What do these videos tell us about Climate Denial?

April 30, 2011

Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot.

The idea of “liberty” propagated by entities like the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute is not the same as that espoused by the founding Fathers – who were thinking of thought, speech, religion, philosophy, assembly etc.

For the modern so-called conservatives, who would have horrified the likes of Jefferson and Franklin —  “freedom” is defined as selfishness, egoism, and narrow self interest with no regard whatever for other human beings, much less living systems, other living creatures, or even our own children.

Is this view of life so attractive that it is insurmountable?
I offer it up as a springboard for discussion. See what you think.

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6 Responses to “What do these videos tell us about Climate Denial?”

  1. Moth Says:

    A good follow on from your post on the 12th of April on Republicans for Environmental protection.

    That second video sickened me, but I have to say from my experience, it seems fairly iconic of how the US appears from the outside (however much truth might or might not, be in it). “Right to be stupid”?? Disturbing coming from a super power.

  2. TDAR1405 Says:

    Indeed, I think a lot of how people view climate change has to do with their daily habits and what they believe.

    People like those shown in the second video might not deny climate change’s existence, but they’re probably very phlegmatic about the whole issue.

  3. Alteredstory Says:

    I saw two different things. The first video is more directly related to climate change. To me there’s a direct parallel between people saying “fine, if you don’t want to smoke, don’t smoke, but don’t tell ME what to do,” and people saying, “fine if you don’t want to drive an SUV, don’t drive and SUV, but don’t tell ME what to do.”

    It’s a basic denial of the fact that doing either of those things actually effects other people’s lives.

    The second video illustrates the whole “it’s my body and I’ll die if I want to” mentality that seems so common among Americans and curmudgeons. I find it doubly interesting/disturbing that the Heart Attack Grill not only has the whole blatant “bragging about being decadent” thing, but they also have waitresses in hot outfits who are decidedly NOT obese.

    I think they both say a lot about American culture in general, which in turn is a driving force in climate change.

    The “right to be as stupid as I want to” is all fine and well, but those who advocate for it never seem to consider the consequences their idiocy has on the rest of society.

    I may have thoughts that are a little more coherent after my second or third cup of blood pressure elevator/coffee.


  4. I don’t see how how either of these videos say anything about climate denial since there is no indication of the climate beliefs of any of the subjects.

    I am as far as one can get from climate denial, yet I support the right of New Yorkers to smoke in public, and for people to enjoy what they eat, even the (hopefully) occasional megadose of fat.

    These videos illustrate issues of personal liberty vs the public good, and, just like decisions involving our climate and society, need to be based on evidence not prejudice. Eating a hamburger predestines climate denial? – that’s worthy of farce.

    And remember that the subjects of the video are talking about their rights to enjoy possibly debilitating lifestyles which effect no one but themselves. The issues surrounding climate are different – they have to do with the long-term consequences of our current actions on our descendants, billions of other people, and millions of species.

    The dangers of AGW are evident to anyone who has a science background and a curious mind. At this point, if you are not terrified for humanity you have not been paying attention. There are a lot of people who have not been paying attention out of ignorance and active disinformation. Whose fault is that? It is ours, to a large extent.

    To make an impression on people today is a lot more difficult than it used to be. And scientists are not particularly well suited to this. There needs to be organizational monies for staffs of trained climate communicators demanding air time and who deliver some varnished hyperbole that the public can understand. The public, which is still complacent, must be taught to fear AGW. Because the facts are scary. The actually have a right to be scared, because they have a right to be informed.

    Is this the communication strategy of the GW movement yet? Hardly. The movement is terrified of the tiniest hyperbole, of making a statement the opposition can pounce on as an exaggeration. We need to move to a much more aggressive framework. The conversation should not be about whether AGW is a fact. It should be about whether the Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobil executives should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. It should be about nationalizing the energy and auto industry. It should be about what we are going to do when the Texas weather becomes commonplace and turns our nation’s bread basket into a dustbowl. We really are in an emergency situation on Earth. We must communicate that we have emergency, not a far-off concern.

    I really do think the American public will be more than willing to make drastic changes once people are actually talking about them.

    • Moth Says:

      “These videos illustrate issues of personal liberty vs the public good”

      That’s the suggested comparison being made here.

      “…rights to enjoy possibly debilitating lifestyles which effect no one but themselves.”

      That’s not exactly correct. Many countries as well off as the US, UK and Aust. have great public expense through the medicals costs as a result of preventable disease. The two largest causes of preventable disease would be cigarette smoking (ie. cancers, heart disease, emphysema etc) and unhealthy diets (ie. type two diabetes, cancers, obesity, heart disease etc). Their “right” to kill themselves is only justifiable if the community is not left to fork out their medical bills.

      “The dangers of AGW are evident to anyone who has a science background and a curious mind.”

      I’d tend to agree, however, right-wingers who claim to have more education and understanding on AGW tend to be stronger in their views that it is not happening (see http://www.desmogblog.com/climate-change-and-well-informed-denial ). You and I would agree that what they refer to as “education” is obviously wrong, but it’s not so easy to state.

      We often pick on scientists as poor communicators. I think that’s unfair. If you’re scientifically literate, you’ll see they do an excellent job in science literature (or else science in general would fail). It is the science communicators whom have the responsibility to transfer this knowledge to a wider audience and here is where we’ve seen some hit and miss.

      But still I wouldn’t be too hard on them – there has been a clever movement in misinformation that relies on many obvious loop-holes (the same exploited in other attempts at denial – eg. evolution, tobacco/disease etc) which are difficult to counter. As well as this, AGW has been discussed as a minor long term problem since the 70’s and it’s been little more than a decade since the concern has ramped up to the point it’s now at – so, we’re all familiar with it, but it’s only recently we’ve been told that it’s a concern… then the denial movement diffuses the situation further..

      It’s easy to see why the message has thus far largely failed.

      In this way, I don’t think the public in any given developed country, as a whole, will act regardless how much more people discuss the situation with them. Certain pockets will and some will continue attitudes that mirror those seen in the videos above. I feel it will be the efforts already underway (ie. EU ETS etc) that will lead industrial practice change, governmental aimed initiatives (ie. ICLEI) that will improve the sustainability of council regions and entrepreneurial efforts (eg. the ABLE project) / local community groups which will all start to design what the new era will look like.


  5. ““…rights to enjoy possibly debilitating lifestyles which effect no one but themselves.”

    That’s not exactly correct. Many countries as well off as the US, UK and Aust. have great public expense through the medicals costs as a result of preventable disease… “</blockquote

    Actually, from what I understand from some pretty shocking behavior from medical insurance companies, it costs society less to let people smoke and eat themselves to death because they die young, and don't use as much healthcare dollars as longer-lived people who have chronic problems.

    We often pick on scientists as poor communicators. I think that’s unfair…

    Don’t get me wrong, many scientists are great communicators, and we need all of them to continue communicating the science. But what they are likely not good at, is getting hyperbolic. And I am trying to make the case that we need a lot more shrill hyperbole out there, backed up by good science. We need to move the Overton window by having a lot more people out there talking in terms that shock people, to stop addressing the idiocy of typical denialist tactics, and start talking about the real consequences of AGW. We need to move the national conversation away from false controversy and arguments over facts, to a discussion about topics which include the end of civilization. And we need to do it yesterday.

    This sort of talk would be best done by people with science backgrounds who are not active scientists.


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