I’m on vacation this week, with family converging, new binoculars in hand and birds to count, so posting will be light or (I hope) nonexistent other than my continued attempts to sell the book. But the whole climategate fiasco is one of those horrific-looking wrecks that you can’t avoid looking at and wondering if anyone was really hurt. In that regard, Andrew Freedman shares a great conversation with the wise science historian Spencer Weart:
I don’t expect this to have much impact on public perceptions of climate and climate scientists. Opinions have become so fixed that it would take serious evidence to shift a significant number of people. Since the late 1980s, just about every year and sometimes almost every month, a group of people (mostly the same ones) have exclaimed, “Now in these latest (whatever) we finally have proof that there is no need to worry about climate change!” There is a segment of the public that has believed every new claim. The rest will continue to doubt such claims in the absence of truly solid proof.
In other words, nothing to see here, move along.
I’m afraid this may be wishful thinking. There has been an ongoing public shift towards denialism in the last couple of years, and there is a lot of PR money behind it. And it is so, so much more convenient to believe that there is no AGW, or it is exaggerated. I think the email business will help convince a few extra people that the scientists really are in a conspiracy, and of course it will harden the attitudes of the “sceptics” (their credulity earns them the scare quotes). And all of this will help ensure that nothing is really done in the West that might remotely damage the fossil fuel or auto industries, or force any other industries (timber, construction) to change their way of business, or God forbid raise taxes. What we will get are more recycling bins and legislation forcing us to all use saver bulbs–a bit of feelgood stuff that makes money for some people.
In the end, people aren’t really going to sacrifice all that much to save their great-grandchildren from double or triple the adjusted price for their food, or a bunch of poor people on the other side of the world from having their country flood, or a few thousand species from going extinct. As a friend of mine said, “so what? We’ll adapt.”
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