Presented for your consideration: Ian Katz’s column in The Guardian, in which he begins the process that climate change advocates which read their paper as devoutly as a hymnal must now endure. Namely, strike the colours:
What went wrong? How long have you got:
- the leak of the “climategate” emails that showed scientists behaving just as tribally as their detractors,
- the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s great glacier meltdown (enough “gates” for now),
- the abject failure of Copenhagen,
- Obama’s Massachusetts disaster
- and a bitterly cold winter in much of Europe and the US.
If you doubt the effect of the last of these, take a look at stories like “The mini-ice age starts here” in the Daily Mail, or the website entitled If Global Warming Is Real Then Why Is It Cold? Add to that lot a mildly hysterical binary culture in which the case for action on climate change is either unanswerable or in tatters, and the perfect storm is complete.
There are some desultory phrases to keep the eco-mentalists happy (Katz suggests that no evidence was found of scientists fiddling their results, even though he acknowledges the IPCC bad behaviour in a previous paragraph), but on the whole his judgment is that the climate changers have utterly failed in making their case.
(Incidentally, if you’re wondering what the election of a Republican senator in Massachusetts has to do with climate change, Katz seems to be operating under the impression that President Obama needed a solid Democratic majority in the Senate to ram through “proper” eco-laws. Which doesn’t exactly say much for his understanding of U.S. federal government relations.)
His particular recommendations: that climate change science needs to practice more openness (i.e. don’t be afraid to put your years of research out into public, where it could get savaged by a science-illiterate public; if they’re not educated, then educate them!), a more “neutral” peer review process, with less reliance on “grey” literature; restore the credibility of the IPCC (he doesn’t say anything about firing the present members, but in the real world it’s hard to imagine how the current lot could be put back on their pedestals after their reputations have been shattered so finely), and more importantly:
The case for action must be remade from the ground up. It’s no good politicians and scientists going on TV and insisting that the overwhelming body of climate science has not been touched by the scandals. They need to go back to first principles and explain how we know that CO2 causes warming, how we know CO2 levels are rising, how we know it’s our fault, and how we can predict what is likely to happen if we don’t act.
In other words, scientists are no longer Moses coming off the mountaintop; they’re Sisyphus, rolling the boulder up it. It’s harder work, less glamourous, less grabbing of the headlines, but in terms of changing the planet, it makes for a better chance than the current PR mess they’re in now.
Katz mentions one final item: it’s going to have to be the People, not governments, who will have to drive climate change. So it’s the “hearts and minds” phase for the eco-mentalists, the sort of work that takes years, even decades, to come to fruition. Not the sort of thing you want to hear if you’re a scientist more interested in power and influence than The Work itself, but if the case is to be made at all, the People (and not just the urbanites, but farmers, developers, blue-collar folks, and other nine-to-fivers) are where it has to be done.