Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Language of Climate

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  • Kumara Republic, in reply to George Darroch,

    You participate in a system not of your choosing, therefore you are disqualified from attempting to change that system. I'm sure we could neologise some of a dead language to fit the concept.

    The other form of the argument is: You refuse to participate in the system, therefore you are disqualified from attempting to change that system.

    Come to think of it, it's a combination of 'go back to your ivory tower', ad hominem, and 'I graduated from the school of hard knocks'. It's the exact same line of anti-intellectual thinking that invented the terms 'champagne socialist' and 'limo liberal'.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    An interesting fact, which you may already know,, is that the fertiliser we use is made from hydrogen extracted from natural gas

    absolutely. i thought sue kedley was crazy when she said that "we're literally eating oil". until i figured out that this was what she meant.

    ian - none taken.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    You might be interested in the work of Drew Westen who has done extensive work on psychology, language and persuasion.

    Just watched this now - definitely time well spent.

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    bart, what's the need for lowering the methane output of ruminants? my layperson's understanding says that as long as you're not introducing fossil-carbon to the feed end then the back end is "carbon neutral"

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    An interesting fact, which you may already know,, is that the fertiliser we use is made from hydrogen extracted from natural gas

    absolutely. i thought Sue Kedley was crazy when she said that “we’re literally eating oil”

    when Greens complain that deniers prefer their opinions to science all I see is the pot calling the kettle black. Spreading the idea that world food production will collapse when natural feedstocks run out is a typical piece of Green alarmism. The Haber process uses hydrogen obtained from natural gas only because this is the cheapest source. Hydrogen via electrolysis of sea water would be almost as cheap, and is practically inexhaustible. We are not going to run out of ammonia. The idea that the food distribution network might collapse when fossil fuel prices rise is another (arguable) question altogether.

    Insofar as most climate change denial is frankly ideological and paranoid rather than scientific the tactics of the Green movement have much more in common with climate change denial than they would care to admit, and the Green movement pioneered how to manipulate language and with it public opinion. The trouble is the Greens were never bankrolled by big oil like the deniers are.

    According to the ideology of climate change denial, Climate change is a leftist plot designed to destroy capitalism and replace it with - something, I have no idea what the outcome of the supposed plot is meant to be. A socialist world government I should imagine, that is the usual suspect. Having Greens like Sue Kegley going on about fertilizer production like some sort of bonkers Cassandra who sounds grimly pleased that we are all going to get our much deserved comeuppance in a cosmic morality play simply stokes the paranoia and resentment of climate change deniers.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Cartesian unwell...

    I have no idea what the outcome of the supposed plot is meant to be

    I suspect 'deniers' biggest fear is loss of control, well, the illusion of control, mired in anthropocentrism as they are...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson,

    I too have been mulling over how to approach this discussion Russell but I haven't figured out an answer. Because the process is still relatively slow, on a day by day basis, large storms or floods or earthquakes are the only things that get people thinking about it again. The problem is that the answer lies in demanding less of our planet and no-one is ready for that. The entire world dialogue is about getting back to "growth" so that we can earn more and consume more. Witness Simon Bridges (I think?) discussing the auction of oil/gas exploration licences in NZ – the entire discussion is about drilling, selling and increasing wealth. No-one wants to give up anything. The message comes from the top where our PM has accumulated $50m and wants everyone else to strive for that glorious goal as well. Human's have a defective gene and it's called "greed" and we simply can't help ourselves. I believe more and more that only environmental disaster of one form or another will slow us down.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Che Tibby,

    bart, what’s the need for lowering the methane output of ruminants? my layperson’s understanding says that as long as you’re not introducing fossil-carbon to the feed end then the back end is “carbon neutral”

    Your lay person's understanding is quite right (but see below) CO2 to plants to cows to CH4 is carbon neutral.

    BUT

    CH4 is about 20 times stronger as a greenhouse gas than CO2, so it is not climate change neutral.

    That's the first problem, the second problem is New Zealand specific because most of our greenhouse gas emissions are methane and since a big chunk of our export economy depends on ruminants we are faced with a very specific challenge.

    The final problem is that it isn't quite carbon neutral. That's because the way we farm depends on fertiliser which requires energy input and that is usually fossil fuel energy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    I believe more and more that only environmental disaster of one form or another will slow us down.

    Like some of us see Every. Bloody. Day? It's rather slow about slowing us down. It's still very, very easy to say "I'm only one person, what difference could I make?" - and there seem to be more than a few in NZ making that claim on a national level.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    and then there is this...

    Z Energy says petrol consumption is falling in relation
    to increasing availability of broadband.

    If only they'd Skype those culturally and environmentally wasteful G7 through 20 meetings...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Just thought I should add this link from AgResearch to some of the work going on already to reduce methane emissions from ruminants. The pdfs are short summaries and give you an idea of what is already happening.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    The climate change debate seems to have a whole bunch cascading conditional questions:
    1. Is climate change even happening?
    2. If it is happening, are humans responsible?
    3. If humans are responsible, is there anything they could do about it?
    4. If they could do anything about it, should they?
    5. If they should do anything, what should it be?
    6. If there is something we should do about, how can we do that?

    I think we've only got high certainty about 1 and 2. Then we start hitting the hard questions.

    Tackling 3: Whilst there are clearly things individuals and even large organizations right up to the level of governments can do both on the reduction of contribution to CC (such as reducing greenhouse emissions), and on active negative contribution (various sequestration possibilities), it is not clear that the species can actually cooperate at a global level. But nor is certain that we can't.

    Tackling 4: Given that we can actually do something, that it won't just be a bunch of people ineffectually trying whilst the rest either do nothing or even increase their contribution due to the opportunity being given by the others who are doing something (in other words, in a market situation, opportunities will be taken cheaper if there are people deliberately refusing to take them), should we do anything? This is one of the hardest questions. Essentially, we do not know exactly what the consequences of CC will be. It is possible that it might even make the world a better place (on average).
    It's a hard question because it's not just one about the facts any more. It's also a moral judgment. Even if we can show that CC leads to weather patterns that have negative consequences for many, they may also have positive consequences for others. Futhermore, the negative consequences might not even outweigh the cost of doing something, which certainly does have some negative consequences (eg higher prices for energy and the products of energy (which is just about everything)).

    Tackling 5: Since this is a "should" question again, it's also a moral one. Having presumed (remember, this is a conditional question), that we should take meaningful action, there is the huge question of which actions, amongst the practically infinite number of possibilities. Our choices there will be based on how we decide who loses and who gains. In the interests of fairness, we'd probably only be able to settle on actions in which everyone loses, to prevent the negative consequences that are most likely not going to be shared equally (I think this is what Kyoto did). But it might be difficult for groups that feels they're already in an unfair position to then accept a fair loss. Essentially, will undeveloped nations agree to something condemning them to poverty? The insistence on an unchanging world is seldom something people at the bottom want, and frequently something those at the top do. Is that actually fair?

    Tackling 6: I think this is where I came in. Russell's question around how can the language move so that progress could be made, given that we have an answer to 5.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Question. If we were to strike a Saudi sized gusher off the NZ coast, who would win the election:

    Party A, fully funded by the oil industry and backed to the hilt by every bank economist that the MSM care to regularly interview, to say: “We are all rich! Rich I tells ya! Tax cuts! Sovereign funds! Free university! Healthcare for everything all the time! WE CAN HAVE IT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    or Party B who say “Nooooo!!! Leave it in the ground! Save the planet! Let’s not have a party”.

    Our leaders won’t do anything about global warming, because most of us don’t want them to. Or rather we do, as long as it doesn’t involve any sacrifices in our standard of living. Hence the popularity of recycling (everyone agrees it is a good thing because it costs us nothing and we feel good doing it) vs. putting up the price of petrol to fund more efficient public transport.

    Only when Lockheed-Martin start building the tax-payer funded spaceships that will build the giant space umbrella will we get buy in from business and the public for global warming, because that will mean fat contracts for business and jobs for workers. In other words, the people that created the problem (and own our governments) have to make money out of fixing the problem before they’ll raise one finger to do anything about the problem.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Future schlock...
    Have we stopped evolving?

    whatever happened to adaptability?

    Truth is the planet is always changing ,
    the moon is moving away incrementally,
    (half a metre in my lifetime),
    tides will change, wind flows will change,
    everything will (must) change
    - this is the King Canute moment
    that everyone in power is ignoring

    'Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.'

    - they just cannot parse the truth of their powerlessness,
    even when their faces are rubbed in it...
    I'd vote for him...

    The only people to have successfully lived with their changing land are the Aborigines of Australia, until 'Whitey' showed them the error of their ways...
    Hah!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Question. If we were to strike a Saudi sized gusher off the NZ coast, who would win the election:

    Whoever credibly promised to share the riches the most. Party A may lack credibility on that front, especially since they're backed by banks, which have zero interest in everyone in the country being able to suddenly pay their mortgage off. They'd be wiped out. It might actually be Party C, who promise to nationalize all that oil that get the thumbs up. But you're right, I'd say the discovery of such a cache would not help the NZ Green movement. The spilling of any of it might, which would happen with high probability if we're really talking about a Saudi sized field. But that would happen later.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Actually, Tom, thinking even further with that. Such a discovery would send a massive shockwave through the NZ economy. It's hard to be certain what would happen. Prices would probably shoot up. Unless those riches started getting shared out fast, it's possible that a large majority of people would quite rapidly wish that the oil had never been found.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Roberts,

    is there a better way of talking about this?

    Have you heard of Psychology for a Better World, by Niki Harré from the University of Auckland? My wife recently recommended it to me as a book that is reshaping how she presents issues. (Free pdf, even.)

    For my 2c, PAS as a community could help each other to understand why so many people are opposing or dragging their feet. I firmly believe that most people are not very cynical, and we've got some bright sparks here with ample connections outside our own right-thinking bubble, so we ought to be capable of finding some ideas with traction.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 93 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Neale,

    Returning to the head of your article, Russell, many local/NZ poets have written about climate change in various ways already… Brian Turner in particular springs to mind; or Richard Reeve; so too do several poets of the younger VUP stable, who fuse science and poetry; or see “Heatwave” here in Meniscus – we’re all guilty of letting short term pleasure erase anxieties about the future …http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue21/Neale.pdf. May I post here a plug for Wise Response, a group submitting a petition to parliament tomorrow? There are over 1000 signatories asking for a non-partisan assessment of the risks NZ faces due to climate change and issues like fossil fuel dependency. Wise Response, along with groups like Generation Zero, are trying to insist on rational assessment and the will to change.

    Dunedin • Since Mar 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Roberts, in reply to Moz,

    somehow every year I donate to NZ deductable groups and every year can’t find anyone in NZ willing to claim the deductions)

    I am well disposed to claiming anybody's deductions and re-gift them to charity. Does anybody know if there are legal hurdles? (e.g. Do the donations have to have been given in my name?)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 93 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Roberts, in reply to Tom Bennion,

    give up all non-essential air travel

    What constitutes essential air travel? Perhaps asylum seekers? Bomber pilots too, if we're going to have them. Maybe medevac flights.

    I still travel for work, on the argument that I'm spending their karma, and budget one domestic flight every three years for personal travel. I am increasingly uncertain that this is morally defensible, even though I feel that a globally equitable carbon-neutral world may still permit some flying.

    Telling work that I am no longer available to travel feels big.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 93 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Martin Roberts,

    My wife is an Australian. Our families live in different countries. It's rather hard for me to decide that it's morally indefensible for one of us to not be able to regularly see our family. If it was, it would probably be morally indefensible to marry anyone from more than an acceptable number of air miles away. And that's the closest country! Imagine the moral horror of marrying someone from Europe!!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Actually further to that, it's pretty much morally indefensible, from an air miles POV, to live in NZ at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    The Atlantic weighs in on greed

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to BenWilson,

    Whoever credibly promised to share the riches the most. Party A may lack credibility on that front, especially since they’re backed by banks, which have zero interest in everyone in the country being able to suddenly pay their mortgage off. They’d be wiped out. It might actually be Party C, who promise to nationalize all that oil that get the thumbs up.

    Very much this. Party A would do exactly what Thatcher’s Britain did with its North Sea oil wealth – piss it away in tax cuts for those at the top and have nothing later (later, in this case being the Great Recession). Party C is closest to the Norwegian ‘rainy day’ approach, which is what David Cunliffe leans towards. It was also the plan of Tony Benn's BNOC proposal before Thatcher swept into power.

    With great power comes great responsibility – the power, in this case, being oil wealth. The resource curse in a number of countries goes to show it doesn’t always bear out in practice.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    The exact classical logical fallacy committed in that "you stop it first before I'll listen to you" argument is tu quoque (lit. "you also", i.e. "you do it too"). Which is a fallacy because it still does not make doing that thing RIGHT!

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1929 posts Report Reply

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