Hype and Change
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Vying for control of the great uninformed masses are the rabid climate change “deniers” and the level-headed scientists. The latter have the inside line on what’s really going on, in the sky above and the earth below, while the former are moved by irrational disgust aimed at limousine liberals.

In this polarized and disheartening scenario, who best offers a sensible way forward? As it turns out, it’s other scientists: social scientists.

Or so says one academic. University of Michigan “Professor of Sustainable Enterprise” Andy Hoffman believes those with insight into demographics, religion, and the human psyche ought to be recruited to bring middle-Americans into the climate debate. Science alone won’t cut it. Cut carbon emissions, that is:

We must recognize that people have multiple motivations for being concerned over climate change, and most are not scientific. For example, Pope Francis speaks about climate change as an issue of faith and social equity.

Only by broadening the scope of the debate to include this social and cultural complexity can we ever hope to achieve broad-scale social and political consensus. More scientific data can only take us so far.

Hoffman has resigned himself to the fact that the so-called culture war now includes global warming, an issue that ideally ought to be spared emotional political tribalism. And credit is due Hoffman for admitting that what’s driving debate on both sides isn’t for the most part utilitarian.

But instead of giving up on the efficacy of pure science and stoking the culture war further, it should be acknowledged that it’s primarily the left, not the right, shooting itself in the carbon footprint by dragging blood, sweat, and tears in to the conversation at every turn. This manifests itself in media coverage and the concomitant hype it stokes.

“Climate Change is Turning the California Dream into a Nightmare,” claims Yahoo News.

Business Insider warns of the “25 Devastating Effects of Climate Change.”

But of course the pinnacle of climate yowling is Gawker’s “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers”:

If you are actively trying to deny people the tools they need to inform themselves, to protect themselves against a scientifically proven threat to life and limb, you shouldn’t be part of the debate. You should be punished for your self-serving malice.

Before pushing back with the claim that Gawker is a far-left rag that nobody cares about, note that it holds the power to scare the New York Times, of all publications, out of hiring science writers.

There’s a reasonableness gap on the topic of AGW, and it’s not being driven by scientists, on one side, and the likes of Ted Cruz on the other. The missing third party in this national dialogue is the fourth estate, I’m afraid.

Even if you believe climate change to be a massive problem, over, er, heated rhetoric is likely to win few previously middle-of-the-road converts.

(For more on the pitting of science against the media, see this recent Bloggingheads convo between Robert Wright and climate skeptic — not “denier,” mind you — Matt Ridley.)

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