A different view of culture wars and Science Fiction

I haven’t linked to Sarah Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club blog for a long time, mainly because much of what she is posting is not well structured. However, a recent post was germane to my interests and has some overlap with the Debarkle project. The post is rambling and full of odd leaps and flawed premises but that is the normal situation. The opening paragraphs states her premise relatively clearly:

“Perhaps it makes perfect sense for the science fiction genre — literature and movie, and all its glorious expanse — which achieved prominence in the 20th century to have become in a way, sideways, in small sphere the guinea pig of societal trends to come.

I’m only half in jest and all in seriousness, mind you.

This isn’t some half baked idea, like pretending to see the universe in a droplet of water or the conflagration of a match. (Both of which things I was convinced were perfectly valid, due to having learned them in science fiction books, which by the time I got my hot little — emphasis on little — hands on them were over fifty years old.)

It’s rather the fact that because the twentieth century was riven by two primary and — if we have a future as a species, I’m sure to our descendants — insane ideas: the idea that “science” — by which one must understand the knowledge at that time, not the process by which knowledge is acquired, with its heresies and toppling of accepted theory — could explain and ordain everything; and the idea that “great men” in charge would leads to glory by use of that “science.””

https://madgeniusclub.com/2021/06/30/the-guinea-pigs/

I don’t agree with her general idea and certainly not with the specific claims in the essay but I’d see two related ideas as sensible ones:

  • Science fiction is a genre in which people have often explored big ideas including social, economic and political change including positing (unreliably) some changes that actual occurred.
  • Science fiction as a genre is caught up in social change and on occasion changes that are already occurring may be more visible in science fiction literature and communities focused on that literature.

The second dot-point is sort of the premise of Debarkle i.e. science fiction is downstream of social change but not very far downstream. The first dot-point also suggests that science fiction is upstream of social change and can anticipate it but that’s only true in the way that a gambler who bets on every horse in a race can guarantee they picked a winner.

I’m not going to do a line by line refutation of Hoyt’s essay because that would be tiresome for both you and me but I’ll focus on one part because I like to talk about climate change and I also haven’t done that in awhile:

“And then there was “the Earth is going to freeze to death” — I’m packing my library and hoping that I didn’t throw away the anthology (very convincing) I bought at the end of the 80s in which author after author talked about the Earth freezing due to… well, excess freedom, and “consumerism” and “free market.”

Because those d*mn dirty apes just don’t know how to live, and won’t listen to their betters! The Earth has a chill, and the cure is socialism, population control and the “best” people in charge.

Of course, five years later, there were anthologies about how the Earth had a fever and the cure was socialism.”

https://madgeniusclub.com/2021/06/30/the-guinea-pigs/

Hoyt’s echoing a common climate change denial talking point about the supposed sudden shift in scientific consensus from a looming ice age in the mid-70s to global warming in the mid-80s. The talking point is largely false with some nuggets of truth (i.e. there really were discussions of global cooling as a possibility, leading to a new ice age but not a consensus and this was parallel with growing evidence of potential warming from anthropogenic CO2)

However, she’s also re-writing genre history. There are notable 1960s sci-fi books set on Earth in a new ice age (Moorcock, Silverberg) and books with rising temperatures (Ballard). Asking people to imagine how Earth might be dramatically different in the future and in terms of climate there are two-and-a-half obvious choices: hotter and flooded, hotter and all desert, colder and all ice. Of course, in film we have early 1970’s Soylent Green* mixing over-population fears with an express reference to global warming. Whereas, well past the point where there was any serious doubt about anthropogenic global warming we have The Day After Tomorrow in which global warming triggers a new ice age just to split the difference!

Science fiction affects and is affected by culture and science but not in some neat way.

*(oh and in terms of science fiction affecting the future we now have https://soylent.com/ but the ingredients are closer to the book than the film [I hope])

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60 responses to “A different view of culture wars and Science Fiction”

  1. It’s worth noting that the Republican party of 1988 could say things like this:

    “Many of the most serious environmental problems that will confront us in the years ahead are global in scope. For example, degradation of the stratospheric ozone layer poses a health hazard not only to Americans, but to all peoples around the globe. The Reagan-Bush Administration successfully pioneered an agreement to attack this problem through world-wide action. In addition, we will continue to lead this effort by promoting private sector initiatives to develop new technologies and adopt processes which protect the ozone layer. A similar ability to develop international agreements to solve complex global problems such as tropical forest destruction, ocean dumping, climate change, and earthquakes will be increasingly vital in the years ahead. All of these efforts will require strong and experienced leadership to lead the other nations of the world in a common effort to combat ecological dangers that threaten all peoples. The Republican Party believes that, toward this end, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should be joined with the Environmental Protection Agency.”

    in their platform. It wasn’t until the 1990s that climate change became a *controversial* issue

    Liked by 1 person

      • Rush Limbaugh destroyed two of my brothers — they listened to him non-stop and transformed from reasonable, likeable guys to mean, nasty bigots in about six months. “He’s just saying what everyone is thinking,” one of them insisted to me.

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        • David Neiwert, who’s written a lot about the far right, has discussed how visiting his old home town in the Pacific Northwest, Limbaugh was on everywhere and everyone had gotten much more conservative.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Le Guin’s 1971 The Lathe of Heaven was another major book that posited global warming and rising ocean levels as an ominous future trend.

    During the recent heat wave in Oregon, I remembered that book’s (or movie’s?) creepily prescient mention of Portland as “the Sunshine City,” (though in the book that came about as a result of more direct human meddling than global warming.)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, published in 1962, has to be one of the earliest examples of climate change.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. IOW, Hoyt’s completely wrong about something.

    So nothing new there.

    And, like all Puppies, she has no real grounding in SF literature.

    To add to examples, there’s Aldiss’ “Hothouse” (1962). Yes, it’s fantasy but it also won the Hugo.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, one thing that always strikes me about her rants about dystopian grey goo science fiction that claims that humans are a plague on the Earth and should die is that she never gives any examples. And if those books are really so common that the market is flooded with them, she should be able to list a few titles at least. But she never does. Most likely because she doesn’t know any.

      Of course, the various dystopian and apocalyptic scenarios she describes can be found in Science Fiction. For example, at Galactic Journey where it’s 1966 overpopulation dystopias are just taking off (Make Room, Make Room a.k.a. Soylent Green just came out) and will continue into the 1970s.

      Also, just because a science fiction author uses a certain scenario, doesn’t mean they necessarily believe in it. For example, I’m pretty sure that George Clayton and William F. Nolan did not really believe that killing everybody over the age of 21/30 Was a viable solution to overpopulation. But it was a cool scenario for a book.

      In my own writing, I’ve used all sorts of apocalypses from global warming and global cooling via nuclear wars and killer viruses via EMPs and the Yellowstone supervolcano erupting to zombie apocalypses, kaiju attacks and robot uprisings. And no, I don’t think that zombie apocalypses, robot uprisings and kaiju atracks are particularly likely, but they allowed me to tell the story I wanted to tell

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      • They do exist, though, in short fiction, at least. They’re not that common, and I don’t think I ever gave a story like that more than two stars. A bit more common is to find a character in a story who has that point of view.

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      • I don’t dispute that such stories exist, but then you can find pretty much anything from the deepest pessimism to glowing optimism in SFF. But depressign dystopias and apocalyptic fiction is not a huge trend and never really was except maybe in the early 1970s and even back then there were very different stories.

        Of course, it’s possible that Hoyt was exposed to a lot of dystopian SFF in her formative years, but that’s down to the translation practices of Portuguese publishers of the 1970s then. And besides, she did read Heinlein who is dystopian at times, but not pessimistic.

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  5. Weren’t the ideas that Hoyt calls “insane” largely championed by the older SF the Puppies wanted to return to (or said they did.)?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. There’s always the Twilight Zone episode “The Midnight Sun” which manages to deal with both a world that is getting hotter and a world that is growing colder.

    Some of the planet getting hotter doesn’t have to do with climate change. The Day the Earth Caught on Fire (1961) had the world knocked out of its orbit by Soviet and American nuclear tests. Or the original Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea movie (also 1961) where somehow the Van Allen belt catches on fire. Plenty of fiction and movies where the sun gets too hot. (Or even a second sun turning up like in Pollock’s “Finis” from 1906.) Likewise, much of the ice age fiction was due to the sun losing some oomph and not providing enough solar radiation.

    I remember in the 70s, the fear of a new ice age (which conservative love to bring up) was often linked to particulate emissions usually from power generation. (At the same time we also had “the green house effect” from carbon dioxide which is about the same as the current climate change.) The idea was that enough particulates in the atmosphere would somehow make it reflective. However clearing particulates from emissions is an easier problem to solve than dealing with carbon dioxide.

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      • The Day the Earth Caught Fire is very good indeed. A shame that Hugo voters decided to no award it along with Last Year in Marienbad, Burn Witch Burn and one other I have forgotten.

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        • Burn Witch Burn is not only good in its own right — given how much exposition Leiber packs into the opening of Conjure Wife, it’s fascinating watching the Charles Beaumont script convey it in a few scenes.
          I’ve never been able to get into Marienbad. I think of it as the art film other art films beat up in school for being too arty.

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      • The Twilight Zone was the fourth 1963 Best Dramatic Presentation finalist who got no awarded in one of the great puzzling decisions of Hugo history.

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      • I wouldn’t have voted for Last Year in Marienbad either, but I don’t think it deserves to be no awarded. Nor do any of the others. And what makes me happy about the nomination for Last Year in Marienbad is that Hugo voters at least occasionally recognise weird arthouse films as SFF. Especially since Alphaville didn’t even make the ballot in 1966.

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      • The Twilight Zone had won three years in a row at that point. Maybe people had just wanted a change. I was going to argue it might been a decline in quality in the final year, but realistically it’s the same mixture of good and bad that was true for all the seasons of The Twilight Zone.

        I don’t really understand most (all?) of the years where dramatic presentation was No Awarded and whenever asked people who were there at the time never seem to have a clear idea of the zeitgeist which led to that result.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the Dramatic Presentation No Awards or “not on ballots because of insufficient nominations” are baffling in retrospect, because there always were at least a few good works and even minor classics on the ballot.

        The best explanation I’ve heard is that some people hated the category in general and wanted the Hugos to remain pure and only for written fiction and fan writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. It was also the case for a while that liberals were lying about the possibility of nuclear winter in order to push for disarmament, so Frozen Earth might have seemed a reasonable future to write stories about.

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    • Nuclear winter is a reasonable scenario, though in the case of a large-scale nuclear war, radiation and general devastation would kill us before nuclear winter did.

      And yes, a lot of nuclear apocalypse fiction from the 1950s and 1960s and beyond also isn’t particularly realistic by modern standards, but “If this goes on…” is a common scenario for SF. Heinlein even wrote a story of that title.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I think “We All Die Naked” (Three for Tomorrow; August 1969) by James Blish is the first story that anticipated disastrous global warming/flooding caused by CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. But as late as 1972, Poul Anderson’s There Will Be Time portrayed a future where pollution caused enough cooling to reopen the land bridge from Alaska to Asia. And several writers simply accelerated the time table for the next ice age, as in “The Forgotten Enemy,” by Arthur C. Clarke (1948). “What’s a factor of ten to the three among friends,” was Clarke’s comment on having ice sheets advance to London in just 30 years.

    When there was uncertainty, SF writers picked the future that best suited their plots. As the science became clearer, they eventually followed it. Today, no one but a climate-change denier writes stories with a future ice age (e.g. “On the Razor’s Edge,” by Michael Flynn [2013]), unless it’s way in the future.

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    • There are still global cooling stories being written (I wrote one myself) and not all of the authors are climate change deniers. One example is the Second Species trilogy by Jane O’Reilly, where a frozen Earth is the background scenario which kicks off the plot. Though nowadays, the scenario behind global cooling stories is mostly a case of “We tried to solve climate change and overdid it”.

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      • Snowpiercer comes to mind. Though in the film at least, it is heavily hinted the baddie intentionally set out to create a new ice age while claiming to be fixing global warming so as to force the creation of his dreamed of “society on a giant train”.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I remember the 1970s kids TV show Timeslip had the tween protagonists visit a future where everything’s burning up — I thought they visited an ice age too but it’s actually just being stuck in an Antarctic base.

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  10. As a tangent, I vaguely remember a short story where the earth is freezing. The main characters are horrible people who would kill their closest friends for a hot meal. An alien comes to warn us and of course he ends up as supper. I think I read it in a British best of year’s fiction picked up during a family trip which would have made it second half of the 70s. It sort of fits in with her description of coming ice age caused by consumerism stories, but it’s about a decade early. Any guesses?

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    • I think that’s Fred Pohl.

      Checking… “The Snow Men” I think.

      Speaking of Global Warming and Nuclear Winter, there were a few stories that had people with the brilliant idea to use one to combat the other…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s also worth noting that the 1960s was when serious scientific evidence began emerging for a ‘snowball earth’ in the past. This theory didn’t really take hold until the 90s when palaeoclimatologists came up with a way the climate could escape from the snowball. But maybe not surprising that people who were paying some attention to science at the time had their imaginations swayed by the idea of a completely frozen earth.

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  12. I am of course absolutely nothing like an expert, but my understanding is that severe regional cooling in the wake of a disrupted/stopped Gulf Stream is still on the menu of options. The Atlantic Conveyer is certainly a thing, and so is the dependence of a relatively temperate Northern Europe upon it, and so is the threat of dilution or shutdown from adding large quantities of fresh water to the northern Atlantic. I have a vague recollection that the risk is one reason for referring to climate change over global warming in particular.

    As always at times like this, if someone comes along with better info, I’ll be glad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Disruption/Cessation of the Gulf Stream was the scenario behind “The Day After Tomorrow”. And while the film was largely a silly disaster spectacle, Roland Emmerich is a long time Green Party supporter and clearly intended it to be an anti-climate change message. Emmerich is pretty good at slyly slipping the sort of messages that make puppies cry in his movies and delivering them along with big explosations, patriotic speeches and dogs jumping from fiery infernos, so a lot of people don’t even notice they’re there.

      I also used disruptions/cessation of the Gulf Stream for a frozen northern hemisphere scenario where African explorers brave the frozen wastes of what used to be Europe.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. @Camestros

    Wow. You made it through that. Congrats. Or sympathies. Pick the one that fits best.

    Despite generally appreciating Mrs. Hoyt’s perspective, I rarely read her essays because of the excessive wind-up before the pitch.

    Also, I agree that genre fiction does a good job of predicting the future because it makes so many different predictions.

    And now all the peace and harmony goes out the window.

    “Consensus” has no place in science. The process of science demands that a single scientist with the correct answer be considered more relevant than the consensus of a million scientists. The history of science is littered with the rhetorical carcasses of millions who were proven wrong.

    I experienced the 70s. While scientists may not have had a consensus on global cooling, the media and left-leaning politicians certainly did. It showed up on the news and in print for years.

    The flip-flop that Mrs. Hoyt discussed was real and reflects what I have experienced. You pick a problem. The left and their media allies will conclude their part of the discussion with “and therefore we must institute socialism as a replacement for capitalism”.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. – Rudyard Kipling

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    • It is simply false to say that “consensus has no place in science”. A past consensus that is now recognised as wrong carries no weight.. The current consensus must. It simply is not possible to pick out the “single scientist who has the correct answer”. If it was then it wouldn’t just be one scientist at all. Mavericks are sometimes right – and often wrong.

      While I remember some talk of cooling from the seventies I certainly do not remember it being put forward as unquestioned fact, or even talked about that much. And certainly I do not remember any serious suggestions of political change as a solution – it simply wasn’t accepted as a fact or even a likely enough threat to take action. It was not like the situation today where temperatures really are rising and climate change is fact and political action is required.

      And, whatever you think of the solutions proposed by the Left ithey greatly preferable to the situation in the Republican Party which has invested heavily in denying the problem and dragging their heels on doing anything about it. Even as the problems become increasingly evident – and the future costs of not dealing with the issue grow greater and greater.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I experienced the 70s. While scientists may not have had a consensus on global cooling, the media and left-leaning politicians certainly did. It showed up on the news and in print for years.

      I also experienced the 70s, Dann, then went on to get a PhD in Planetary Science in the 80s. Your claim that global cooling was being touted as a crisis by the media and left-leaning politicians is complete horseshit. As Paul King has already pointed out, you evidently don’t understand anything about how science works either.

      And your shtick of dropping into comment threads weeks later in an attempt to get in the last word is really old.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am all for keeping an open mind. But power and responsible. If your open mind cost lifes and it is an excuse to not do anythink to make the world better, than screw it. (Wrong time, with the flood in Germany and just today reading an article in the newspaper that people are dying in the USA because they belive COVID is a myth and Fox lying about vacines)
        And Dann where does it stopp, should we denie Gravity or still give flat earth a hearing because there are people still believing it?

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      • And your shtick of dropping into comment threads weeks later in an attempt to get in the last word is really old.

        Well, Dann does have a proven track record as a dishonest coward, so this should come as no surprise.

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    • Well here’s the thing. If we stick with a model of looking empirically at evidence and coming to a single objective conclusion as how science operates then…we can apply that empirically and look at the evidence of what are regarded as scientific truths and see that consensus among expert communities of scientist has historically played a significant role in determining what is regarded as true.

      This is inevitable, as inevitably non-experts, even clever and numerate people like yourself simply don’t have the capability of getting sufficient expertise to evaluate every discipline. Likewise, what gets published, what gets promoted and what gets taught are all social decisions that are made and at some point we have take aspects of that on trust. I don’t have the time or equipment to conduct an experiment to determine the speed of light. I don’t have the funding or raw material or police permission to build a small nuclear reactor under a tennis court.

      Trust and consensus plays a role in scientific truth because science is a social endeavor because it is practised by human beings.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. @Paul King

    It is simply false to say that “consensus has no place in science”. A past consensus that is now recognised as wrong carries no weight.. The current consensus must.

    I disagree. The right answer is more valuable than consensus. When the current consensus supports an inaccurate answer, then the current consensus is as valuable as a past consensus that is now recognized as wrong.

    And, whatever you think of the solutions proposed by the Left ithey greatly preferable to the situation in the Republican Party which has invested heavily in denying the problem and dragging their heels on doing anything about it.

    I disagree. They are preventing demonstrably harmful policies from being enacted; namely a carbon tax. The US cut our CO2 emissions due to productive policies regarding fracking and natural gas. We could do more if we focused on nuclear energy (fission and fusion) instead of planting pinwheels.

    @PhilRM

    Your claim that global cooling was being touted as a crisis by the media and left-leaning politicians is complete horseshit.

    Then why did several periodicals have cover stories on the topic? I read them.

    Again, I’m separating legitimate scientific discussion from the actions of politicians and activists. Global cooling was a minority opinion in the 1970s, but (IMHO) it received media attention because it was the panic of the moment that could be used as a cudgel against capitalism.

    Regards,
    Dann
    TAGLINE ERROR! Report to tech support

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    • Then why did several periodicals have cover stories on the topic? I read them.
      Ah yes, one cover of the low-brow weekly Newsweek – the same example cited by right-wingers everywhere – and a story is born.
      In the 70s Newsweek and Time also ran cover stories about Bruce Springsteen in the same week. Was that also at the prompting of left-wing ‘politicians and activists’? How deep does the rabbit hole go?

      In any case, the existence of one (or a handful) of popular stories about the possibility has absolutely nothing to do with the point. No one was arguing that capitalism was going to drive the Earth into an ice age.

      And your shtick of dropping into comment threads weeks later in an attempt to get in the last word is really old.
      And of course, here you are, four days later, doing exactly what I just called you out for.

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      • @PhilRM

        Ah yes, one cover of the low-brow weekly Newsweek – the same example cited by right-wingers everywhere – and a story is born.

        Not quite right.

        April 16, 1970 – The Boston Globe “Scientist Predicts a New Ice Age by 21st Century.”

        July 9, 1971 – The Washington Post “U.S Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming,”

        January 29, 1974 – The Guardian (UK) “Space Satellites Show New Ice Age Coming Fast.”

        June 24, 1974 – Time “Another Ice Age?”

        April 28, 1975 – Newsweek “The Cooling World,”

        I’m sure there are more examples, but this was what I could find in a few minutes.

        No one was arguing that capitalism was going to drive the Earth into an ice age.

        That’s a bit of a red herring (irony intended). As I recall from the late 1970s, there were activists that presented socialism as a cure for global cooling. None of these were scientists…or “scientists”…but were the usual leftists that see socialism as a suitable cure for any social ill.

        And of course, here you are, four days later, doing exactly what I just called you out for.

        I’ve got a life that doesn’t require me to sit at a keyboard waiting for someone to respond. I’m genuinely sorry for keyboard warriors that do not have a broader life.

        Regards,
        Dann
        In the storm, the tree is glad of the root, Not of the branch. – Protesilaus – from Harrow the Ninth

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      • @Dann: Since Aaron and jaynsand have already taken care of everything else, I’m just going to reply to the insult you chose to throw in my direction.

        I’m hardly the first person to call you on your obvious tactic of returning to comment threads days or weeks later in an attempt to get in the last word. And your response to the people who reply to your posts is basically, “Get a life, losers!”

        I’ve got a life that doesn’t require me to sit at a keyboard waiting for someone to respond. I’m genuinely sorry for keyboard warriors that do not have a broader life.

        Did that sound like a zinger in your head, Dann? Do you actually think it makes you sound anything other than petty and childish?

        You may not like the fact that you’ve earned a reputation as a dishonest troll who adds nothing to any discussion, but that’s all on you.

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      • There is a difference between having a life and necrowing a topic that has been dead for 2 weeks. Just saying. (Your first post, Dann)

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    • Again you are simply and obviously wrong. You are ignoring the problem of how we find the correct answer. Where there is a consensus then that is a better bet than trying to find the right answer by guessing. The right answer is useless unless you can identify it. Until you address that problem your objection is just silly.

      A carbon tax seems eminently sensible – someone has to pick up the bill, why not those that are actually responsible for the problem? If natural gas and fracking reduced CO2 emissions, a carbon tax would only encourage the switch. And nuclear energy has it’s own problems but it’s hardly hurt by a carbon tax. It’s absurd to say that a carbon tax would work against decreasing emissions.

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    • // The right answer is more valuable than consensus.//

      You are making a category error. The question is which *one* of several answers is the right answer in a technical subject where most people lack the expertise to evaluate the evidence.

      //They are preventing demonstrably harmful policies from being enacted//

      Right wing politicians who in other forums are advocating a consumption tax are preventing a consumption tax because a consumption tax is demonstrably harmful? Fascinating.

      //We could do more if we focused on nuclear energy (fission and fusion) instead of planting pinwheels//

      And how would you evaluate that comparison to come to a conclusion? These are measurable outcomes that can be modeled. You say that the RIGHT answer is better than a consensus answer – how would you go about establishing that investing in nuclear power would cut CO2 emission more in the same time period than investing the same amount in renewables WITHOUT appealing to somebody else’s research and somebody else’s expertise? You can’t Dann, and if I was a shitty person arguing in bad faith I could attack any single point in your argument (assuming you presented one) even IF IT WAS TRUE by attacking the credibility of any of the research you pointed at even if I thought it was true. [Note: I’m not asking you to actually produce an argument for why nuclear would lead to greater cuts than renewables for the same investment over the same time period but rather show how you could go about it without appealing to the expertise of others]

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      • in 2020, 46% of the total German power supply came from renewables. Most of that (17% of the total) is windpower – yes, what Dann dismissively calls “pinwheels”. That rate will probably rise further, as more wind turbines are built and older units are replaced by more powerful newer systems.Wind power also creates a lot of jobs in Germany.

        Meanwhile, nuclear power, which is being phased out, still accounts for 11% of the total power supply. This will drop to zero next year, when the last remaining German nuclear reactors are finally switched off. Coal (lignite and regular) is currently set to be phased out by 2038, though some want to bring the coal phase out forward to 2030. We should definitely get rid of lignite coal as quickly as possible, because it’s the most problematic of all fossil fuels.

        Finally, nuclear power is not the solution to anything. It’s an incredibly dangerous technological dead end that did immense harm and will continue to pollute the world and endanger people for ten thousands of years to come, while only being in active use for about 60 years.

        As bad as climate change is, the damage caused by nuclear power is worse. You can build dikes and dams against rising water levels. But if a nuclear reactor experiences a meltdown as in Chernobyl, Fukushima and almost in Harrisburg, the area is contaminated for thousands of years and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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  15. It is interesting how Dann’s penchant for lying manifests here. He conflates “scientific consensus” with five articles published over the course of five years in non-scientific popular publications. I’m sure that’s convincing to people who don’t actually know much of anything, but the absolute dishonesty is readily apparent to anyone who spends any time at all thinking about the issue.

    It is also interesting how committed Dann is to lying.

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    • Actually I proves pretty much nothing. It proves that in the 1970s Global Colling was still in the discusion. It is a pointer that there wasn’t the consensus back then. And? So we should ignore the consensus today and believe that all of those scientists are wrong, so we can continue to do nothing?

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  16. Funny how even some of the articles Dann cites…

    April 16, 1970 – The Boston Globe “Scientist Predicts a New Ice Age by 21st Century.”

    July 9, 1971 – The Washington Post “U.S Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming,”

    …seem to be based on the word of just ONE (1) scientist…and we can’t read the rest of his cited articles to see if they rest on a similarly slender base of scientific support at the time. This gives the lie to Dann’s thesis that consensus is useless in science:

    ‘“Consensus” has no place in science. The process of science demands that a single scientist with the correct answer be considered more relevant than the consensus of a million scientists.’

    So basically Dann is using the heroic “single scientist” he idolizes as the advancer of human knowledge to bash the ‘consensus’ because this particular single scientist was wrong…even though he apportions no proof that there was EVER a scientific consensus that a new Ice Age was a foredoomed conclusion. Seems either deeply confused or profoundly disingenuous.

    AFAICT, it’s far more likely that this scientist got attention in the mainstream media at the time BECAUSE his theory was startlingly novel and therefore more likely to get the attention among non-scientist readers – not because his theory was backed up by most scientists in his field.

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    • So, Dann tosses a few article titles out there citing a SINGLE scientist in the 70’s to prove that the consensus among scientists was wrong in the 70’s. But here’s an article from 2008 from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (sold less copies than Newsweek, but actually did a review of the scientific publications at the time) pointing out: “There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an
      imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then.”

      Click to access 2008bams2370%252E1.pdf

      Took me five minutes to find.

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  17. @Jaynsand

    So basically Dann is using the heroic “single scientist” he idolizes as the advancer of human knowledge to bash the ‘consensus’ because this particular single scientist was wrong

    If you have a question about a point I’ve made, a better choice would be to ask that question instead of distorting to the point of misrepresenting what I said.

    My point is that there is no end-game “consensus”. We are continually learning and refining “settled” science. The climate models that are used today are far more sophisticated than what was being used 30 years ago and far out-class anything used 50 years ago. I hope that the ones used in 50 years will be more accurate than what we have today.

    For some activists and media, “consensus” is suitable as both cudgel and shield against any refinements to the current science that pushes the discussion away from their preferred climate panic/emergency narrative.

    @PhilRM

    Did that sound like a zinger in your head, Dann? Do you actually think it makes you sound anything other than petty and childish?

    It isn’t a zinger. I respond when I have the time and the inclination. I hope others are similarly participating without placing demands on others.

    Also….THAT got your knickers in a twist? Geez. I deal with worse based on far less.

    You may not like the fact that you’ve earned a reputation as a dishonest troll who adds nothing to any discussion, but that’s all on you.

    Fortunately, that opinion is held by relatively few.

    @Paul King

    A carbon tax seems eminently sensible – someone has to pick up the bill, why not those that are actually responsible for the problem? If natural gas and fracking reduced CO2 emissions, a carbon tax would only encourage the switch. And nuclear energy has it’s own problems but it’s hardly hurt by a carbon tax. It’s absurd to say that a carbon tax would work against decreasing emissions.

    If it were a uniform and global carbon tax, then you might have a case. (I’m skeptical) A graduated carbon tax only serves as a nudge to move industrial capacity from taxed regions to untaxed regions. That seems to be a feature rather than a bug for some activists.

    Also tax money necessarily goes to governments. Governments have a well-deserved reputation for being unable to spend money wisely. It is a mistake to have faith that governments will appropriately disburse funds from those that are “responsible for the problem” to those that are impacted by it, IMO.

    Some regulatory reform is needed in the US to make nuclear power viable again. But that’s a discussion for another day.

    ————–

    FWIW, I saw this post as potentially opening up a discussion between the various groups. Starting it off with assuming the worst of intentions wasn’t a great start, but an opening is an opening.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. – Calvin Coolidge

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    • //Also tax money necessarily goes to governments. Governments have a well-deserved reputation for being unable to spend money wisely. It is a mistake to have faith that governments will appropriately disburse funds from those that are “responsible for the problem” to those that are impacted by it, IMO.//

      If that’s your worry about a carbon tax then campaign for a revenue neutral carbon tax (i.e. any money gained be offset by tax cuts elsewhere). You know what, if that’s what it took to get conservatives on-board for action on climate change, I’d support that.

      These are excuses and diversions for doing nothing.

      //My point is that there is no end-game “consensus”. We are continually learning and refining “settled” science. //

      A strawman AND one that runs counter to your earlier point that it is the right answer that matters.

      Sure, there’s always scientific debate and counter theories and changes. That’s WHY I’m pointing at consensus because bad-faith arguments can always cherry-pick some disagreement somewhere and claim that is too early to draw conclusions.

      The theory of gravity isn’t wholly settled, the shape of the earth (at some given level of detail) isn’t wholly settled. So what? Those aren’t arguments that support the idea that a nonsense anti-gravity machine is going to work or that the Earth is actually flat.

      We *know* to a level of certainty far surpassing what we know in other areas on which governments have to make decision including economics and warfare that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet at a rate that will have short and medium term substantial consequences to everybody. Conservatives are pretending this isn’t true by pointing at the gap between practical knowledge and 100% certainty in a way that THEY DO NOT APPLY TO THEIR OWN STATED CLAIMS OF KNOWLEDGE.

      It is a fake bad-faith pseduoscepticism that does not hold itself to its own standard.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Of course it isn’t true that science is never settled. We’re never going to conclude that the Earth is a flat disc or that it’s no more than 10,000 years old. Newtonian gravity will remain a good approximation for all the things it’s currently used for. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Global warming is occurring.

      Equally the idea that you were only presenting the view that the consensus can change over time fits poorly with your posts. It seems more that you want an excuse to ignore the consensus when you don’t like it. But the idea that someone somewhere might possibly have a more accurate answer isn’t a good reason for ignoring the current consensus. We aren’t living in the 1970s and the consensus now is considerably stronger than; it was then, in every respect.

      While climate change requires global action I disagree with the idea that it has to be done in the same way in every place. A carbon tax may encourage some industry to move but wherever it moved to would face a consequent increase in emissions – which must be dealt with in some way. But of course, the Right has opposed even the efforts towards global action by taking the US out of the Paris Agreement.

      More, simply boasting of obstructing initiatives that attempt to tackle the problem is not something to boast of. Action is needed, not obstruction. Really if that’s the best you have, better to keep quiet. At least if you want dialogue rather than pointless argument.

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