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The Sky Is May Be Falling
Reason's Cathy Young has a new piece on global warming -- on the extremists on both sides of the issue. The complexity of climatology doesn't help matters, making it difficult for the ordinary person to assess who's telling the truth. Yet, many people are just so sure that the polar bears are going to be wearing grass skirts and sipping mai tais, or, on the other end, that nothing whatsoever is going to happen.

UCLA Public policy prof Mark Kleiman, a man who identifies himself with the "L" word (liberal -- which conservatives use like it means "steaming turd"), sympathizes with environmentalists, Young writes, but...

...he notes that "their eagerness to believe the worst" -- for instance, in Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" -- "is just as evident as the right wing's denialism."

As an analogy, Kleiman cites many social conservatives' attitude toward the AIDS epidemic, which has been used to portray sex outside monogamous heterosexual marriage as fraught with deadly peril and to preach the message of premarital abstinence. (Kleiman doesn't explicitly say this, but his comments hint at another abuse of science: Many conservatives and gay rights activists, for different motives, have exaggerated the fairly tiny risk of HIV infection from heterosexual sex.)

The analogy between AIDS and global warming also extends to attitudes toward ways to remedy the problem. The religious right, Kleiman points out, pooh-poohs condoms as a way to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases because the effectiveness of such a remedy would undermine the abstinence message. Similarly, those on the left who embrace environmentalism as their substitute religion don't want to hear about scientific and technological solutions to climate change -- from nuclear power to geoengineering, the artificial manipulation of the global environment -- that do not include stepping up regulation and curbing consumption.

There is a growing number of voices in the scientific community that reject both denialism and alarmism on global warming. Roger Pielke, an environmental science professor at the University of Colorado, calls such people "nonskeptical heretics" -- those who believe that human-caused global warming is a real problem, but one that can be met in part with technological management and adaptation. Mooney has come to embrace such a viewpoint as well.

Pielke has pointed out an unfortunate tendency toward political polarization within the scientific community. Last year, Tech Central Station, a website that supports the free-market system, promoted a statement by several scientists who dismissed any connection between hurricanes and global warming -- while environmental activists promoted the views of other scientists who argued that such a connection exists.

Most journalists and pundits have limited knowledge of science; as a result, they tend to pick whichever science best suits their political prejudices. Both science and journalism deserve better. Perhaps we can start by remembering that an ideological crusade can be as strong an inducement to bend the truth as the profit motive.

Posted by aalkon at January 22, 2007 11:31 AM

Comments

> used to portray sex outside
> monogamous heterosexual marriage
> as fraught with deadly peril

For the record, it was. That's why all those people died, and continue to die in Africa. It's not about monogamous heterosexual marriage, but it's about sensibly bounded behavior, or at least a respect for default feminine sensitivities. MHM is one form of that.

Al Gore makes my flesh crawl. (But I'm sure he's a wonderful man! I voted for him... ONCE). A dear. brilliant woman in my life, perhaps the one with the sharpest mind, gave me a copy of Inconvenient Truth, and it's just hideous... Laid out like a museum brochure, with lots of Apple/Google white space, and Al & Tipper as the exhibition' s mascots.

In conversation, "taperered" is preferred to "steaming." I've been trying to figure out the liberal understanding of human nature, because it's terribly cloudy. They seem to be taunting the boogieman. They can never seem to acknowledge that "management" (described above) is what they want.

If I'd had coffee, this would have been a much better comment

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2007 4:17 AM

Tapered. Shit, I blew the joke. No cream, no sugar.

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2007 4:20 AM

If sex outside of marriage is to be eschewed as a primary preventer of contracting AIDS, how do you countermand the widespread belief of many African societies that sex with a virgin (who may or may not be the newlywed spouse of the man with AIDS) will cure AIDS?

Posted by: Katelyn at January 22, 2007 7:08 AM

The truth (which I don't publicize, lest the wrong people think they can go without condoms), is, my chances, as a 42-year-old white middle-class woman, of getting AIDS, are rather slim.

The fact remains that the ridiculous religious nutter abstinence education doesn't prevent much except condom use. Here, or worse, in AIDS-plagued areas like Africa.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 22, 2007 7:13 AM

Same as in the US: Give women enough literacy, protection, and options for pleasure that they don't have to believe bad ideas. In 1987 we thought AIDS was going to march like Sherman through the fern bars of heterosexual America. The reason it didn't is not that so many straights were loyally married --although that helped-- but that even our most promiscuous young women didn't take huge numbers of dicey partners in risky activities for sport, as their gay brothers were inclined to do. We don't hafta roll back to the 16th century.

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2007 7:27 AM

I would be much more reassured about global warming if the statement you quoted came from Roger Pielke Sr. instead of Jr. Many people confuse them. http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/pielke/

I wish I had a chance to talk to you at Virginia's party. I was losing my voice and retreated to the kitchen where I didn't have to shout.

Posted by: Grace at January 22, 2007 4:50 PM

This is veering a little off topic, but since Crid brings up taking

"...huge numbers of dicey partners in risky activities for sport, as their gay brothers were inclined to do."

I can only think "If only there was some way we, as a society, could encourage them to be more monogamous, some sort of legal agreement we could allow them to enter into that would promote long-term two-person relationships..."

Posted by: Jon Tyken at January 22, 2007 10:56 PM

But golly, we couldn't ask anyone to do anything against their nature....

Posted by: Crid at January 23, 2007 12:36 AM

Posted by: Andrew at February 2, 2007 10:16 AM

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