Sunday, March 03, 2019

The immensely irritating but effective way that climate-change deniers do battle

I'm seeing a pattern in my social media spaces right now, where I post some article or opinion piece on climate change and a climate-change denier emerges to comment in that way that the deniers always comment - which is to say, via distraction.

It's a technique that people used regularly to try to shut me down back when I was writing newspaper columns and they didn't like what I was saying. Men and women tend to use the strategy differently in my experience - a man typically diverts by repeatedly asking questions that have nothing to do with the matter at hand, while women will go to an emotional argument that is hot-potato-personal, like the weeping women who called me up after I questioned soaring Caesarean-section rates in Greater Victoria demanding to know if I was suggesting that their babies should have died.

It can be surprisingly effective as a tool to completely divert an issue into an irrelevant and useless direction that ultimately ends with the respective parties getting more and more het up until they finally yell some version of "Oh, yeah? Well, fuck you!" by which point all the reasonable people who the writer had set out to engage have been scared off. (Or, in the case of Caesarean sections, a writer vowing never to touch that issue again in the fear of yet another long week of being called out by emotional moms as a baby murderer. And the rates just keep rising...)

The strategy nicely destroys any hope of enlightened dialogue on the original subject matter. All the other readers are soon running like rats to avoid being caught up in the ugly mess, and any politician passing by reaffirms his or her position that this is a "hot button" issue best either left alone or manipulated for personal electoral gain.

The fundamental premise of the strategy is to ignore the point at the centre of the piece in question and instead, make some random observation related to one tiny aspect; raise a rhetorical question; fast-forward to the most extreme interpretation; or pick at a spelling/grammatical error that will require the writer (or poster, in this case) to divert their energies into heated dialogue about something that has almost nothing to do with the actual subject at hand.

Then everybody fights and the reasonable people flee, and any chance that thoughtful action might arise from the conversation is lost. Again.

So here's the latest case in point, in which random Facebook dude Carew Martin plays the role of disruptive climate-change denier. (Find the full version of the thread here, set to "public" for all to see even if they aren't on Facebook.) I'm currently enjoying time away in Honduras right now and specifically stated earlier in the thread that I wasn't going to waste any time engaging with climate-change deniers when I ought to be holidaying. But in truth, I find that a near-impossible position to stick to because deniers are so effective at getting under my skin.

Jody posts this Guardian opinion piece headlined "Remember the days when we weren't freaked out by freak weather?" and comments: Oh, I so feel this: "I used to find wild weather exciting, but now it evokes the apocalypse of climate change." Who could have predicted in halcyon days of yore that what would alarm me most one day would be the world's weather news? As the writer concludes, few things are more important now than that we all take individual action in "the desire to be a worthy ancestor."

Carew: If anthropogenic climate change is real, why does it not stand up to reason?

Jody: So the stacks of carefully considered scientific research don't count as "reason"?

Carew: No, studies are not logic, they are data, logic is asking questions like, why was the name changed from global warming to climate change?

Jody: Gotta say, that sounds like a lot like the kind of question people use to divert the conversation from what matters and get everybody wasting time and energy talking about some issue that has no relevance.It's what I think of as the "Look over there!" tactic. And was the name actually changed? I think of it as global warming causing climate change.

Carew: You can think of it however you like but the fact is, in common parlance the name changed from global warming to climate change and what you've just done is a diversionary tactic by not answering the question, hypocritically. So why was the name changed?

Jody: Sorry, I am not doing this. You go ahead and talk to people who want to talk about that, and I'll stick with my plan to actually change the things I'm doing so that there's something left for my kids, grandkids and on down the line.

Carew: So you're either unable or refuse to use logic when discussing climate change.

Facebook friend Diane McNally weighs in: That's not logic, that's sophistry and I'm not doing it either .

Carew: Sophistry is not the same as logic which is why I never understand why people consider it a good thing to be sophisticated. Regardless, Jody, weren't you a journalist? I kind of thought a big part of that job is asking questions.

Then comes a series of heated comments between Carew and a friend of mine, Glenn Phillips, who I have known since elementary school and who takes the approach that damn it, nobody ought to get away with saying stupid stuff without being challenged every step of the way. I admire his commitment but personally am done with wasting my time with people who are resolutely unconvinceable.

Irked by the journalist comment, even though I know I'm just rising to the bait, I return with this final long comment, which always seems to happen and leaves me thinking damn it, I'm wasting my energy on this ineffective thread being read by maybe three people when I could be blogging and being read by at least three times that many (ha ha):

Jody: Yes, Carew, I'm a journalist, and here's the question I always have for climate-change/global-warming deniers - why is it so important to be against the science? Why do you want to deny it? Is it because you want to keep using fossil fuels with abandon? Is it because you're a person who always goes up against whatever the majority of people have concluded after much careful thought and research, because you always need an argument? Is it because you genuinely think that all of us are wrong and being duped by people who have conspired to use fake science to extrapolate a false argument?

Here's the thing: If we're all wrong about this and you're right, then nobody would be happier than me to see you have the last laugh. I would genuinely love the deniers to be right, Carew, and that this unusual weather, storms, polar melting, etc we are observing on a planet whose atmosphere has warmed dramatically since the Industrial Age just turn out to be coincidental one-offs.

Unfortunately, I am a responsible person with maybe 30 years of life left if I'm really, really lucky, but I've got eight grandkids and one more on the way who I want to have a good life - one not torn apart by food and water shortages, massive displacement, war, wild and unpredictable weather, bigger and bigger storms. Just my grandkids who are alive right now need 100 more years. But they're going to have their own kids and grandkids, so they're going to want much longer than that by the time they reach my age, because they'll be in my same position.

So I look at all that as a logical, problem-solving kind of human being who has much respect for science but also does her own research and observes with eyes and ears wide open, and I say to myself, Jody, what's the best course of action for you to take to benefit the most number of people for the longest period of time?

And my answer is to consider my own carbon footprint and reduce it. To look at other Canadians' carbon footprints and provide them with the facts that they can use to understand that this issue is about ALL of us, and that they can reduce their carbon footprints as well for the sake of the planet. To keep a metaphorical knife at the throat of the politicians, who are all far too influenced by the sweet whisperings of wealthy capitalist structures that bring them money, and to push back hard at those same capitalists whose short-term, get-it-all-before-it's-gone mentality is quite likely going to kill us all. (The single best way to battle capitalists is to quit buying their stuff. Just quit, people.)

And if it's all for nothing because climate change/global warming is all just a made-up thing like you believe, then what the hell, at least I lived a less extravagantly consumptive and resource-intensive life. It certainly doesn't hurt the world to reduce my carbon footprint, does it? That really just means I will live a simpler life. Drive my car less. Consume far fewer goods. Be mindful of my energy use at all times. Destroy less species through kinder, sustainable habits. Waste less of my money.

And here's the other thing, Carew - you can quit wasting YOUR time posting on the Facebook threads of people who believe as I do, because as passionately as I feel about all of this, I'm a realist who sees with much sorrow that it's your side that's winning. Here in Canada, we are buying more new trucks to drive than ever before, and they aren't hybrids or even close to it. We aren't changing our habits. We're Nero, fiddling while Rome burns.

We aren't reining in the capitalists, or slapping down the politicians who promise us everything and deliver nothing. Around the world, global temperatures continue to rise because we just can't stop consuming and consuming and consuming.

So however old you are, Carew - and I'm guessing you're at least my age, because climate-change deniers skew significantly toward older men in my experience - you just go on to live out whatever years you have and get on with dying, while the rest of us do what we can to make sure there's something left for future generations.

And what's to be learned from this? As a veteran of many obfuscations, I just want to pull back the veil on this common strategy, which is alarmingly effective. Just see it for what it is - distraction. White noise. The real damage is done when we shy away from important topics for fear of having to deal with these disturbers, who exist solely to cast doubt and scare away the reasonable people.


Unknown said...

"follow the money"

ecoteri said...

Go Jody, Go Jody. Rah Rah Rah. I got your back, and there is no denial in any of my rule books. I left 20 inches of snow (in the COWICHAN!!!!) for 2 weeks in Mexico (VERY FREAKING HOT) and came home to 6 inches of snow that was so cold I could walk on the crust. This is NOT standard weather. keep on fighting. those of us who are regularly silent need to speak up more, to defend and support those who are articulate, researched, intelligent, courageous, and aware. I will do more of it. Meanwhile, know you have a fan who totally follows your scientific arguments (and who reads the reports). GO JODY< GO!

Catherine Novak said...

I've seen Carew Martin trolling on many threads and the guy is an energy suck. He's not dumb but he has a lot to learn

opit said...

" studies are not logic, they are data" Based on that, I would say Carew is dumb as can be. Studies are not data. They may purport to manipulate and / or analyze data, but data is obtained from measurement. Despite that I do not subscribe to the Echo Chamber endlessly bawling the cry adapted from Chicken Little's lament : "The Sky is on Fire and We is Gonna Fry." Or not. Just because a crystal ball is dressed up in culturally fashionable terms as a variation of computer gaming based on a model which bears little resemblance to the real world does not mean it yields scientific data. The IPCC is quite specific that modeling is not prophecy - and they are not liable for what people may do relying on their projections.
I am curious. How does one 'deny' climate? The allegation is specious nonsense. One might as well claim one 'denies' weather ( or whether ). What one may not be convinced of is that an unproveable process has us all at risk. It is not my job to 'deny' that - but I might have a laugh if people did not insist on conflating conjecture and speculation with fact - even affirming a 'scientific' 'consensus' about future events. I have heard little to compete with that for being ridiculous.
If you wanted conversation about the real drivers of climate ( such as the boundary conditions of the Quaternary ) or the geological relationship between CO2 and temperature ( it is reported as having been multiples of current levels during the low cycle of Ice Ages ) then you will not find such in the politics of alarm. Rather uncertainty is the lot of Man*, not yet having ascended to Godhood. ( * species is not gender )
I rather like this lot's summary,although I have collected any number of articles on the topic, especially at
TLW's 2 cents' worth on climate change

e.a.f. said...

LOVED IT! Made me laugh! You have the guy's number! Trying to have people like him understand or even consider things other than what they are committed to is like hitting your head against the wall. with climate change or whatever any one wants to call it, it may kill the rest of us, who believe things are not heading in the right direction for the earth.

What I did find interesting, is this year there wasn't much on our news in Canada about the fires in Australia and New Zealand. My suspicion is it scares people in North America and that won't work well for many "coporationists". giving people the impression there aren't fires in those countries gives people a sense of comfort, but fire season in Australia and N.Z and then here in North America just scares the shit out of me and I know others.

Pushing the end and having lived in this province for all but my first 18 months, I've experienced the weather/climate, etc. and I do know a few things about it. Just in my time, its changed. Although at easter of 1952 it snowed, but it was a short event. It may all be cyclical. We know that some parts of the world have gone from lush valleys to deserts or had cities which disappeared which they now think was the result of a sudden lack of rain. Even if we accepted humans aren't the cause of climate change, we know things are disappearing, less rain, more drought, more forest fires, we need to make a concerted effort to save what we have left. There are now approx. 6 billion on this planet. In my younger years it was 3 billion. Now if some places can no longer sustain human or other animal life or be used for growing food, we have to preserve what is left. That isn't happening and we will reach a tipping point or we will see those who live in countries, where they can no longer survive arriving here. People think a million going into Germany due to military strife and economic hardship was a lot, wait until things get really bad.

As to those who think god is going to save us or take us all to the promised land, good luck with that. When you're dead, you're dead and with all the forest fires, we're going to be dead sooner, because its like smoking 3 packs a day. Gave that up as bad for my health, smoking 3 packs a day. Now I just wait for fire season and know its shortening my life. Can hardly wait for the next scan of my lungs......