"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, Avatar & the Climate (of distrust); or, Can we move from a tribal questioning of motives to win-win policies? - TT's Lost in Tokyo

Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, Avatar & the Climate (of distrust); or, Can we move from a tribal questioning of motives to win-win policies?

"Whhhaaat the heck is TT up NOW?" I can hear some of you asking yourselves. Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, the movie Avatar and climate?

Just what elusive illusions am I alluding to here? (Stop playing, you say.) Well, brace yourself, and bear with me.

Roger Pielke, Jr. has a post up regarding a interesting recent piece by Bill Gates on how to address climate issues (I will address Gates' piece separately). The comment section at Roger's predictably fell into into the usual patterns of questioning climate science, and a mutual questioning of motives and rationality. I just happened to run into it, and was moved to try to post a few thoughts there.

Libertarians ought to understand why suspicions run rampant on climate issues - even as they can't seem to get past it (despite my annoying, incessant and level-headed ravings). But many others are so wrapped up in Climate KombatTM that they never think to even to question WHY - why all of the hostility, why all of the circling of wagons, and why the lack of interest in examining root problems and possible win-win approaches?

Well, that's what my "Avatar" reference is intended to shorthand (pardon an archaic expression; maybe I shouldn't telegraph my antiquity like this!): that movie was all about theft - theft that we can see all around us even today as I have noted in a number of posts (even as we may be blind to those that advantage us) -  group advantage, and communal responses to threats. Communal responses involve perceiving threats and banding together with brothers to defend all that is good, sacred, holy and OURS. This, I posit, is not only instinctive and reflexive, but EXACTLY what the climate discussion is about, on many levels.

It's just that the disputants have entirely different views on who is trying to steal what from whom, and what or who is the threat, on who is an enemy, who is a brother, what is to be defended, and on strategy and tactics (as well as how to be advance personal interests).

I penned a few thoughts at Roger's (I note that both Roger and his father. climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. , are in the thick of the climate wars, their own positions frequently being misunderstood in the fog of war). Being a bit inspired and prolix, the Muses ran a bit long. Roger is pretty good at letting comments through but I thought I post a copy here; perhaps you will be amused.

Here is what I tried to post (cleaned up slightly and with additional links and emphasis), in response to several who said to the effect, "Why should we agree to anything, until it is established to our satisfaction that CO2 reduction is important?", and to others who questioned the motivations of Roger and others:

Those who do not agree now - with either the AGW thesis/science or the good faith, motives, intelligence or rationality of those who profess concern about a clearly changing climate and about whether man's activities pose serious threats to human welfare and to things that we value - still have lots to gain from plenty of win-win policies, policies that would advance the interests of those who profess to love free markets but that are now just sitting about unused because practically everyone is too busy fighting, vilifying and mistrusting to actually step back from the emotional rush of partisan battle, sit back and to exchange their armor and weapons for thinking caps (more on these policies at end of this comment). Nobel-prizewinner political economist Elinor Ostrom reminds us that one sine qua non for solving any commons problem is TRUST [see my post here].

Sadly, that lack of that trust - nay, distrust and active hostility - are what characterize our "discussions" on modern-day politics, and especially climate change (the "our" in this case being a complex one at many levels).

This DISTRUST is the natural product of many factors:

- the lack of property rights in the atmosphere & of any legal recourse by individuals against GHG emitters/albedo changers, which together mean that - unlike for other resources that can be bought, sold and husbanded - the voluntary actions of individuals and firms via market exchanges simply are not functioning, thus forcing climate concerns - and scientists and this discussion - into the political realm;

 - in the US, both parties have grossly MIS-governed and abused the public trust, via political pandering, grasping for power at all costs (cynically sowing division and cheapening discourse by selling war, hatred and suspicion, corruptly selling favors to the highest bidders, and simply managing resources incompetently). As a result, I think many people rightly feel that the US government generally DOES NOT DESERVE our trust (this sentiment can be seen not only in the TeaParty movement, but in calls by the likes of Larry Lessig for a Constitutional Convention to fix our corrupt, broken political system);

 - as has been the case since corporations were created as the faceless profit-making machines of wealthy investors whose liability for the damage they do and risks that they shift to others is limited by statute (http://bit.ly/4CKFPh), those corporations that have licenses to pollute under current law and whose climate-risk generating activities are now FREE and unregulated work hard to protect their favored status (via behind-the-scenes influence-buying of politicians and "free-market" pundit/voice-pieces, and deliberate PR smokescreen/mis-direction campaigns designed to GENERATE mistrust);

 - likewise, other corporations/investors have been busy working to buy climate legislation that will help to put money in their pockets - while those who act as spokesmen have not been voluntarily taking actions that show they put their money (and life-style) where their mouth is;

 - most of the science has been funded by governments, which makes it easier for skeptics to dismiss it - and to ignore all of the sophisticated private institutions and corporations that now strongly agree with the "warmers" (viz., notably virtually all oil & gas majors and virtually all insurers);

 - the fact that the chief "solutions" proposed by our Western governments are coercive and ham-handed, would serve to further drive basic manufacturing to developing countries that care even less than we do about respecting human/property rights, would give further give domestic industry rights to behave in ways that are seen as harmful, would provide benefits to a host of favorite insiders while shifting costs to middle and lower income classes, is being agreed behind closed doors (and written up drafted by lobbyists in mind-mumbingly long and opaque legislation) and our leaders lack the moral and political courage to be straight-forward and transparent about the need and purposes of the legislative/regulatory actions;

 - Mistrust is not only NATURAL, it's something that we LOVE to do; there is an undeniable human penchant for viewing issues in a tribal, "us against them" manner, which reflects a natural cognitive conservatism that means we subconsciously ignore information that contradicts our pre-existing mental map of reality, and to a strong tendency to reflexively support our tribal brothers and "comrades" and to defend our pre-existing views against what we tend to see as "attacks" by "enemies";

- this leads to group-think, black & white views, hostility, self-justification and to strawmen that ignores the real issues: you know, "they have a religion", we are right and act in good faith, they are stupid, irrational, are evil and want to destroy all we hold dear, versus capitalism is evil, those against cap and trade are all pawns, of Big Oil and a host of other mantras regarding "truths" that respective group-thinks requires its members to hold as “self-evident";

- while our moral senses are essential for managing our in-group interactions, unfortunately that lends itself both to moral outrage and to intolerance of the moral preachings and inconsistencies of others;

 - the "climate" is enormously complex, will never be fully understood or predictable,  the changes that we are  forcing in it cannot be simply and convincing demonstrated or understood by anyone, the system has many inputs/outputs and displays tremendous variability, has great inertia that is played out on scales of centuries,  millennia and eons, and we have NO OTHER EARTHS to run ANY independently verifiable "TESTS" on ... just a number of computer models - again, funded by governments, and with innards none of us has any real ability to verify, much less understand;

 - finally, as climate change is a global issue, it cannot be solved unilaterally by ANY single individual, group, community, corporation or government/polity; the "community" that must address it is the community of nations, the leaders and citizens of which all having a welter of differing interests and priorities.

To be flip - Trust me; it's natural for you NOT to trust me! Don't we ALL understand this? (Roger, I'm pretty sure you - and Joe Romm - know what I mean.)

But the high we get from self-righteousness and group struggle is such an easy evil, such an addictive self-drug.

Sadly, it is a clear political tactic by many on the climate issue to treat it as a war, and to deliberately sow mistrust and misinformation, with the intention either to defend turf previously purchased from government or to use government to cram down preferred solutions. But I repeat myself.

Let me end by noting that

 - those who are concerned about climate change risks would do well by fostering not anger but trust, and by seeking to use hammers only to build bridges;

 - those who are concerned chiefly with the mis-use of government might do well to re-examine how government has already been misused, and explore whether there are ways to harness the passionate "delusions" of evil/stoopid enviro-fascists to actually achieve goals that self-professed market cultists (I'm one!) ought to desire;

 - I have humbly picked up my own hammer and started an exploratory "task-force" of one, to look at the ways that corporate interests have already mis-used government to lot in economic rigidity and market share, and stand in the way of economic freedom and the massive wave of innovation, investment and wealth-creation that would surely result if existing blockages were removed. My chief thoughts are here, intended initially as a plea to fellow libertarians (who are deeply distrusting of enviro-facists like me who hope to disguise their nefarious goals by falsely putting on libertarian clothing):


A few related thoughts at http://bit.ly/aUOcWC (libertarians/climate) and http://bit.ly/bLX25X  (delusion).


Readers, thanks for your indulgence!


Published Sat, Feb 13 2010 5:04 PM by TokyoTom


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