufficient numbers, would government feel empowered to impliment a carbon tax for example). I think his argument has a "grain of truth" on a gut instinct level.

    However behaviour is not the only prerequisite. For example most people now verbally support gay marriage in my country and government bought in gay marriage. (possibly thinking they had sufficient mandate) Nobody had really changed their behaviour, only verbally indicated their views in polls.

    Now extending that principle to the climate issue, most people In many countries have expressed a desire for measures to reduce climate change like carbon taxes. However despite this governments have often ignored their wishes. Just as governments sometimes force things on populations against the will of the majority. I think Congress in America has been captured by various interests like the oil lobby, hence their reluctance to move on climate change.

    So despite people expressing a view they have been ignored. Daniels theory doesn't fully stand up to scrutiny and is only partly true.

    However theres no doubt if we all individually do more to reduce emissions this would empower government to pass legislation like cap and trade or carbon taxes, but again only as a "general rule". What if the government of the day is in the lap of the fossil fuel industry? Daniels theory breaks down badly. This is exactly the problem they have in America.

    As you say we can only hope government shows a better quality of leadership and stands up to certain groups. This is a moral choice they have to make.

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  44. Tom Curtis, I do think economics is a legitimate science that is based on data and interpretation, hence you get things like the laws of supply and demand. This is all scientific logic.

    However economics is also prescriptive like a technology, in that it promotes how things should be. This is where the problems start. Economics gets far more dubious and ideologically based, and sometimes makes claims that are untested and very doubtful sounding to me.

    The result is economics is a complicated and messy field with various schools of thought. Its made harder because we are trying to predict economic outcomes in the future when one of the generators of these is human behaviour, and its unknowns and unpredictability. Economcs says people act rationally in their own self interest. We now know this is a dangerous simplification.

    To make matters worse politicians enter the room, and then twist what economics is really saying. For example most economists do accept the need for government regualtion, particularly over environmental matters where you get failures of markets to resolve the issue. Economists say don't overdo the regulation, (but it is definitely required). Its more politicians on the right that have twisted this to promote deregulation, often aiming for very total deregulation, that happens to suit the wishes of people who lobby them.

    However economists themselves also do have some strange views that defy commonsense  or evidence. Their promotion of flat taxes and extreme privatisation seems debatable to me when you look at real world experience. For example my country of New Zealand does have public healthcare and it costs much less to run than Americas private system. However I dont believe in governments owning things like car companies.

    I totally agree with the second part of your comments on the right wing in America going through a phase of irrationality. Al gore wrote a good book on it The Republican War on Science".

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  45. I intend to stop buying any American goods until they elect someone who will act on climate change. I will be urging others to do the same. I regret that this policy, if adopted widely, will hurt some Americans who are entirely blameless. Hopefully it will only be a 4-year boycott.

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  46. Leto, when I am now dealing with someone from US, I suddeny find myself asking "is this person someone who might have voted for Trump". I no longer feel comfortable even offering board to visiting post-docs/fellows. It colours my view. Suddenly a part of the US that we thought long gone is shown to be very much still there.

    However, I think a boycott of only only Red state goods is appropriate.

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  47. I woke up after the election of Trump with a deep dislike of America and the American people. It wasnt just the red states, it was everyone. However we have to pull back from that reaction, because its not healthy.

    We can however boycott things from Trump supporting red states. We also can make our opinions and general displeasure clear. Things do eventually get through. Silence would be taken as a mandate supporting Trump.

    Donald Trump also need to realise starting trade wars goes both ways. There are no winners in trade wars. They were a large factor causing the 1930s economic slump.

    But obviously readers of this website are particularly concerned about climate change. We have to be very solid and firm in our views on this issue. You can't compromise on science.

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  48. nigelj@43, My current best understanding of what is going on is not as generic as being critical of wealthy people. My criticism is of everyone who chooses to put a higher priority on pursuing personal desires than they do on participating in helping to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all. I understand the appeal of climate science denial to such people, not just rich ones. The obvious required changes of ways of living mean that many developed perceptions of prosperity and perceptions of opportunity for increased personal perceptions of prosperity are undeniably unjustified.

    That callous selfishness is not restricted to wealthy people. And not all wealthy people choose to think and behave that selfishly. However, the ones who get away with the least acceptable behavior can temporarily have a competitive advantage (for as long as they are able to get away with what could be understood is unacceptable).

    So my criticism is of the wealthy and powerful who choose to deny climate science. They cannot claim to be uninformed (unlike less fortunate people who are more desperate and have that driving their willingness to accept a misleading appealing message). The likes of Trump, Inhofe and Ebell are almost certain to have become aware of the facts of climate science. They are simply choosing to fight against the obviously required change of the way things are going, a change that would make all the people who gambled on getting away with less acceptable pursuit of benefit become the losers they undeniably deserve to be.

    And those wealthy powerful denial promoters are more despicable when they deliberately drum up support with misleading messages targeting the easily impressed among the population. And the most despicable among that group will also try to drum up even more support by deliberately appealing to social supremacists like White or Christian or English Speaking or Male supremacists.

    It must be noted that the gathering up if the callous greedy and intolerant into a power block is more than a grouping up of people who have various reasons to deny climate science. Each subcategory of people in that tent will have different things they desire that they can understand are actually unacceptable. They share the understanding of the importance of defending each others understandably unacceptable desires, when acceptability is determined by the governing principle of advancing humanity to a lasting better future as part of a robust diversity of all life on this amazing planet.

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  49. One Planet only @48, I agree with most of that, especially on what motivates some people and how they put personal desires above the long term good of humanity. Most people I know strike a balance, but some people are very short term thinking. Maybe the recent discussion in the media relating to "narcissists" has some bearing on the issue.

    However it creates a difficult problem to solve, other than somehow shaming these people or trying to show them that longer term and wider thinking is often in their own interests, or the interests of their children.

    However I honestly think Donald Trump probably does think climate change is a conspiracy. Remember some perfectly well educated people genuinely believe in creationism as well.  

    Ebell probably knows better, but the point is its hard to say and people are all different. However leaked documents certainly show oil industry interests knew of the climate issue for decades, while publicly denying it. Such is the power of the profit motive etc.

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  50. scaddenp@46

    A boycott of Red States does sound fairer, and is attractive in theory. I am not sure how possible it is in practice, given that most corporations are distributed. Perhaps a general boycott would be apprpropriate, with exemptions for Blue State companies that are clearly small and localised, such as cottage industries, and so on.

    I too have undergone a major change in sentiment towards America, though not to individual Americans. My brother lives in America and I have American nieces and nephew, and many Americans are truly inspiring... But my image of a typical American had undergone a shift. Only about 25% of Americans actively voted to keep Trump out of office, and he was clearly unsuitable for office on a number of fronts, including climate change. I am appalled at the country's collective stupidity.

    If I am feeling this way, others must be as well. Some prominent Australians are voicing the need to rethink our relationship with America, and Europe is discussing the same issue.

    I just hope the rest of the world can step up on the climate change issue in a way that makes it in America's interest to follow. (Of course, my own country Australia has nothing to be proud of in this regard, either, having put Tony Abbott in place as PM - but we did have bipartisan support for carbon-trading until just before Abbott took over, and I live in hope.)

    The election has left me disappointed with humanity, to be honest, and I know others feel the same. I think this election will consitute a line in history for the American nation and its place in the world.

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