Monckton and the Confusion of Stage Show Denial

I hadn’t realised, until this ever day, an interesting fact regarding the posts of the Moth Incarnate Blog. Of all the many thousands of words and various graphics that I have produced over the past nine months, by a large stretch, the posts of enduring popularity – which on lazy days can count for nearly my entire hit count – are the couple of commentary posts relating to John Abraham and Christopher Monckton. Were I a shallow, stats-driven writer (believe me, the readership here is, unfortunately, low at best), I could easily focus on more sensational spits between reason and misinformation, highly dramatising each blow sent, each eye poked and each dirty word said, or implied… but I may as well use such skills (or in truth, lack there of) for producing scripts for some brain-melting midday soap. Hell, at least I’d be getting paid, I suppose.

Is there any clearer indication that this “climate debate” is nothing more than an entertaining past-time for a large proportion of the blogosphere than that the Abraham vs. Monckton episode still works the search engines?

Anyone who still holds any delusions of Christopher Monckton’s credibility in climate science has either been living under a rock for much of 2010 or is so deep within some paranoid fantasy that Christopher seems sensible… as sensible as little green men controlling the UN to lead the world into new age of oppression, slavery and ultimately part of the spread placed out for our galactic overlords (enter L. Ron Hubbard…). In that regard, I’m a much happier bloke than I was when I set out on this blog – that people where taking Monckton seriously was incredibly disturbing to me. However, as much as many others have wasted so much time going to great lengths to untangle his lies, we see no real ramifications to Chris, personally, for his spread of misinformation. But enough of that.

Over at Watching the Deniers, in a comment stream the other day, an individual whom I can only describe as a troll said something that actually struck me as being dead right, “…the public is saturated and they don’t want to hear about it anymore. So perhaps the deniers are losing now, but the war is already won.”

Indeed, I’ve been wondering where the interest has gone. For, with the scandals debunked (ie. Climategate, exaggeration of the errors in the IPCC’s 4th report etc) and with the aggressive, self-righteous louts of denial de-fanged and dismissed, why is it that the science is now communicated to a much emptier and unenthusiastic space? Most Aussies roll their eyes when they hear about Gillard’s ridiculous climate change committee, but otherwise, few seem to want to talk about climate change at all – or even sustainability. This is incredibly concerning seeing as we’re witnessing many records being broken this year; be it ice loss, coral bleaching events, the global temperature anomaly… We’re also around the apex of peaking oil – probably the most important of the fossil fuels for current human activities. The picture should merit for more action than a simple shrug of the shoulders.

Yet, the bozo troll above most likely got one thing right about the denial movement. Many celebrated deniers probably knew, at least at a subconscious level, that eventually they would be found out – I mean, the hero of denial was a bloody puzzle maker (and what a horrid puzzle he developed to keep many great minds busy for many months). Yet the whole affair, especially over the past year, did it’s job in smothering the public in the climate debate. I think the weak will that we witnessed in Copenhagen and closer to home (Rudd’s back-flipping on tackling climate change, for instance) also helped to provide disillusionment. In short, most felt let down, confused and eventually fed-up with talking about climate change altogether.

Yet, I do not feel that we few who continue to discuss the host of challenges facing this coming century are merely beating a dead horse. A better analogy would be that we’re trying to push a stubborn mule. Sure, the blasted animal might move if it saw the dust storm on the horizon, but at that point, it would be unlikely to outrun the wall of fast approaching sand.  What we need to do is get the ol’ carrot on a stick. Again, I make the call that industry is the only major driver left capable of providing the carrot.

The prevailing paradigms all come back to fast-turnover consumerism. This exposes itself in everything – from electrical devises that have a short lifespan than a pair of shoes, well, from tires having a shorter life span that most peoples shoes if the truth be known, to excessive personal waste and poor quality housing (cheap, pretty, thin-walled suburbia that employs none of the learnt tricks of yesteryear passive heat management and durability, but instead increases the rate of sprawl and requires almost constant climate control). Buy up! Buy up fast!

There are numerous ways around this.

Would people pay more, at least over time, for higher quality, durable technology that is upgradeable and ultimately reclaimable/recyclable (may also include some reward to the user, not unlike the bottle return depots of South Australia)? I believe so.

Would people pay less (at first, possibly a small amount more, but within a decade definitely less) for locally grown produce and other produce that reduces manufacturing costs by reducing and simplifying packaging? I believe so.

If local councils, instead of forking out for new infrastructure in new development plots, paid to upgrade the infrastructure of the neighbouring developed area, promoted apartment construction, localising of industry, better public transport to other close by business districts and used that undeveloped area for minor agriculture, manicured parks and rehabilitated native environments, would they provide an area more attractive, liveable, and economically healthier than the current sprawl mentality? I believe so.

The following graphic always stuck in my mind:

The suggested energy curve of our species, but certainly a good representation of our relationship with fossil fuel oil

This also should represent the current consumerism paradigm. The ideas are already around us, but seemingly as distant to the general public as the buzz of discussions that enriched many European coffee houses of yesteryear. Unfortunately what has created this rift is a stage show, as ludicrous as Monty Python’s ‘Confuse a Cat’, that came in the form of Christopher Monckton, Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, Donna Laframbiose, Andrew Bolt and many others. Now, not only are the general public uninterested, but we who still discuss the problems facing our future seem to feel the need of going around in circles, continuously addressing the same tired lines of denial.

The troll made a valid point. We all fell for the side show of denial. It’s not a new technique; we who employ scientific reasoning encourage debate and free-speech and thus must make time for other ideas. Stephan Lewandowsky made an excellent point yesterday about the contradictions in denial and to adopt another Monty Python quote, we must “stop it! It’s just getting silly!”

It’s clear that denial is baseless and we should feel the right to ignore nonsensical arguments and instead move on to the next phase (a place that we were arguably at already a few years ago) and start asking how are we going to meet this future?

~

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4 thoughts on “Monckton and the Confusion of Stage Show Denial

  1. You know what I’d really, really like to see? Science, any and all of it, presented as a routine segment on regular news services. Not the breath-taking scientists have discovered some marvelous/ horrible/exciting new thing. But something like the finance report.

    On finance, some days the banks are up and the miners are down or the dollar’s done something unexpected. In similar routine science reports for the last few weeks, we’d have the Arctic ice melt, locust progress, USA floods, iodine in soy milk (or not), a couple of medical items, a couple of ocean items, some renewable energy, a few cute animals. Not thrilling, not world-shattering claims, just this is how science is moving along. And just like finance, the occasional graph – see how this item was tracking last year, well, look how it’s gone since.

    A few predictable minutes every single day. Many people would ignore it in the way they ignore the finance items. But making it a routine topic that anyone can keep up with if they wish to.

    And the Moncktons of the world would get a passing mention in the same way as the occasional financial bust-up. These people got it seriously wrong, see this is where they went wrong.

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    1. That’s a really good idea – the best part would be that it would demystify science – it’d bring science into to homes and lives of the general public.. It would go a long way at closing the doors of ideological-based abuse on reason. 🙂

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  2. Hi ,

    Sorry to be negative but do you really think people would say “what do you wanna watch X factor or that new show on ABC ClimateScience Demystified ? . ” WE would watch it and thats why we think it a great idea and it is adelady , but I think it would reach to few people sadly .
    The other thing I could see happening is the deneirs claiming equal time to air their “science”
    otherwise there would be claims of bias by the likes of Bolt , Akerman , Devine etc .

    People are bored with Climate Change their use to movies where if the world is going to end/change its quick Meteors , viruses , earthquakes , aliens, a here and now threat where the good ol USA can save us , lol , they have to get on with life work , paying bills ,schooling kids , everyday things . The science is to esoteric , with arcane arguements about forcings , models and clouds , to an outsider (most people ) its like religion and where that these days

    ClimateChange reminds me of the story of the frog in the pot that didnt relise the water was getting to hot till it was to late , that will be us by the time we get our 3 or 4 year of an ice free Artic summer it will to late , Oh and now the Russians want to drill for oil and gas there and reckon its 30% of the world supply , just what we need .

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    1. I’m afraid that neither show would reach me – I loath prime-time tv as it is and news or quasi-news gets me annoyed (I know it’s a failing on my part – I’m too critical at the best of times and my attitude towards those morning news shows like Today and Sunrise as well as with the newspapers, the Australian and the Advertiser have made many family members and friends find the nicest way to tell me to shut up! lol)

      As for deniers claiming equal time – I think its more the folly of “balanced journalism”. Dissent is given, in the case of climate change, too much attention for it’s relatively mediocre base of evidence. You can’t blame all journalists though – many of them haven’t done much in the way of science (which begs the question – why then are they allowed to report on it?). I don’t think it’s truly like with religion – which is given special privileges in lieu of evidence. Denial of ACC doesn’t pull at the same strings (although, religion is putting its two-bits into the denial movement).

      I think it’s older than the movies – just look at the bible. We’re rooted in a form of ignorance that leaves its stench on reason and because we respect one’s personal beliefs in many cases, over the evidence, we’re finding it a bad smell that won’t quit. However, you’re right – inside and outside of science, the view of scientific methodology is radically different. Even the iconic scientific vision that scientists use to promote science – usually good looking young people wearing lab coats, it’s just a silly as the outside view of the old ‘mad-scientist’.

      People will continue to find new patches of oil long after my ashes have been thrown to the wind. As I’ve been saying a lot lately – change will only come from industry. Even with new oil coming onto the market, barrel prices will be on the increase within a decade – industries that make the change early will reap the benefits while others a trying to convert as quickly as possible. Buying agricultural land close to major populations now is a great idea, if you’re willing to farm. Do it right and you’ll be very competitive by 2020 (even more so it you harvest green energy on areas of the land not so suitable for farming and also provide biodiversity additions/preservation). The same can be said about mixed-used urban environments. Processes that reduce fossil fuel requirements (from energy to oil derived plastics) will also be leading the pack… etc etc etc..

      🙂

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