Reaction to Comments on Non-Skeptic Heretics

May 25th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

My only partially tongue-in-cheek post yesterday on the NSH Club generated many comments here and on Kevin’s NoSeNada blog. As well, my email box filled up with a bunch of comments. Here are a few perspectives on the various comments:

1. Dave Roberts, a commenter whose views I have a lot of respect for as they can always be counted on for being thoughtful and passionate, of Grist Magazine responded with fury to both my post and Easterbrook’s op-ed. Of Easterbrook, Roberts (somewhat bizarrely in my view) takes him to task for coming around to Roberts own views, writing on the GristMill blog:

So all of us who have been warning about it for years — pushing against dimwits like Gregg Easterbrook — are now, retroactively, by His Own Centrist Grace, transmuted from “alarmists” to reasonable people.

Of my post Dave similarly pulls no punches in the comments,

You can [Ed- I assume this was supposed to be and. RP] Easterbrook share then tendency to set up strawmen and then proclaim your own intellectual heroism for disagreeing with them. Your eagerness to seen as a maverick completely distorts your perceptions.

This is a complicated discussion. There are a whole range of positions, defended by various people in good faith. Defining your little team seems like the least productive way of engaging the issue.

A few responses to this: First, Dave’s assertion on his blog that “there’s no substitute for political engagement” does not seem to apply to my attempt to stake out a distinct political position on climate change that is different from the existing dominant two camps. Third way political campaigns are often castigated in exactly the manner that Dave has dismissed my views — i.e., if you are not with us, then you must be against us!

Second, Dave, unlike many of the NSHers I pointed to and commenters reacting to my post has come out firmly against adaptation except, as he writes in the comments here, for that climate change already committed to, explaining on his blog:

Once we “adapt” to the new climate we have in 2040, the changes will keep coming. We’ll have to adapt all over again to the climate of 2060, and the climate of 2080, etc. Human society, no matter how clever, no matter how wealthy, simply isn’t equipped to live in a constantly, dramatically changing climatic situation. Economic development depends on stability and predictability. . . We need to commit unreservedly to halting our acceleration of that instability. We all need to be pulling in the same direction, and that won’t happen until arguments like [The atmosphere is warming, and it's attributable to human activity, but the "cure" (substantial CO2 emissions cuts) would be worse than the disease. It would be easier, and cost less, simply to adapt to a warmer world.] die a richly deserved death.

But for all of his complaining about my views, he doesn’t offer up any policy options (aside from denying value of adaptation), relying instead on heated political rhetoric and empty appeals to mitigate. So Dave, if you are reading, you are invited to share your specific policy recommendations here.

2. Andrew Dessler, whose views I also have a lot of respect for, commented (along with many others) here that he is:

-extremely pro-mitigation — we need to begin to institute policies to reduce GHG emissions

-extremely pro-adaptation — we also need to begin to institute policies to reduce our vulnerability to climate change

This immediately presents a very different perspective than Dave Roberts, hence Andrew’s NSH status ;-) But Andrew then says, “overall, I’m indifferent to the Kyoto Protocol.”

Sorry Andrew, but you can’t have it both ways! The Kyoto Protocol, as is the FCCC under which it was negotiated, is in fact strongly biased against adaptation. If you are indeed strongly pro-adaptation and pro-mitigation at the same time, a view which I share, then it seems only logical and consistent to observe that Kyoto and the FCCC don’t share this same commitment. There is of course a need for some international framework to help shape and coordinate climate policies, and the FCCC is a monumental achievement, but it is not beyond evolving in positive ways. And the difference between evolution and revolution may not be large. Simply ask people about the value of reopening FCCC Article 2 for discussion to see what I mean. Opening up the discussion of balance of adaptation and mitigation, and the institutional incentives for each under the FCCC, would be a good place to start, but seems pretty far off.

3. Over at NoSeNada, Kevin provides a good characterization of my initial intent of the NSH post suggest of NSHers: “these are some people who aren’t afraid to dissent from the conventional wisdom, even when dissenting gets them a lot of flak” rather than “here’s a new club of people who all feel the same way”. I haven’t asked anyone if they agree or not with my characterization of NSHers, I just lumped in folks whose views do not appear to be well characterized by the existing Manichean debate. And from my email inbox, it seems there are a lot of such people!! At the same time, it is important to recognize that there are also many people whose views are reflected by the two-sided debate and who (on both sides) are not at all excited by the prospect of a third way position, whatever it is called, tongue-in-cheek or not.

Overall it has been a surprising conversation, not least because of all of the apparent latent support for the notion that there is in fact a third way position on climate change. Keep the comments coming; this has been a valuable exchange, thanks all!

2 Responses to “Reaction to Comments on Non-Skeptic Heretics”

  1. Daniel Collins Says:

    Reading KV’s post, I wondered how much of a sampling bias there is in associating the polar positions with commentators/bloggers. We’re here because we believe something firmly enough to reister with TypeKey. I do think, though, that there are plenty of people and commentators who aren’t so eager to be put in any of the three csmps. Could that be even more heretical?

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  3. Andrew Dessler Says:


    Just to be clear: while I support the general goal of the KP to reduce GHG emissions, I agree that it has many problems — some are well known and can be worked around, others not so much. Ultimately, the KP is old news … the real question is what comes after it. Coming up with a follow-on to the KP under the auspices of the FCCC has been and will continue to be problematic. In the Dessler and Parson book, where we give our personal judgment of what to do about AGW, we advocate a solution that requires ditching the FCCC and KP.