Environment

Non-Skeptical Heretics, Take Twenty

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJan 18, 2007 12:59 PM

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The HuffPost has an amusingly written blog entry by David Roberts, of Grist, over all the new-middle-in-the-climate-debate stuff. Roberts thinks I have allowed myself to be co-opted/duped by those wanting to construct a false equivalence between science abusers on different sides of the issue:

Science journalist Chris Mooney has been researching a book on the connection between hurricanes and climate change. In the course of his research, he's come across a lot of people in the public press mischaracterizing the science, stating categorically that there is or isn't such a connection, when the scientific consensus is that it's just too soon to tell (PDF). This led him to write a post repudiating the dirty hippies and embracing the "non-skeptic heretic" label (with lots of fine-print hedging). Of course, Mooney didn't intend primarily to characterize global warming activists as hysterical dirty hippies. He was just trying to make the point that in this area, hurricanes, the science has been abused by everybody. He had his own reasons for playing off the dirty hippies.

But of course, I was naive....

In the Boston Globe, Cathy Young -- a contributing editor at Reason magazine, funded by the libertarian Reason Foundation -- makes good use of Pielke Jr., Mooney, and Kleiman in a state-of-the-art piece of agit-prop....Mooney and Kleiman both adopt a tone of bemusement, as though Young has innocently misconstrued them. Are they really so naive? Young is following a right-wing script that dates back decades....Unlike Mooney and Kleiman, who got duped, Pielke Jr. knows exactly how the game is played.....

And so forth. A couple of points here. One, I wrote a book called The Republican War on Science. If anyone can possibly think I'm an equivocator on the subject of who's worse when it comes to abusing science, then they're the clueless party. Not me. Given what I've said and said exhaustively about the right, I ought to be able to criticize the left once in a while without fear of being misunderstood. Second, Roberts has a serious point. It is this: Don't beat up on the environmental groups for minor transgressions, which don't really matter much, when we all know who the real climate bad guys are. Don't fall for the journalistic trope of bashing one's presumed buddies just to get attention. Don't be contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I myself have been making this argument for ages, so I'm very familiar with it and very supportive of it. However, there is still a place for constructive criticism of one's allies, especially on this issue, where I am convinced that misuses of science by "dirty hippies" give the other side ammo unnecessarily, and help the real climate bad guys succeed in framing the debate their way--as a battle over the science. Remind me again what's wrong with pointing this out?

P.S.: Please be patient with me today about the posting of comments, I will be trying to fly back across the country and relying upon an air transportation system that is still going through various shocks as a result of the weather...

P.P.S.: Cathy Young, whose article in the Boston Globe touched off a lot of this, has a follow up post about whether she wrongly enlisted me in her column...as far as I'm concerned, she and I are fine, there's no big issue here. I appreciate her noting my clarification.

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