“Useful idiots”, and why I don’t like to blog about climate change anymore.

The other day, John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal posted an update on his work blog about the latest US government climate change report, and the specific information it contained regarding how climate change is affecting – and will continue to affect – things here in the American Southwest.  It was his usual interesting, straightforward, unbiased style; it’s what makes him a great science journalist, and someone I enjoy reading.  He said:

Human-caused climate change is “well underway” in the southwestern United States, with rapidly rising temperatures and dwindling water supplies, according to a sweeping new federal report unveiled today.

“The southwest has more at stake than any other region,” Jonathan Overpeck, one of the report’s authors, told me in a telephone interview this afternoon.

Any lingering doubt about the science is largely gone, according to Joe Galewsky, a University of New Mexico climate scientist who was not one of the report’s authors, but who has reviewed its conclusions.

The first comment on the thread responded to Galewsky’s quote, and is an absolutely textbook example of how “the climate discussion” is no longer a discussion. Rather, it’s a flame war:

That is an outright lie. Scientist who refute the theories of climate change due to fossil fuel consumption are legion. Mr. Fleck could have — and should have — provided a balanced approach to the competing theories. Instead, he is a “useful idiot” helping to inculcate the thoughtless masses.

A flame war, by definition, requires competing sides.  On one side, you have the people clamoring for “balance” when they see a science journalist state a known fact that doesn’t suit their world view.  On the other side, you have bloggers like Joe Romm, who flings similar nasty insults, comparing the climate change skeptics, deniers, and those who spread their views, to Nazis propagandists.

Romm, of course, has his own counterparts in the right-wing “blogosphere”, not the least of whom is the infamous Swift Boater and former press secretary for James Inhofe, Marc Morano.  Morano shouts at the top of his lungs in his own corner of the internet.  Here’s a screenshot from his blog, ClimateDepot.com, linking to an opinion piece about how the climate report, as Jim Inhofe would put it, is “phony“:

climatedepot.com screenshot

I’m a scientist.  I’ll take the side of the “U.S. Government’s Climate Con Job” every time, because I believe the science;  there is overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, it’s man-made, and that we have a very, very small window of time to do anything about it.

But you know what?  Joe Romm and I are on the same side, but his insults and belligerence aren’t helping.  I’ve been an ass before, I’ll admit it; I’m not proud of some of the rants I’ve posted here and there, because they ultimately didn’t help.  Sure, they felt good to write;  it’s fun flaming Inhofe, or other lawmakers and policy people who don’t believe that climate change is real.  But did I change anything by writing those missives?  No.  I got a lot of comments saying “ditto”, because I posted them on liberal websites where people agreed with me, but I didn’t reach a wider audience with them.

It goes without saying that Morano and his cohorts aren’t helping either, but the difference is, their goal is not to “help”;  their goal is to stonewall all regulatory legislation, without compromise, by spreading disinformation about climate change and climate science.

When things get to the point of rude name calling, I am tempted to close up shop, because I think that all the belligerence and snottiness of so-called “progressive” climate bloggers like Joe Romm may have caused irreversible damage.  I may have caused irreversible damage with some of my own rants.  Who knows.  I just know that if you’re going to blog about climate, do it right.  State the facts.  Do it politely.  Don’t be a jerk.  And don’t lie, like Morano and his friends do.

I may consider blogging about climate change and climate science from time to time, but I am not under any illusion that I’ll be changing any minds with it.  The echo chamber is nice and cozy, and that’s a sad thing.

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