Monday, June 09, 2014

It’s Healthy to be Skeptical, Just Not Cynical

Whenever I come across global warming/climate change deniers, I try to carefully listen or read what they have to say.

Some don’t really deny it’s happening.

They believe we’ll just overcome it somehow as we have major crises in the past without seeing that those were ultimately overcome by action, after being made worse by waiting.

I used warming/change in my opening because a new Yale University study shows that Americans feel a sense of urgency when the term global warming is used.

Which, in part, is why more than a decade ago savvy Republican researchers suggested the substitution of “climate change to make it seem less threatening.

That warm and fuzzy approach to global warming turned out as predicted to not only divide Americans but cause 1-in-5 to be not at all worried (p. 16.)

As an Independent I may have been cynical about the motives of “professional confusers” behind today’s gridlock but now having read this memo I’m not even skeptical.

Ironically, the 2002 Republican research called for a flip-flop.

A decade earlier conservatives had teamed in a bipartisan effort under the first Republican President Bush to break a 13-year logjam by deploying market-based “cap and trade” to successfully curb another harmful emission.

In 2002 there wasn’t the overwhelming scientific consensus there is today that climate change/global warming is a real and present danger or that it is due to human actions above and beyond natural causes over the last 250 years, especially the last 60.A Sceptic's Guide

If you are a skeptic who happened to read this far, you may want to read the research by scientists at Berkley Earth who until recently were also skeptical.

It is summarized their new report entitled, Know The Facts: A Skeptic’s Guide to Climate Change.

Then again, studies of “motivated reasoning” find that in many people skepticism is really a cognitive cover used to deflect unwelcome information.

This is especially true when it is sincerely held that what ordinary people believe will not make a policy difference.

Showing irrationality is often rarely enough to “induce individuals to process information in a different way.”

There is a difference between being skeptical and being cynical.

Skeptics have reservations.  Cynics believe others are motivated by selfish concerns and don’t believe in altruism or even honesty.

If you’ve never been into reading and understanding various philosophical outlooks, a new book illustrates each one instead, entitled Philographics.

Deniers often fall into both categories though it seems more often the latter while global warming believers sometimes can get caught up in being cynical about deniers.

New science shows that cynics on both sides run a much higher risk of dementia, especially perhaps those cynical about scientific studies.  The study also shows that cynics won’t die any earlier, perhaps they just won’t remember.

That 2002 Republican research memo predicted more than a decade ago what a new Yale study confirms: use of the terms global warming and climate change are synonymous to Republicans and Conservatives (or as we Independents often joke, is that now redundant?)

But the term climate change “actually reduces engagement” among Independents, Democrats, moderates and liberals.  Fortunately, groups that will soon dominate elections such as minorities and young adults light up when global warming is used instead.

And that might be why global warming is still the most used by Americans personally, as well as in the news media, and in conversation according to the Yale study.

The Berkley Earth report meant for climate change/global warming skeptics includes a breakdown of what events are unrelated, e.g. tornados and earthquakes.

Hurricanes, droughts, forest fires and floods may change due to global warming/climate change but the amount hasn’t been established.

There is a link established to increased heat waves and coastal flooding.

New research also shows that global warming is not only reducing snow pack where water has historically been stored until released into rivers and reservoirs each spring, the means by which 1-in-6 people worldwide receive fresh drinking water.

But paradoxically, the resulting switchover to rainfall also means these water ways are less full in part because it is held in place by soil instead.

Sitting idle, we are likely to see much more rainfall but much less available for human use for drinking water.  This also mean less available for electrical power and agriculture.

Of course the use of climate science has been outlawed for the time being by the legislature in North Carolina because it was inconvenient for a few coastal land developers.

And some members of Congress are trying to do the same regarding military research which over the last 60 years has been the foundation of nearly all of the technological changes driving American innovation.

Fortunately, corporations are paying no heed and building the price of reversing global warming into strategic plans. Nor are many states.

Nine northeast states which banded together to cap emissions in 2009 have seen their economies grow faster than the other states while reducing greenhouse gas emissions nearly five times quicker.

A similar combine of five western states and two Canadian provinces fell apart after conservatives seized control in 2010.  But British Columbia in 2010 and California last year moved ahead.

Regressives such as those banning the use of studies on global warming and other research are easy to spot.

Even those who make it onto the governing boards of much smaller organizations where research is a core value are obvious by using every opportunity to demean it and to starve it of resources and focus.

All conservatives are not regressives, nor are all regressives conservatives. What they have in common is a disdain for research and resistance to progress.

In the words of the famous Brooklyn Dodgers then Yankees announcer Red Barber, “back, back, back, back (smile.)”

Regressives in the North Carolina General Assembly today are failing to head the warnings in that landmark 2002 research for Republicans, because that would, uh, be using scientific research.

It warns that while conservative attempts to negatively brand environmentalists had been successful by 2002, Americans as a whole remain overwhelmingly sensitive about the environment.

They just prefer instead labels such as pro-environment and conservationist.

The memo warns that “when we [Republicans] talk about ‘rolling back regulations’ involving the environment, we [Republicans] are sending a message Americans don’t support” and when it comes to regulations, Americans are “most comfortable with local oversight.”

The last part is lost on North Carolina regressives seeking every means possible to strip local governments of any oversight while demonizing science and regulations meant in the publics interest.

Not all narcissists in high office (found in greater proportion and much further up the spectrum than the general populace) are regressives, but uber narcissism among regressives may explain their claim “we don’t give a damn how many people this hurts.”

Oops, I hear someone banging on my door but keep the faith.  Whoever it is that thinks I’m part of a conspiracy probably won’t remember long.

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