Discussion with Adam Corner – Round 3

This is the third  discussion I’ve had with Adam Corner, psychology researcher at Cardiff University. The first appeared at his blog

http://talkingclimate.org/understanding-climate-scepticism-a-sceptic-responds/

and a few days later at  Harmless Sky

http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/blog/?p=581

It got a lot of publicity at  Bishop Hill, Judith Curry’s Climate etc, and elsewhere. 

The second discussion went up at Barry Wood’s blog

http://unsettledclimate.org/2012/08/20/dr-adam-corner-talks-with-geoff-chambers-discussion-2/

This was partially a peacemaking effort on my part, since Barry had objected strongly to the fact that  Adam combines academic research with political activism. I see nothing wrong with this. It’s an interesting subject in itself, which parallels the discussion here, which started with my concerns over government bodies’ use of psychological techniques like “nudging”. Adam usefully points out that there’s more to psychology than this one technique, and makes what I consider an admirable plea for consumers and voters to be treated as rational human beings.

It soon becomes evident that our disagreement is not about the use of psychology, but about the “science itself” i.e. our  differing assessment as to whether, in Adam’s words,  “climate change poses significant risks to human and natural systems”, and above all, whether “the vast majority” of people accept this. 

This is what we disagree about, and there seemed no point in continuing that particular discussion here, since it would involve going over the entire ground of the warmist / sceptic debate. 

The fact that we failed to move the debate on to other ground is, I think, interesting in itself. Our agreement or disagreement about the uselfulness or morality of particular psychological techniques, their financement or encouragement by governments, the legitimacy of the science which backs them up – all this becomes irrelevant faced with our fundamental disagreement about the science, or rather (and the distinction is fundamental) about whether or not the science has established that  man-made climate change poses certain or probable risks. This debate is not in itself scientific. Is it political, as Ben Pile claims at Climate Resistance? Is it philosophical, to be determined by careful analysis of the meaning of words? Is it a total waste of time, compared to the down-to-earth and wholly political debate about fuel bills, shale gas, and subsidies for wind farms?

I don’t have the answers. 

Thanks to Adam for an interesting discussion anyway. He was pleased to feature in a Josh cartoon at Bishop Hill recently, and is looking forward to appearing in Apocalypse Close.

 DISCUSSION:

GEOFF:

The influence of psychologists on the climate debate has itself become a hot subject of debate. Lord Deben, (the politician formerly known as Gummer) was recently interviewed by the DECC Parliamentary Select Committee, before being appointed chairman of the Committee on Climate Change. In answer to a question from the chair: “Do you think in what the Committee on Climate Change has done so far in its four-year history there is anything that could have been improved?” Lord Deben replied with three recommendations, the second of which included the following: “… I wonder whether we do not have a need for somebody who knows about behavioural science, because increasingly the problem is going to be to help people change behaviour. That is itself a science. There is a great deal of knowledge about that, and I do not think that at the moment any member of the Committee would say that that was their speciality. I would look to see if that could be improved.”

Now just a few weeks ago, a member of the CCC, Lord Krebs, who is a zoologist, had an article which dealt with precisely this question, at

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/sep/06/nudge-government.

In it he expressed some reticence about the usefulness of psychology in reducing our output of CO2. He said:  “… how useful is nudging for tackling society’s hardest problems? It is one thing for marketeers to persuade us to buy the latest gadget, this season’s fashions, or a new beauty product. Here subtle psychological ploys are working alongside our own wish for immediate gratification. It is quite another to persuade us to do things that have a long-term benefits to us, such as losing weight, or a benefit to future generations, such as reducing our environmental footprint. When the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee looked into this last year, it concluded that soft approaches such as nudging are not, on their own, enough […] The behavioural sciences have an important role to play, but our understanding of how to persuade people to change their behaviour is still rudimentary.”

Clearly, if every qango, every government committee, every board of directors, feels it has to have a psychologist on board, this means a tremendous boost for your profession. How do you feel about this, particularly with reference to the climate debate?

ADAM:

Politicians’ interest in influencing people’s behaviour is not a new one, and neither is the idea of understanding and influencing people’s ‘environmental’ behaviour. However, what is new is something called ‘Nudge’, which is a cutesy term for a particular philosophy of behavioural change (or behavioural ‘insights’) that has tagged itself ‘libertarian paternalism’. It is associated with the work of Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler (check their website for a pretty good idea of what Nudging means http://nudges.org/). As the name suggests, the Nudge approach revolves around introducing small, well-placed behavioural cues into a decision making scenario, and hoping people go with them. A classic example is changing the default for organ donation, so that the automatic assumption is that people do donate. Because people will typically go with whatever the default is, this will probably increase rates of donation. So changing a ‘default’ is considered a ‘nudge’.

Et voila, behaviour change without anything as mucky and hands-on as actually persuading people of the underlying reasons for changing their behaviour: politicians love it because they get to keep a safe distance. Cameron even set up a unit dedicated to the nudge approach, called the Behavioural Insights Team

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/behavioural-insights-team

The Krebs quote you refer to is him saying that if government limits itself to this form of intervention, it will not get very far. However, the ubiquity of the Nudge approach means that it has become synonymous with ‘psychology’ for policy makers, which is emphatically not true. I personally don’t like it, because I think it is a) only really useful for relatively trivial, one-time decisions and b) underhand.

I don’t think people should be nudged or tricked into caring about climate change, I think they should be encouraged to THINK about it, and that government, civil society (and whoever else) should make the case for why behavioural changes is one part of a strategy for decarbonisation. By all means deploy strategies that psychological research suggests are more or less likely to work, but you have to win the argument out in the open if you want meaningful engagement from people with the issue.

So is it a good thing that behavioural science is becoming part of the mix in terms of how the government thinks about engaging people on climate change? Yes – but if it only ever nudges people, it will be wasting our time and theirs.

GEOFF:

I agree entirely with you when you say:

“I don’t think people should be nudged or tricked into caring about climate change, I think they should be encouraged to THINK about it.”

I take your point about nudging and psychology not being coterminous. It’s just another of many examples of the specific technique being confused with a more general activity, just as all market research gets labelled “focus groups”, and all psychologists “shrinks”.

Incidentally, there’s a nice article about government nudging this week at

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/when-nudge-just-another-word-advert

So could I generalise the point and ask: how do you feel about the current moves to bring psychology to bear on the climate debate, given that many sceptics see it as a means of avoiding the real (scientific or political) debate, and even as a step in the direction of 1984? If nudging is the unacceptable face of psychological intervention in the politics of climate change, what’s the acceptable face?

ADAM:

This one’s easy – I’ve got a website full of answers to this question at www.talkingclimate.org!

To me, the only reason that applying psychological research to the societal challenge of decarbonisation could be considered contentious is if you think that ‘society needs decarbonising’ is a controversial statement. For the vast majority of people – including scientists, policy makers, civil society groups, ordinary citizens, whoever – it follows self-evidently from the fact that climate change poses significant risks to human and natural systems. But if you don’t buy into any part of that statement – the human impact or the risks – as climate sceptics (in various ways) do not, then decarbonising society appears to be a spurious political statement based on inadequate evidence, that the shrinks have been wheeled out to reinforce.

I get this. But just because a minority of people feel this way, I don’t think we (climate change communication experts/behavioural psychologists/social scientists interested in this) should all retreat to the safest possible ground, risking not even the slightest hint of a value-laden statement or policy-relevant judgement. In fact, I think there is a moral responsibility to do the opposite.

If we do not, then we face a serious charge: that while we were bickering over distinctions within philosophy of science, and the appropriate role for social science research in society, Rome – if not exactly burning – got a hell of a lot warmer.

GEOFF:

I don’t agree with the statement in your  first paragraph that:  “For the vast majority of people – including scientists, policy makers, civil society groups, ordinary citizens, whoever – [the need to decarbonise] follows self-evidently from the fact that climate change poses significant risks to human and natural systems.” In fact it’s quite evidently false, since there is no “vast majority” of ordinary citizens who believe that “climate change poses significant risks to human and natural systems”, and therefore there can be no vast majority who believe in the need to decarbonise. The hundreds of opinion polls on the subject show there’s a split between sceptics and believers which can reach 70-30% in either direction, depending how the question is framed.

There is no decent evidence I know of for the other groups you mention. True, policy makers from China to British West Hartlepool sign the statements they’re asked to sign by their elders and betters. Does that count as support for your statement? Even the dreadful Doran & Zimmermann paper found 30% of scientists disagreeing with man-made climate change, which is a much weaker proposition than your “significant risks”. As for “civil society groups” – if you mean NGOs financed by DECC and the European Union, you’re probably right. There are other groups who disagree though, including a half a dozen I’ve just formed this evening…

I agree with your third paragraph though. You climate change communications experts have every right not to retreat, but to advance. Indeed it’s your duty to do so. That’s what you’re paid to do.  But using what tactics, and what weapons? I agree with you that nudging seems to be a gimmick – what climate scientists call a “trick” i.e. a clever way of presenting something. But if you don’t nudge, what can you do which isn’t already part of the advertiser’s armoury?

I’m all for the use of psychology in marketing, (using the word “psychology” in the popular sense of  “low animal cunning”). But what can you possibly offer that the advertisers and market researchers haven’t already been using for years?

ADAM:

Just a really quick reply to this, I’m afraid – I think that rigorous, peer-reviewed, replicable university-based research will always be preferable to focus groups and ‘insights’ from the advertising industry. I also don’t think we can or should be ‘selling’ climate change like we sell physical products – this is a fundamentally different issue. To me, climate change is about the choices we make as a society in response to what we know about physical risks. This means that we should be looking to psychology and the social sciences – not the more superficial knowledge-base of marketing – for answers.

No science is ever completely settled, but based on what I view as credible, compelling and abundant evidence from physical scientists, we know more than enough to know that we need to do ‘something’ (it is difficult to construct a coherent moral framework that advocates doing nothing at all). That ‘something’ is not derivable from science – it is a societal decision. I would very much like to reach a point where much larger numbers of people are engaged in the ‘what shall we do about this’ question, and I feel that the body of knowledge contained in psychology and beyond about how people think, why, what they value, how they respond to information and evidence, who they trust, what factors shape their decision making processes…is extremely relevant and valuable to the challenge of responding to climate change in a proportionate way.

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10 Responses to Discussion with Adam Corner – Round 3

  1. Barry Woods says:

    which physical scientists..?

    Again. who is trying to be nudged, the UK, or the whole world, or trying to nudge the UK in a leadership role.

    It all seems hopelessly naive, in the face of thirty years of non achievement in reducing the world’s emissions. Climate science itself, I think, will go a long way to sorting itself out in the next 8 years.
    Ie the inclusion of another 8 years of observed temperature data.

    Those that campaign on climate change policy making may just be left out in the cold…

  2. Barry Woods says:

    my main gripe with activists, is that so many have poisoned the debate.

    If Mark Lynas can recognise that Rising Tide’s Deniers – Halls of Shame, and the Campaign Against Climate Changes – Hall of SHame is (as Mark Lynas said to me) shameful, then why not others (Mark was on the board of CaCC, he even said he might have come up with the whole 100 months idea)

    Mark Lynas and George Marshall having created the first such list of deniers back in 2003 (Lomborg, etc). I have a huge issue with these groups and people behind advising these groups being involved with academics. Any psychologist should recognise political rhetoric, and I would hope that Adam could follow Mark Lynas’s lead and offer George Marshall (Adam is policy advisor to Marshall at COIN) some advise, that such activist tactics has created the whole polarised poisonous debate.. and to stop this totally counter-productive rhetoric, if only if as Adam recognised the left frame the debate in a ceratin way,butthey need to bring the right on board. very difficult, if comms experts like MArsahll condone HAlls of Shame – with those very people in.

    I would NOT be here, without that Hall of Shame, started writing above the line, bcos of it, leading to my own blog, and guest authorship at WUWT, to counter this poison.
    http://www.realclimategate.org/2010/11/bishop-hill-targeted-sceptic-alerts/

    I react strongly to activists, trying to shut down debate with ‘denier’ rhetoric, and Marshall and Monbiot have poisen the debate for over a decade.

    Marshall and Ben Webster (Greenpeace) at CaCC “Skeptics Backlash meeting:
    (from transcripts thanks to JoAbbess.com)

    Webster:
    “We have to make “brand sceptic” toxic.
    We need a new, compelling narrative, and pull together a community of activists determined to hold journalists to account.
    We have to launch a campaign so these people are scared of us.”

    Marshall:
    Look at the word “sceptic”. It’s a very carefully chosen word.
    I rather use “denier” – and I’m delighted to say it works.
    But they’re [Climate Change sceptics] doing a better job than us at the moment [on communications].”

    The Guardian listed Dr David Bellamy for example, as number 18, in the top 100 list of environmentlisst, for their contribution. The fact that Monbiot (who was no.23), does not just say Bellamy is wrong, on AGW, but must destroy him, paint him as an ex-environmentalist, must surely raise concerns.

    And again the public do not belive in climate change yes/no..

    Is anybody prepare to survey (with a neutral organisation, doing the survey) the public with much more nuanced questions (and similarly survey scientists) to find out their opinions of how much future climate change they are concerned about..

    I suspect not, as the answers I suspect would not support those that push for strong policy..

    I asked Adam if had actually read – Zimmermann, The Consensus of the consensus (and seen where the 97% came from,not Doran, that merely cites it to say 97%. At the time he said he had not. I suspect he still has NOT. (why not curious?)

    because the feedback to that survey from very many scientists that participated, shows many criticisms of activist scientists, IPCC, and scepticism too the significant and strong impacts touted by many.. (and a very weak consensus, on the shallowest questions that all sceptics might agree with)

    Yet as we know the 97% of scientists believe soundbite is waved like a club to beat down sceptics, based on surveys like this and Anderegg (of which Dr Eric Steig-Realclimate, was also damming)

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/18/what-else-did-the-97-of-scientists-say/

  3. Barry
    I understand your annoyance about the Deniers List. But as long as it’s not illegal, or leading to hate mail or other unpleasantness, I see no point in campaigning against it.
    No doubt political parties and other pressure groups have lists like this – of opponents to beat, or journalists to avoid or treat rough – but they naturally keep them secret. They’re tactical weapons, to be used in an ongoing battle that might go either way. Environmentalists don’t see things that way. They’ve won, since they’ve got the whole political and intellectual establishment on their side, and they can’t understand why a few contrarans continue to hold out. The fact that CACC makes a point of publicising their list tells us a lot about CACC (and the fact that Lynas wants to dissociate himself tells us something about Lynas). They haven’t updated their list for years. It’s a joke.
    Incidentally, George Marshall has an excellent article about ex-hurricane Sandy and voting patterns up at
    http://talkingclimate.org/will-hurricane-sandy-increase-concern-about-climate-change/
    I shall be commenting there to congratulate him on his insight.
    On Corner, activism and political rhetoric: everyone (except members of the armed forces or those in prison, I believe) has the right to participate in political activism.
    You ask:
    “Is anybody prepare to survey the public with much more nuanced questions … to find out their opinions of how much future climate change they are concerned about?”
    A good question. Until social scientists start exploring the global warming movement, and belief / scepticism of climate change from a neutral standpoint, their contributions are worthless, in my opinion.
    Meanwhile, I shall continue to chat to Adam as and when we find a subject of common interest.

  4. Barry Woods says:

    How on earth can you say Halls of Shame, deniers has not led to hate mail or unpleasantness, ook at where we are after a decade of it.

    I’ve commented on Marshal blog way before TAlking Climate, politly and been deleted out of hand, he even put up a comment making out how much abuse he had been receivieing, in response.

    he deleted my relpies out of hand, as he did (or Adam or Richard Hawkins) at the Talking Climate blog, weeks before you came aware of that blog. they will not tolerate,publicising the other side (only bcos of twitter, embarrising them, did they realise the had to allow comments or appear,as they are censorious(ie PUBLICALLY funded blog, little excuse this time)

    Have you ever watched one of Marshall climate camp videos, and those students convinced of the evil fossil fuled funded denier that don’t care about the planet? with Marshall talking of screan in the night and cattle trucks.. an utter conspiracy theorist, projecting his own irrational fears of climate catstrophy, and ‘Big Oil’ denial, motivated reasoing of greed vs savingthe planet, from MArshall battleing Chevron over 2 decades ago in the Rainforests, onto others, and psychologists, climate scientists (Cardiff, UWE, Nottingham, CRU, etc) have just absorbed this environmental mythology as gospel.

    And Marshall started it in the UK! take a look around, at the hate filled denier rhetoric everywhere. Yet he will not finish it, explain how it was wrong, just MORE of the same, tactics for the cause, see my earlier quote from him and Webster. ‘denier works’ says Marshall

    You say:
    “Until social scientists start exploring the global warming movement, and belief / scepticism of climate change from a neutral standpoint, their contributions are worthless, in my opinion.”

    And you are right of course, but the evidene is that they will not, and if anything they will escalate denial into an aberation, to be explained a way and dealt with, so as not to confuse the public. I saw Nick Pidegeon speak the other day and he is totally lost in the green bubble, nothing I think could penetrate it.

    I might note that Marshall climatedenial blog was on Realclimate’s blog role VERY early on. and when Mann wanted to contact Monbiot, Marshall gave him Monbiot’s email address. Scared activist working with scared scienctist, labelling anybodythat ask questions ‘deniers’ because of their own fears of the coming climate holocaust (Marshall, ecologist 2001)

    Corner has a responisbility to his profession, that is what I’m trying to point out.. associating with Marshall severly damages that credibility and the profession. Look I’m trying to be kind. Adam speaks publically. he just has to choose for his own sake.

    You don’t get to stand up in front of the public, including MP’s that his colleague/founder of COIN has in a deniers HAll of Shame (Lawson, Pseiser) and lists of politicians that vote the ‘wrong’ way on activist websites, and be expexted to be treated serioulsy. Especially, if you come out with the line ‘I’m a resercher, not a campaigner’, utterly naive in front of experience politicians and a cynical public (Daily Mail would have a field day aswell, Corner’s not that important though)

    what reaction might an audience give to him, anger at percieving to have been lied to by an academic, or worse laughter? Not Adam’s perceptions of himself, but he needs to ask himself what would the audience think? Forgetthe phoptos, would they be cynical of his roles at COIN & PIRC. absolutley.

    Adam needs to reflect on how, senior elected politicians, might react to a young man, saying that to them, when he clearly is a campigner.

    They DID took that statement on trust – “I’m NOT a campiagner”
    I asked…. Lilley, Pseiser, Lawson – took him at face value as aan academic researcher, what will the think next time (Pseiser reads Bishop Hill for example, where Foxgoose, NOT I, outed his greenparty photo, carrying placards at Copenhagen, tweeting about deniers)

    What will they think now, ‘oh, another young lefty academic just lied to us….?
    Of course they will.

    That really is going to help communications and trust.. Beny Pseiser just laughed, he had TRUSTED that just an academic was speaking, not a lobbyist (both COIN and PIRC lobby on renewables) with his own motivations and vested interests.

    Principles matter, does the psychological science want to give the impression that they are a hotbed of environmental activists?. Because if psychology sees sceptics as older white conservative males, motivated by reasoning and ideology.. Surely some psychologist will see how Adam comes across to those older white cliched males.

    My concern is that 6 months after campaigning at Copenhage, Adam (and Myles Allen) were speaking on a panel debate miniminising climategate at the Royal Institution, as no smoking gun, nothing to see here move along please, with the Guardian’ Damian Carrington doing the same thing

    ie highly motivated individual with an ideology, minimisingthe impacts to an establishment audience, explaining away climategate..

    Imagine if Robert Muller was there… explaining what ‘Hide the Decline’ really meant and the scientific malpractice of the scientists. The audience I think would have left with a very differnet impression, and even the enquiries may have been more rigorous, but their own motivated reasoning prevent them form seeing the problems

    everyone has a right to campign publically/politically, but that game has very different rules and you can’t just duck for cover ‘I’m an academic’

    With Monbiot spreading innuendo on twitter, Hickman using the Guardian to personally go for Ben PIle. I’m increasingly of the opinion that Morano was right, it is politics not science. and the political gloves are off. (and it;s going to get worse)

    Corner ran the Lewandowsky piece in the national media, no scepticism, the paper is junk, probably never to see thhe light of day. Where is the update from Adam in the Guardian, discussing how that paper got passed peer review and took him in.. My concern is that the message is more important to some than principle. At the Met society debate the other day, this was clear as well (only Tim Palmer, sounding like a scientist, what should a scientist do he was asked about uncertainty – BE Honest he replied, which is not what they wanted to hear.)

    This of course sound hugely critical of Adam Corner, and will no doubt be percieved as an ‘attack’ or attempts to smear. Personally I think it should be a wake up call and a massive opportunity for Dr Adam Corner. Adam in his earlier debate got it almost exactly right, the left has it’s problems communicating climate change, and need to bring conservtives etc aboard, and frame the debate to allow them to participate.

    How on earth can he be taking serioulsy, when, he say/does nothing about the Halls of Shame with the very people that he wants to bring on board, are listed/described like that by activists, by the people he works with? As a Policy Advsior to COIN (Marshall) surely he could advise to change this policy, advice COIN to advice the multiple activists groups they support, coach, train how to communicate climate chane, to lay off the denier rhetoric, fossil fuel shills, etc.

    I even asked Adam surely you can see this is a problem, talk to George Marshall, persuade him surely you can see the damge it has done, and how much this has poisoned and polarised the debate, so that htae mail is common.

    But NO, nothing to do with Adam. that’s all upto George.

    Political campaigning is uncompromising,and if you choose to be in that arena, don’t cry about it when people push back. I was disgusted with Hickman going after Pile, purely personal acrimony between those two. BUT only one has the national media bully pit behind him.
    I could respect Adam if he could look at Lewandowsky paper, and reported what happened, or if he tried to persuade activists to turn off the rhetoric, as a psychologist he must be able to see what it is, demonising groups of people, for political purposes. Silence condones it..

    I have been VERY kind to Adam Corner (anybody else would have Morano/Delinpole style done a Carbon Brief Style profile on him..

    WUWT Headline: ‘I’m Not a campaigner’ – Liar! (with lots of photos)

    But I didn’t because I thought he WOULD get hate mail and it would be unproductive, then that Lewandowsky sillyness, just shows me someone so blinkered, so wrapped up in the bubble, theyneed a major wake up call, which is just a reflection on the whole political/academic classes

    (even though the picture of him carrying a climate chaos banner – Styop Dirty Coal’, painted blue, whereing a blue fright wig. would have been a GIFT too the ‘evil fossil fuel denial industry, and very funny)

    I spoke to James Delingpole a while back, as has others, saying why not tone it down, dial it back, and was met with a few F off’s. But I don’t blame him, he is at the recieving end of tonnes of abuse, from media, actvists, left twitterati because of the vitriolic Gaurdian, COIN, Rising Tide CaCC and Marshall and Adam’s Greenpeace mates. It is utterly relentless, tiring and depressing and bullying, and silence of those that could stop it and allow a civil debate condemms them.

    Look at Monbiots actions with respect to a ‘tory’ enemy, paedophile innuendo on twitter, not brave enough to make direct allegation, but uses his position, netowork, principles of fact checking don’t matter when it is the ‘enemy’ that is the nature of his activism.. it needs some sunlight

    If principles don’t apply to those you disagree with, then you have no principles. That is why I did NOT write the WUWT article, even though I know the opposition would NOT apply those principles to me. I’m not trying to smear anybody, just actually give them an opportunity to look in that mirror, see how others percieve them, and perhaps acknowledge it, and we can then deconstruct the ugliness of the entrenched positions.

    I’ve had abusive email form americans, for trying as vocally and as critically as I am here (more so in fact) to get Morano, Inholfe, etc to step back form the ugliness and the politics of it all. To stop publishing email addresses, to stop faciliating hate mail and the nastyness, in an attempt to have a civil debate.. But I just find myself in the middle, getting abuse from all sides, as neither Marshall/Monbiot/Romm or Morano/Inholfe etc can change.. I’d hoped that someone like Adam could help.

  5. alexjc38 says:

    In a way, this reminds me of learning about the early days of World War I, before aeroplanes became killing machines, and when pilots would sometimes exchange greetings with their opposite numbers. It’s clear who’s on which side in this “culture war” that has sprung up over global warming and environmentalism, and clearly all of us (whichever side we happen to align ourselves with) want our values to prevail.

    Warriors like Stefan Lewandowsky are (to pursue this metaphor) like the aviators who started taking pistols aboard their planes, clearly intent on mayhem and “playing dirty”. Ditto George Marshall and the “Deniers’ Hall of Shame” business.

    I think there is still some value in holding a dialogue with people like Adam Corner. Clearly he has an agenda and would like to shut us down. Clearly he cannot shut us down completely, in this age of the internet, although it’s possible things may change in his favour in future to make this possible.

    The question is: what value do these exchanges bring, for both parties (as opposed to directly shooting at one another)? What does he get out of it? What do we get out of it? My take is that we get information and we learn about his mindset. What makes him tick? Why does he believe the things he does? Perhaps he has similar thoughts, and this is why he also persists.

  6. Alex
    Much as I’d like to fantasise about being an ace fighter pilot, I don’t see the choice as being between shooting with a pistol or destroying the enemy by “fairer” means. I’m rather sorry I started the series of conversations by talking about “football in nomansland”, though it did seem appropriate. The problem with military, or even sporting, metaphors, is that they imply a fixed relation of opposition between the two “sides”; you can play fair, or play dirty, but you never pass the ball to someone on the opposing team. Whereas in the conversation with Corner we may find ourselves in agreement sometimes, eg over “nudging”.
    An even more interesting example arises with George Marshall, whose article I refer to above. He makes the point that the reaction to events like the New York cyclone Sandy won’t necessarily be to blame global warming, because, as he puts it:
    “The relationship between climate disasters and perceptions of climate change is complex as it is mediated by socially constructed narratives.”
    I have a big problem with George Marshall, which I don’t have with Corner (though Barry does). That Corner gets government funding for a website is something I find daft, and would probably bitch about if I was politically active in the country, but it’s also something which is probably inevitable in the current climate. That Marshall was paid to lecture trade unionists on climate change I think is a real scandal.
    It’s one thing to put information out on the internet, quite another to lecture people in their work place as to what they should think. (I’d feel the same if he was lecturing on smoking or safe sex – perhaps he does). But what does it matter how strongly, I feel about it? Whether it’s mild irritation in the case of Corner, or outrage in the case of Marshall, these are just my feelings. I usually agree with everything Barry says, I just wouldn’t react in the same indignant tone, at least not all the time.
    Back to Marshall. I’ll try to summon up the energy to comment on his blog about why I think he’s right and why it’s interesting. I wouldn’t expect much to come of it though, since I’ve no sympathy with his outlook. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. It may be Marshall, and not Corner who wakes up one morning and says “By Gaia, it’s not warming. The sceptics were right.” I may find myself agreeing with Marshall, for whom I have little esteem, and disagreeing with Barry, for whom I have lots.

  7. alexjc38 says:

    Point taken, re the war metaphor; habitually framing it like this probably does limit the scope of all the different kinds of conversations that might be possible. As time goes on, I’m finding it personally difficult, though, to think outside that box. A shooting war would not be the best analogy anyway; more like a Cold War (?) but even then it doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the situation. There’s also the twist that this debate/conflict/struggle/disagreement/melee/friction is kind of perpendicular to the old left/right axis, making for some interesting, occasionally bizarre, alliances and dialogues. It’s as perplexing, in its way, as the climate itself.

  8. Barry Woods says:

    this is too much now….

    Adam Corner now playing politics in Australian – The Conversation.
    https://theconversation.edu.au/corby-by-election-british-tories-all-talk-on-wind-power-10793

    All bets are off, this is playing politics.

  9. John Shade says:

    Psychologists and climate change. I have encountered two kinds so far that have caught my attention in the area of climate materials aimed at children, and perhaps this might be of interest here at some stage:
    (1) The apologists for alarmism, such as this example of what I could not resist calling the pollyanne school of psychology: http://www.rnw.nl/english/radioshow/kids-and-climate-change-enlightened-or-frightened

    and http://climatelessons.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/more-gore-in-classroom-australian.html

    (2) The embarrassed who note the possible harm to the children, and the less-than-satisfactory motivation that may lead at least some climate zealots to target them: http://rorandall.org/2011/03/23/should-we-be-working-with-children-about-climate-change/ and http://climatelessons.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/not-just-another-brick-in-wall-hey.html

  10. John Shade
    My apologies that your comment has remained so long in moderation. I think it’s the number of links that get it identified as spam.
    I’ve listened to the some of the interviews with children and the psychologist in the first link. If that’s the Pollyanna school, what’s the other school like?
    The psychologist sounded quite unfazed by the fact that the kids believe the world is going to be destroyed, but, that on a scale of one to 10, their worry level was about 5.
    My interpretation: it doesn’t matter what rubbish they believe, as long as kids know how to reply to a questionnaire about it.

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