David Roberts’ Heresy on Climate Change

David Roberts has some very insightful things to say about the next steps in the battle over climate change: Heresy of the day: More science is not the answer.

It pains many geeky progressives to realize it, but science is largely beside the point here. It informs the strategy, but it is not itself a strategy. The relevant realm is sociopolitical, and so the strategy must be values-based, rhetorically savvy, and emotionally resonant. Repeating the facts won’t help.

The actual detail of his argument is right on. It’s not about “raising awareness” about what science has discovered. People are “aware” already, to the extent they’re willing to be. They need to be engaged not with more science per se, but with more detail on just how they stand to be affected by climate change, and how they will benefit from taking action.

28 Responses to “David Roberts’ Heresy on Climate Change”

  1. shcb Says:

    Love it, “climate change” wonder what happened to global warming.

  2. jbc Says:

    It’s kind of ironic to me that global-warming deniers, who were, admittedly, probably who the people working on raising awareness had in mind when they replaced “global warming” with “climate change”, are perfectly willing to take the changed verbiage as a sign that the issue itself has vanished (or never existed in the first place).

    Tell me: When right-wing politicians and right-wing news media succeeded in devaluing the term “liberal” to the point that left-leaning politicians stopped describing themselves as such, and instead started using the label “progressive”, did you believe that the evil liberal menace had actually gone away? Or never existed? Of course not. To believe that would obviously have been naive and foolish.

    Climate change and global warming are the same thing, and they are still very much with us, as you are perfectly free to verify for yourself anytime you choose to do so. We will begin to see significant negative impacts of it within our lifetimes (assuming we live much longer). Those impacts will grow during our children’s and grandchildren’s lifetimes. A few millenia from now, our descendants, who almost certainly will be living on a significantly lonelier and more unpleasant planet, will not be looking back on our generation as the source of some great legacy of freedom, or prosperity, or moral or intellectual progress.

    They will be looking back on us as the selfish idiots who screwed up their world.

  3. enkidu Says:

    Some parts of the globe will be getting hotter, while other parts colder. For example, England (and to some extent Europe) is warmed by an enormous undersea current that brings warmer water past its western shores. There is considerable debate about the effects of anthropogenic climate change ;-) but some science suggests that this current is slowing due to ‘climate change’.

    My take is that we are the dominant biomass not by tonnage but in Turing Units. Our science (fusion weapons), our agriculture (gigahectares of the Amazon gone) and our industry (changing atmospheric composition might not be such a smart thing to do…) outweigh our puny bodies.

    Time to start using more brainpower instead of firepower. Time to grow up as a species.

  4. knarlyknight Says:

    Enk, can you provide me with a reference defining or explaining “Turing Units”, I understand what you mean and agree but am not familiar with the term.


    To some ears, much of what you say is an echo of Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth ( 1972) and the periodically revised Chicken-Little pronouncements we get every few years. As such, saying “yea, but this time it’s real” rings hollow to those ears. They just don’t get it.

    The common wisdom suggests, and for those who can see human impacts on our world common sense suggests, that real technological/economic/societal changes are required on a scale and urgency far greater than taht first set out in 1972. To wit, Wiki says:

    In 2008 Graham Turner at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia published a paper called “A Comparison of `The Limits to Growth` with Thirty Years of Reality”.[5][6] It examined the past thirty years of reality with the predictions made in 1972 and found that changes in industrial production, food production and pollution are all in line with the book’s predictions of economic collapse in the 21st century.[7]

    I read that on wiki so it must be true ;-)

  5. enkidu Says:

    Alan Turing was a great computer scientist during WWII. He helped create the first digital computer and crack Nazi codes so we could keep sending ships to support England by sinking U-boats, many many U-boats (esp their resupply boats).

    A Turing Unit is one human consciousness worth of thinking/processing.

    This differs from the R unit of measure: sack of hammers. I have previously postulated shcb as being measured at half a sack of hammers. Lefty would be about half a hammer.

    little known computer industry legend: Apple’s logo is a reference to Turing’s apple (usually it is referred to as Newton’s apple, tho I might suggest that the bible’s apple might also be part of the iconography).

  6. knarlyknight Says:


    Turing unit = one human consciousness worth of thinking power.

    “Sack of hammers” – that fits for shcb as the force of logic has similar effects as gravity on a sack of hammers… If the sack of hammer is mulling over the beauty of nature, logic will throw sack to land with a thud destroying the pretty flowers below. And if the sack of hammers is mulling over a pile of sh*t (like Iraq) logic will drop the sack of hammers on the pile and launch a million pieces of sh*t over everything in the vicinity.

    “Half a hammer” = fits too as it the logic is the same as: http://www.keller.com/images/rubberchick.jpg

  7. shcb Says:

    The press and politicians devalued “liberal”? Oh, that is rich. The reason Liberals changed their name is two fold, they got tired of people laughing at their goofy ideas and liberals have no sense of humor about themselves. Secondly they just like to change the names of things, it makes them feel superior. Remember when they had to call Nicaragua ne-ho-ra-wa. At some point if you were really far left liberal you became progressive, a superior liberal. Conservatives have had a lot of fun with that one. But no, you didn’t fool us, we knew who you were, the same foolish liberals from utopia.

    The reason you guys have changed the terminology from global warming to climate change because it is getting harder and harder to justify that claim based on the science available. So it is more expedient to just call it climate change, if the temps go up or down, blame it on the folks. You see, in the beginning the temps were going up nicely so it was easy to scream global warming over and over, people start believing it, it becomes a fad, and of course the only solution is socialism. Now we only have a short period of time left before it becomes obvious that this has all been a hoax, unless we can change the terminology, then we will no longer be liberals, we will be progressives, and it isn’t global warming, it’s climate change. A little slight of hand in both cases. You may only have two years if the next election goes poorly for you, isn’t that the time one of Obama’s advisors said we have left to save the planet? Hmmm.

    This article even makes that point, don’t waist time with science, move right to demagoguery and fear mongering. No one is denying climate change, it is a natural cycle. There is nothing wrong with recycling, reusing, using fewer resources, looking for alternative forms of energy. But you see none of those things require socialism or any government intrusion, we can all do those things without big brother. But if it is an emergency, well then…

  8. shcb Says:

    This card check issue is starting to piss me off. The secret ballot has been one our cornerstones for well over a hundred years in this county and this bill would eliminate that sacred trust in forming unions. What I want to know is where are people like Steve that were squealing like a pig over Bush’s supposed trashing of our rights and yet there is a good chance this congress is going to pass legislation to take away a very fundamental privilege we enjoy. Now I know it is a little different since a union is a private entity, but the hypocrisy just astounds me. The coalition will be served.

  9. jbc Says:

    Thank you, shcb, for your continued contributions to the site. You really do contribute a lot, and there’s a level on which I really do appreciate it.

    That said, every time I succumb to the temptation to actually engage with you on a subject, I just end up getting angry. The climate change response you posted above is a good example. That you are capable of reading and writing and tracking down sources and expressing coherent-sounding thoughts, and yet persist in spouting such complete bullshit that is so transparently the product of a systematic process of twisting all available facts to the service of your pre-existing ideological perspective, really shouldn’t surprise or annoy me at this point.

    And yet it does. Sigh.

  10. knarlyknight Says:

    Where-ever do you get your information from shcb, mars? Show me data that indicates global average temperatures are getting colder over the years (i.e. other than normal annual fluctuations) or shut up.

    Also, what hypocrisy? You are the only one staking out a position about the card check, so at this point all your indignation is based on a figment of your imagination. Fits your conspiracy minded thought process. Jump to conclusion before Steve even weighs in. Like a sack of hammers. Astounding

  11. shcb Says:


    Ditto :-)

  12. shcb Says:

    Knarly, (and JBC)

    here is one article, they give names and pretty detailed stats, all you have to do is google a little. then you pick one of the dueling experts to believe.


  13. knarlyknight Says:

    I asked for data, that was a hokey opinion piece that even had “Maybe’ in the title. Sheesh.

    Here is data:


    Any downward movement is well within normal variability and utterly pales in signicance to trends over decades.

  14. shcb Says:

    But seriously guys, if you think these figures are bogus I’m open read whatever you can show me, within reason of course. I get suspicious when people like AlGore start saying that the science is complete, or the article JBC has here where the guy says basically the same thing. In every dissenting article I have read where they cite that we are in a peak or cooling period they are careful to say that a couple years or even a decade isn’t enough time to make a determination, so I find that to be more credible.

    One of the first ways to determine if someone is lying is if their story changes. Now I’m not saying anyone is lying here, just that the data isn’t or wasn’t accurate if you have to change the story (global warming to climate change).

    I’m an engineer, part of my job is to test things in something resembling laboratory conditions so I have an idea how the process works first hand, I haven’t determined my opinion based on a religious belief system, I’m basing it on the facts I can find. Of course I have my biases, we all do, and I can’t sink a core sample bit in the ice on the south pole personally, and neither can you, we have to trust our experts. But from what I’ve seen it seems the global warming proponents aren’t denying these cooling figures, they are just saying the debate is over. And I have an issue with that dismissiveness especially when we are talking about science.

  15. enkidu Says:

    So… one ‘expert’ says a few years of sunspot activity is responsible for heating and cooling our planet… and this gives you the hutzpah to say: nah! human induced change of the planet’s ecosystem is a bunch a hooey so Al Gore can give us all teh socialism!1!!1

    Talk about stupid.

    Plus your expert is from the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. A right wing think tank dedicated to the second worst president in the last century. We will be very lucky to avoid a world wide Greater Depression after the George W Bush years.

    knarls – LOL! that pic of Charlie Daniels you linked to above at keller.com
    methinks he’s been sipping his brother Jack’s product o’ermuch ;-)

  16. knarlyknight Says:

    David Roberts’ Heresy of the Day was right on. It takes a mind like a sack of hammers to argue with unequivocal data like this:

  17. enkidu Says:

    half a sack of hammers

  18. knarlyknight Says:

    chuckle. okay, and with a hole in one corner.

    JBC, this is for you:

  19. enkidu Says:

    I have been watching TED talks for years – have yet to find one that is boring, trite or partisan. I watch (listen to) these sorts of things in a window in one corner of my widescreen while I work. It is folks like the speakers at TED that continue to convince me that there is hope for the human race. Despite some of the extremists, humanity is beautiful, man, beautiful.

    More Turing units all around! huzzah!

  20. shcb Says:

    It is difficult to have a rational debate or even a discussion when one side can just dismiss any evidence the other side presents out of hand, but its evidence is gospel. I cite a Senate report “that has been shown to be false” the liberals say, the report was hundreds of pages, with hundreds of links to more hundreds of pages, what was false? JBC or Enky, don’t remember which didn’t say. Who is saying the information is false? Don’t know, they didn’t say. My guess is the same people the report was criticizing.

    I give an article by Deroy Murdock and Enky says he works for a conservative think tank, so that makes his points automatically false?

    Let me show you how it’s done, Knarly linked to a graph above, here is one man’s explanation of what is wrong with the graph, he shows 3 other studies that have similar results but that differ from the NASA graph, he then shows a graph from the NASA site that shows the amount they increased the temperatures over the measured temperatures.

    Now of course there is something wrong with this guy, he belongs to the wrong club, his episiotomy is broken, and yes you will even find stories that he doesn’t exist, ooooo, spooky. But is data correct? Looks reasonable to me.


  21. knarlyknight Says:

    Are you actually suggesting that government funded agencies, i.e. people at NASA or the Goddard Space Science Center, are fudging data to make bogus claims?

    Here is the latest on that. I’m guessing if you had not seen it, because if you had you probably might have posted it too: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=1a5e6e32-802a-23ad-40ed-ecd53cd3d320 Here are some other scientists who demonstrate that the dissent from the data and concllusions of government funded agencies: http://www.ae911truth.org/techarts.php

    And, as usual the Lies.com icon of thoughtful analysis (Mr. Dyer) throws his support on to the side of the government funded agencies: http://thetyee.ca:80/Books/2009/01/06/ClimateWars/

  22. enkidu Says:

    Actually if you scratch even lightly below the surface of your claims, they seem to fall apart to a muddled mess. For example, the Reg link author is quite possibly (probably?) a pseudonym. Why a fake name for our esteemed climate change denier? What might he be hiding? As to the graphs, forgive me, but it seems his whole ‘teh planet is teh cooling!’ argument appears to based on a incorrect (or conveniently narrow) reading of the UAH data. He picks a high peak in the past and a low trough closer to now and then draws a downward sloping line between these two extremes. Errrr, perhaps the math over in Winguttia is ‘different’? I did just a few minutes of googling so I don’t claim to be a credentialed climatologist so… on such a contentious issue I am sure you can find a plethora of opinions one way or the other, but the probability that this guy is a sock puppet seems pretty high.

    Deroy Murdock is a conservative columniste. Just ask wiki for his bio! ;-) he helped gin up the case that Hussien and Al Qaida perped 9/11… hello this is 2009 calling! There were no links between Iraq and AQ before we invaded. Facts is soooo liberal.

    Hey when w is done sulking in crawford, maybe he’ll spend the rest of his time searching for the real WMDs? He can team up with OJ! the juice man! – hang on a sec – I’ve got a call from 2009 here… hello… what? really? jail? for… no! u r sh!tting me! thanks, buh bye – OK maybe OJ won’t be able to help. As he is in jail… hmmm OJ jail… w jail… when they are done w that, mb they can find that Osama bin Forgotten feller? k thx bye

  23. Steve Says:

    Card check is just another name for a petition. I don’t have any problems with petitions.

  24. shcb Says:

    so you wouldn’t have a problem with the thugs at the door knowing who you voted for in the next election? that is sort of the reason we went to a secret ballot.

  25. NorthernLite Says:

    Well, he might have a slight problem with that, seeing how these ‘thugs’ apparently have psychic powers.

    Did you hear that from Rush?

  26. shcb Says:

    I’m not following your train of thought

  27. NorthernLite Says:

    You said that you were worried that these thugs are going to know who you voted for in the next election.

    Yes, it was bad attempt at humour :)

  28. shcb Says:

    Oh, now I get it, that’s good. That was like when you look at one of those three dimensional pictures and it suddenly comes into focus. I knew what I had said and I knew what I meant, so I couldn’t see what you were talking about until I unfocused on what I knew.

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