Climate Etc.

Conflating the climate problem with the solution

“one of the real tragedies that totally distorted the debate over climate change was that it got tied into the solution in a way that if you accepted the first you had to accept the second. And I think that was profoundly wrong.” – Newt Gingrich

At the annual meeting of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), Newt Gingrich made a very interesting presentation, which was reported in an EOS article.  Excerpts:

Gingrich was not the usual fare for an NCSE conference, and he acknowledged that at the beginning of his talk, saying, “I realize that, particularly with all of the changes of the last few days, that having a right-wing Republican show up [at this conference] is probably not what all of you have signed up for.”

When asked why Gingrich was invited to speak, NCSE provided Eos with a written statement referring to the “shifting political landscape” and the importance of “hearing all perspectives.” 

Former House Speaker urges thoughtful, aggressive, articulate arguments to influence an administration that he says generally lacks its own plan.

“You can hunker down and decide you want to be oppositionist and that you are going to hate everything and life will be terrible,” or you can dig in and work with the administration, said Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives.

“If you go in aggressive enough and articulate enough and have thought it through enough, you are going to shape large parts of this administration,” he said.

Gingrich in his presentation argued that the new administration has a focus on science, engineering, and technology. He pointed to Trump’s inaugural address, which calls for “unlock[ing] the mysteries of space” and “harness[ing] the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.”

“Part of your challenge here is for you to feed back to them and say, ‘Look, if you want to achieve these goals, this is the kind of investment that you have to make,’” he told the audience.

However, he said, there can be measures that move toward sustainability that are compatible with the administration’s goals. He pointed to Tesla as an example and the increasing popularity of electric vehicles.

After his speech, Gingrich told Eos that Trump should balance America’s economic interests related to climate change. Gingrich added, though, “I’m very skeptical of the stuff that Obama agreed to” in dealing with climate change.

JC reflections

Well, one good thing that is emerging from the Trump administration is increasing open mindedness in scientific and environmental organizations.  Hard to imagine Newt Gingrich being invited to such a meeting under the Obama administration.

I was particularly struck by Gingrich’s statement:

“one of the real tragedies that totally distorted the debate over climate change was that it got tied into the solution in a way that if you accepted the first you had to accept the second. And I think that was profoundly wrong.”

Citizens understand this, but apparently many scientists do not.  At the scientist demonstration for global warming at the AGU meeting, the slogan was something like this:

The ‘problem’ of global warming is utterly conflated with its ‘solution’, in the eyes of many climate scientists, not to mention the UNFCCC.  I have argued many times that we have oversimplified by the problem of global warming and its solution.

Once you break the link in the reasoning described in the above bullets, we may have a chance at developing a true understanding of climate variability and change, how extreme weather and slow climate change influences societies and ecosystems, and the most effective ways of dealing with the regional impacts of climate variability and extreme events that accounts for a regions specific vulnerabilities and socioeconomic situation.

The other important point made by Gingrich is that Trump is very interested in science and technological advances.  Fleshing out details of any such plans haven’t begun to happen — which has resulted in Trump being called anti-science because climate science, etc. isn’t at the top of his agenda.  Trump seems to have a relatively open mind so there seems to be much opportunity for rational and well argued inputs to be provided.

Instead, we see scientists marching on DC (exactly towards what end, I haven’t been able to figure it out).

JC message to scientists:  start behaving like scientists, and make your arguments for why you think something is important and why it should be funded.  Whining and playing politics doesn’t look like it will help your cause.