From the Chronicle
Many GenXers are disengaged, doubtful or dismissive of climate change
Gives me hope. Maybe the next generation will actually try to solve real problems and leave this in the dustbin where it belongs. Its not as if they wont have plenty of real problems to choose from.
And I thought there was no hope for generation X
Are you two actually applauding ignorance? Notice the actual responses in the survey- only 10% of Generation X was actually either “dismissive” or “doubtful” of climate change. The plurality of responses were actually that the respondents were “disengaged” with the issue altogether. A similar story is told when examining how well informed the sample was.
Honestly, regardless of one’s personal feelings on the issue, I never expected anyone to applaud a whole generation’s lack of understanding of a central scientific debate.
Lack of understanding is a double-edged sword. At least all the alarming isn’t registering on the “I could give a damn” scale because it doesn’t ring immediate or all that true coming from Al Gore and his Elmer Gantrys of climate preaching one way and acting the other. At the same time, hot or cold weather can change the way the wind blows.
Alternatively, increase their understanding level some and you might have an alarmist schooled in the talking points and tactics who is sensitive to only hot weather.
A more complete understanding would be that we don’t understand how climate works, but it seems pretty normal for now even though its changes are unpredictable. Which still leaves us with the problem of catastrophic belief in atonement for unrepentant ecological sin.
So you’re proposing that blissful ignorance is the best way to go because we can’t fully understand the nuance and scope of a problem? While your argument may seem compelling at first glance, there are a few fatal flaws:
1) Taken to the logical extreme- Let’s think about your argument to remain disinterested and disengaged about climate change in terms of other debates. No one fully can understand the economy, so why bother? Foreign policy is a fickle game and likewise requires far too many resources than any single person can dedicate to fully realize, so we better ignore that too. Health? Who can truly understand the inner workings of their bodies- even all the brightest scientists still don’t understand several key concepts, so no point in trying to understand what’s healthy and what isn’t. Ultimately, you’re willing a populace to be completely disinterested and disengaged on all topics.
2) Difference between informed and uninformed ignorance- What one must then realize is the important difference between informed and uninformed ignorance. We may not fully understand the workings of gravitons in a quantum mechanical sense, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see that things fall. By increasing our understanding of an issue we increase the probability of making informed decisions. we don’t know many of the specific functions of proteins inside cells, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn enough to know what’s harmful to eat.
Note- I’ll give you this- there is often a dangerous precipice when it comes to knowledge; often there is a level where people don’t realize the scope and importance of what they don’t understand (aka becoming alarmists). But the existence of that threshold doesn’t mean the populace should be kept in the dark, instead they should be taught such that they are able to overcome the danger of just enough information.
3) A Market Interpretation of Climate Change- No, I don’t mean to examine the economic effects that climate change might or might not (ok, would) have on the nation. Instead, I implore you to look to the heart of capitalism and one of the tenants it holds most dear- complete information. In fact, for any economic decision to be made (from buying a loaf of bread to casting a vote for elected official) the optimally efficient outcome requires several conditions, arguably the most important of which is perfect information- that both sides of an agreement know exactly what they’re agreeing to, and what they receive from the arrangement. In the marketplace of ideas, completeness of information becomes of paramount importance, as lack of understanding of a topic (ignorance) is the most likely cause of a non-market clearing decision (making a decision that isn’t what a true market would result in). While I agree it is impossible to attain perfect information for something as complex as climate change, it is always better to advance toward perfect information, to gain more knowledge about the topic, than suffer from less. Therefore, keeping the public in the dark about a topic creates market inefficiencies, hurting the implementation of any sort of “ideological capitalism.”
Note- I’m not suggesting that everyone should agree that there is climate change, or only read that side of the debate. Instead, I argue that people of both persuasions should read sources from both sides: that doesn’t include a skeptic reading a Fox News article about a new report on climate change that immediately transitions into an argument against it, nor someone who agree with climate change science to read an article on NASA’s webpage titled “why arguments against climate change are wrong.” Instead, for a true, intelligent dialogue to occur, the skeptic must read the NASA article and the believer of climate change read the Fox News article- both with open minds. Then and only then, can any meaningful debate be had on the subject.
I’m only just in the office (I live in Australia) and obviously late to this party, er thread. I’d like to jump in on adamdruit‘s opening statement here if I may.
So you’re proposing that blissful ignorance is the best way to go because we can’t fully understand the nuance and scope of a problem?
Here’s another perspective. The only consistently claimed result of the industrial development that underwrites modern society are claims of up to 0.8°C global mean temperature increase since 1750. Meh… more than fair exchange for multimedia entertainment, supermarket convenience and climate controlled personal environments. The claims of looming potential harms in [some number of lifetimes] are based on PlaySation® climatology and, as my youngest says, he’s killed thousands in glorious 3D simulation but so what – it’s not real Dad. My father was in Ballistics and Telemetry (basically maintaining communications with post-launch rockets) at Woomera and recalls the effort to profile atmospheric water vapor and climatic effects beginning in earnest in 1968.
Guess what? The youngsters are right. We can’t find physical evidence of the feared water vapor feedback that underlies the claims of disastrous enhanced greenhouse warming and Lord knows a great deal of research money and effort has been expended trying to do so.
From their perspective a bunch of frightened and simulation-superstitious oldies want to trash the energy supply and make everything more expensive because of what is essentially a computer game with zero empirical support. When questioned over what-ifs the response is that then they are going to need all the cheap energy they can get to protect themselves so either way don’t mess with the energy supply.
Disengaged? Not really. Just not worried about something they consider neither certain nor likely and best dealt with by development and lots of electricity if it ever eventuates anyway.
Global warming? Meh…
We got by quite well without “climate science” for millenia.
What of value has “climate science” produced?
I wouldn’t hold up gen-X apathy as a positive in any case, but once you make an informed decision about something, often the news you hear about it later is ignored as part of the noise of day-to-day business. I would guess that is why there are three times as many people who consider themselves informed as there are people who actively follow the subject.
I can’t help but laugh at adamdruit’s portrayal of the climate debate as NASA vs Fox News. The sources of information people most often encounter are stories fraught with alarmist claims that either don’t pan out or are not relevant to the near future, so it doesn’t surprise me that people ignore them whether they believe in anthropogenic warming or not. The media has cried wolf too many times.
For more hopeful feedback, take a gander at the comments after this was posted in the Houston Chronicle by Eric Berger aka SciGuy:
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