Monday, May 30, 2005


Rhetorical overkill

Johann Hari takes on "climate change deniers", again (hat tip to discussion forum):

The climate-change deniers are rapidly ending up with as much intellectual credibility as creationists and Flat Earthers. Indeed, given that 25,000 people died in Europe in the 2003 heat wave caused by anthropogenic climate change, given that the genocide unfolding in Darfur has been exacerbated by the stresses of climate change, given that Bangladesh may disappear beneath the rising seas in the next century, they are nudging close to having the moral credibility of Holocaust deniers.

Talk about rhetorical overkill.

I'm not a climatologist, and hence loath to speak up about the subject (I will, though, as it seems journalists like Johann Hari obviously want me to have an opinion - namely theirs, lest I end up with the "moral credibility of Holocaust deniers". Trying to do some reading on the subject, recently finished Bryant's Climate Process and Change which the PSSST(KA) hereby recommends). My own field, linguistics, is relatively inoculated against any political or social relevance. That's the way I like it, and that's quite probably one of the reasons I chose it. I like learning for the sake of it, and don't like politics to mix with science. At least taking a certain position in linguistics carries little risk of being labeled a holocaust denier.

Nonetheless, if I were a climatologist, I would be pretty offended by the shrill and more than slightly demagogic way with which Hari describes my field.

An excellent weblog with a wider relevance, but a regular focus on climate-related issues from a Science Studies perspective, is Roger Pielke Jr.'s one here. If I understand Pielke correctly, the whole field has suffered from a merger between science and politics in which political answers (cuts in fossil fuels, Kyoto or no) are seen to flow straight from a scientific position (anthropogenic global warming or not). According to Pielke, the two were better seperated totally (I think Pielke seems to share Lomborg's position in that he believes global warming is happening, and that the cause is human, but that we'd be better off adapting to a changing climate than to possibly futile attempts to avert it).

- Merlijn de Smit

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