Monday, December 11, 2006

The origins of climate cacophony.....

This being finals week, Ethon was in the library at Boulder chewing on a chopped liver sandwhich when he came across an interesting paper by Myanna Lahsen, a cultural anthropologist in RPJr's shop. Ethon, who likes to snack on cultured scientists himself, flipped it open and began to read Technocracy, Democracy, and U.S. Climate Politics: The Need for Demarcations which starts...

.....Since the early 1990s, the U.S. public has been subjected to numerous media-driven campaigns to shape understandings of this widely perceived threat. Political interests have instigated an important part of these campaigns, frequently resorting to ethically problematic tactics to undermine attempts at policy action designed to avert or reduce the threat. The disproportionate influence of such interests suggests the need for a more level political playing field characterized by more equalized access to power and influence.
Eth sent us an IM and the Rabett picked up the thread. Although our motto is RTFR, Eli was amused by several blunt, but true, statements in this paper:
Conservative financial elites and fossil fuel–related vested interests have been central driving forces in this “environmental backlash,” which has relied on a group of about ten of scientists as providers of essential scientific authority. The high-profile climate dissidents are largely a U.S. phenomenon: while Germany, Sweden, and England, in addition to a few other countries, host one or two such skeptics each, no other countries dispose of a similarly large “resistance movement” or the scientific cacophony they help create.......
A bit of backing and filling, the obligatory nod to Lindzen as a "real scientist", and the statement of a thesis
My critique is focused on the money-dominated machinery that seizes on the dozen dissident scientists, a machinery that (1) owes its success to the unequal distribution of financial resources and political influence, (2) often resorts to techniques that deceive rather than illuminate the citizenry, and (3) gives disproportionate influence to a minority of scientists and to non-peer-reviewed opinions on the part of the latter. The ways in which the dissident scientists are used by such vested interests illustrate the value of scientific authority as a political resource and the extent to which such scientific authority can be simulated. Such abuses of scientific authority (described further below), in turn, underscore the need for a general public equipped to identify them and to distinguish between better and worse sources of scientific information (i.e., the relatively greater reliability of the IPCC over a coalition of industry groups with vested interests in a fossil fuel dependence). Since the abuses are designed to be concealed, they are not easily identified. Publics also need to develop critical distance to the objectivist discourses commonly deployed by scientists and other actors on both sides of the issue.
Lahsen is loath to attribute malevolent purpose to the denialist scientist types, assigning that to their paymasters. Eli believes that naive in many cases. Her book is slated for completion in 2007: A Scientific Culture War: Global Warming and the New Production of Knowledge, although at a minimum you will have to read the paper to understand what she means by production of knowledge. However, we will be interested to see a copy when it appears.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything profoud here. She is basically stating the obvious.

If she is waiting for a better-informed public to solve the problem, good luck. I'd bet that hell will freeze over before most members of the public are equipped to make judegments about which scientists and which scientifc groups are most credible.

The real problem is not the public, it's that the "dissident scientists" (and others who have no background in science whatsoever) are not playing the science game the way it should be played. In fact, they are subverting the process by doing "science by blog" which ain't real science at all. The only reason these people get away with "publishing" what amounts to crap for their masters (Exxon-Mobil et al) is that they are not publishing in scientific journals, by and large.

Blogs may be great for a educating some members of the general public (I am dubious about even that), but they should ceratinly not take the place of the tradtional peer review and publication process, which some bloggers (eg, on Climate Audit) seem to continually belittle (not coincicentally).

I think it is time that scientists used their "authority" to enforce the rules among the members of their own group.

John A said...

Oh goody. I think the "war on climate science" can be filed next to the "war on Christmas" and the feminist "backlash theory" in the crackpot section of Borders.

Dano said...

Oh goody. I think the "war on climate science" can be filed next to the "war on Christmas" and the feminist "backlash theory" in the crackpot section of Borders.

Does that section include the new journal Galileo: The CA Journal of NewScience, produced by Googlers ignorant of the basic knowledge, but propelled by the clear flame of certainty?

Fueled by Cheetos and the mistaken idea that statistics can tell you everything except why you have no dates.

Best,

D

EliRabett said...

I see, Exxon and the forty elves (Scaife, and co.) have spent those millions subsidizing religious Christmas Parties, where chaste, but sexy modest women fall all over him.

John A said...

Yes Dano, it appears in the same section as the "Dano's contributions to science" monogrammed wastepaper basket.