[转] Four Sides to Every Story

from The New York Times

By STEWART BRAND


Published: December 14, 2009

San Francisco


CLIMATE talks have been going on in Copenhagen for a week now, and
it appears to be a two-sided debate between alarmists and skeptics. But
there are actually four different views of global warming. A taxonomy of the four:

DENIALISTS They
are loud, sure and political. Their view is that climatologists and
their fellow travelers are engaged in a vast conspiracy to panic the
public into following an agenda that is political and pernicious.
Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma and the columnist George Will wave the
banner for the hoax-callers.

“The claim that global warming is caused by manmade emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science,” Mr. Inhofe declared in a 2003 speech to the Senate
about the Kyoto accord that remains emblematic of his position. “CO2
does not cause catastrophic disasters — actually it would be beneficial
to our environment and our economy …. The motives for Kyoto are
economic, not environmental — that is, proponents favor handicapping
the American economy through carbon taxes and more regulations.”

SKEPTICS
This group is most interested in the limitations of climate science so
far: they like to examine in detail the contradictions and shortcomings
in climate data and models, and they are wary about any “consensus” in
science. To the skeptics’ discomfort, their arguments are frequently
quoted by the denialists.

In this mode, Roger Pielke, a climate
scientist at the University of Colorado, argues that the scenarios
presented by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change are overstated and underpredictive. Another prominent skeptic is
the physicist Freeman Dyson, who wrote in 2007:
“I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the
crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the
computer models …. I have studied the climate models and I know what
they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they
do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere
and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the
dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests.”

WARNERS
These are the climatologists who see the trends in climate headed
toward planetary disaster, and they blame human production of
greenhouse gases as the primary culprit. Leaders in this category are
the scientists James Hansen, Stephen Schneider and James Lovelock.
(This is the group that most persuades me and whose views I promote.)

“If
humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which
civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted,” Mr.
Hansen wrote as the lead author of an influential 2008 paper,
then the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would have
to be reduced from 395 parts per million to “at most 350 p.p.m.”

CALAMATISTS
There are many environmentalists who believe that industrial
civilization has committed crimes against nature, and retribution is
coming. They quote the warners in apocalyptic terms, and they view
denialists as deeply evil. The technology critic Jeremy Rifkin speaks
in this manner, and the writer-turned-activist Bill McKibben is a
(fairly gentle) leader in this category.

In his 2006 introduction
for “The End of Nature,” his famed 1989 book, Mr. McKibben wrote of
climate change in religious terms: “We are no longer able to think of
ourselves as a species tossed about by larger forces — now we are
those larger forces. Hurricanes and thunderstorms and tornadoes become
not acts of God but acts of man. That was what I meant by the ‘end of
nature.’”

The calamatists and denialists are primarily
political figures, with firm ideological loyalties, whereas the warners
and skeptics are primarily scientists, guided by ever-changing
evidence. That distinction between ideology and science not only helps
clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the four stances, it can also
be used to predict how they might respond to future climate
developments.

If climate change were to suddenly reverse itself
(because of some yet undiscovered mechanism of balance in our climate
system), my guess is that the denialists would be triumphant, the
skeptics would be skeptical this time of the apparent good news, the
warners would be relieved, and the calamatists would seek out some
other doom to proclaim.

If climate change keeps getting worse
then I would expect denialists to grasp at stranger straws, many
skeptics to become warners, the warners to start pushing geoengineering
schemes like sulfur dust in the stratosphere, and the calamatists to
push liberal political agendas — just as the denialists said they would.

Stewart Brand is the author of “Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.”

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