The Victim Liked It

OCTOBER 2012 was the 323rd consecutive month for which the global temperature was above average. The odds of this happening randomly are literally astronomical: one in ten to the hundredth power. For comparison, there are ten to the eightieth power atoms in the known universe. So if all the atoms in the universe were white, except one was green, your odds of reaching blindly into a bag of all the atoms in the universe and picking out the green one would be greater than that of having 323 consecutive months of above-average temperatures were global warming not happening.

A sane person might think that in the face of this, and with life on earth at stake, the debate over whether global warming is happening would have ended. A sane person might think that in the face of melting glaciers and melting ice caps, we would be desperately discussing how to stop it. A sane person might think that after Hurricane Sandy ripped into New York City (the center of the universe, according to some), the denial would be over.

But this sane person would be wrong. In December of 2012, former head of the EPA and White House “Climate Czar” Carol Browner said, “A majority in our House of Representatives appears to not even think the problem is real. It’s sort of stunning to me because I’ve never seen the breadth of scientific consensus on an environmental issue like there is on this.” The next speaker at the event, a conference about the Clean Air Act, was Joe Barton, chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce who currently sits on the Environment and the Economy subcommittee. As if to prove her point, he stated that atmospheric carbon can’t be dangerous because it’s “a necessity of life.” In fact, he noted, he was exhaling carbon as he spoke! Q.E.D. Besides, he said, greenhouses are good things: “There’s a reason that you build things called greenhouses, and that’s to help things grow.”

It would be easy enough to laugh at his stupidity if he weren’t in a position of power and using that position to help kill what remains of the planet. It would be easy enough to just label his denial “stunning” and move on. But his denial is part of a larger pattern, and articulating patterns is the first step toward changing them.

I first learned about the stages of denial from trauma expert Judith Herman, who said, “Whether it’s genocide, military aggression, rape, wife beating, or child abuse, the same dynamic plays itself out.” It begins, she says, “with an indignant, almost rageful denial.” Where global warming is concerned, there is plenty of rage, but, strangely, hardly any of it is directed at civilization or captains of industry for causing the warming that is contributing to the murder of the planet. Instead, it is primarily felt by those who deny that global warming is taking place, and is aimed at those who provide evidence counter to their denial.

Anger, according to Herman, is followed by “the suggestion that the person bringing forward the information — whether it’s the victim or another informant — is lying, crazy, malicious, or has been put up to it by someone else.” The first political piece I ever published was an op-ed about global warming in a regional newspaper. The first letter to the editor about my first political piece followed Judith Herman’s script explicitly by calling me a liar. I’m not alone. A Google search for “global warming” and “liar” brings up more than 33 million web pages. A representative sample of these includes a video called “Al Gore, Liar”; an article from Business Insider titled “Greenpeace’s Director Busted for Lying About the Effects of Global Warming”; and “A Political Who’s Who of Global Warming Liars,” which lists the politicians who believe in global warming. Here’s how one blogger put it: “Finally a real consensus on global warming: It’s a lie.” We can know global warming is a lie, according to this writer, because “the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults [sic] shows that 69% say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs.” This particular article has a bigger problem than the rank stupidity of pretending that a belief that some scientists may have falsified data means that the field as a whole is “a lie,” which is the belief that a poll of the beliefs of Americans (or anyone) implies anything about physical reality. Reality is determined by reality, not consensus.

There are plenty of instances where the deniers claim that those who believe in global warming are crazy. A few quick headlines: “Insane British Global Warming Ad,” “California’s Insane Global Warming Initiative,” “Why the Global Warming Crowd Is Insane.” As for the claim that those who believe in global warming have been put up to it by someone else, I recently read a global warming denialist screed with the title “Follow the Money that Drives the Climate Warming Alarm,” which described how “the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis has been kept alive by the power of money for over two decades.” According to one source, this money flows from the solar energy lobby, which of course is massive compared to the tiny oil and natural gas lobbies.

And what if the denialist’s efforts to discredit fail? “There are a number of fallback positions to which perpetrators can retreat if the evidence is so overwhelming and irrefutable it cannot be ignored, or rather, suppressed,” says Herman. These include “the whole raft of predictable rationalizations used to excuse everything from rape to genocide: the victim exaggerates; the victim enjoyed it; the victim provoked or otherwise brought it on herself; the victim wasn’t really harmed; and even if some slight damage has been done, it’s now time to forget the past and get on with our lives.”

Right on script, global warming deniers accuse activists of exaggerating, never mind that the global warming we are witnessing now greatly exceeds almost all previous estimates. Just last week I read that “new scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is ‘worse than previously expected,’ rather than ‘not as bad as previously expected.’” The article quotes Naomi Oreskes, a science historian with the University of California, San Diego, as saying, “We’re seeing mounting evidence now that the scientific community, rather than overstating the claim or being alarmist, is the opposite.”

Other denialist claims that fall into the rationalization category: global warming is actually good for us (“Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2” was the name of a session at a recent conference of conservative lobbyists); global warming is “natural” (i.e., the planet’s fault); global warming won’t harm the planet (and if it does, we just need to, as one pseudo-environmentalist puts it, “play God” and geoengineer it).

Judith Herman’s articulation of this pattern has helped me recognize the maddening comments of climate deniers for what they are: a script more or less followed by most abusers. It’s imperative that we recognize and call out this pattern. So long as we don’t, we allow the abusers to choose the rhetorical field of battle. And instead of talking about what is to be done to stop this or that atrocity, we are stuck insisting that the atrocity is happening at all, that we aren’t crazy, or lying, or so on. The perpetrators thus keep us on the defensive. And no matter what proof we provide, they will never listen. Because the purpose was never to gain understanding, or even to debate: the purpose was, from the first to the last, to obfuscate, so that they can continue to exploit.

Sandy didn’t break the denial. Hundreds dead in a massive typhoon in the Philippines didn’t break the denial. Three hundred twenty-three months in a row of above-average temperatures haven’t broken the denial. As I write this, the eighteenth round of climate talks at Doha is ending the way previous talks have ended: with, as Reuters put it, “no progress on curbing greenhouse emissions,” and with the United States taking a lead role in denial and obstruction.

At some point, those of us who care about life on the planet have to confront not only the denial of others but our own denial as well, by which I mean our belief that if 323 months won’t convince them, then 324 months will; that if after eighteen climate conferences global carbon emissions are higher than ever, then the nineteenth conference will lead to a different result. We’ve got to stop wasting time trying to convince those who refuse to be convinced that reality is real, so that we can begin discussing how best to stop the rapid, unprecedented, undeniable warming of the planet.

Derrick Jensen’s most recent book is a comic novel, The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad, with Stephanie McMillan.


  1. Wait a minute! We just read this month’s issue (March), and the statistics don’t seem to quite work. Jensen is treating each month as a separate independent event. So, 2^323 is about 10^100, or, about a googol. But a warm month will tend to influence the months around it. Now, 323 consecutive months of above-average temps is definitely strong evidence for global warming, and reason enough for us to act(!), the odds are just not 1 in a googol.

    If we want to create an effective statistical soundbyte, we need a better analysis than what seems to have been done by Jensen.

    xoxo from Houston, J.

  2. “..was the 323rd consecutive month for which the global temperature was above average.”

    That’s roughly 27 years.

    Hmm, that’s odd, your own hero Rachandra Pachauri recently said that there has been no significant warming for the past 17 years. Perhaps you should get together sometime and get your stories aligned.

    Just helping you out folks.


  3. Responses that pick apart the argument, find one tiny flaw, and decide that such annuls the entire premise is foolish to me. The gist is the main story. Besides, I live in Alaska, and Climate Change is happening.

    A legislator I know decries the research done in a certain study about Alaska. The study cited some fact that happened on a Saturday, when it actually happened on a Friday. This legislator then denounced this study and , indeed, cast doubt on ALL the research because he was able to say that there was a flaw in the research. Humbug!

  4. The first two comments, while perhaps trying to be helpful, seem to miss the point of the article and play right into the deniers’ arguments. “We must have the perfect numbers and the perfect story; *then* they’ll believe us!”

    The article seems to be saying, instead, forget about convincing die-hard deniers – just go around them, roll up your sleeves, and do what you can without them, now.

  5. Donna and Russell, I see your point, but the 2^323 error is kind of a big deal. As someone concerned about the climate and active in trying to both prepare for the change and mitigate it, I must say that I don’t want a “die-hard denier” to see an error like this and think I need to misinterpret data to make a point.

  6. Methane hydrate release in the North and Beaufort seas has begun- to drive weather beyond expected norms.

    There isnt enuf time anymore to get thru to policy makers what should have been done. Snow in Scotland has killed livestock.

    Planting season is about to begin, but with weather so abnormal nobody knows what to start with. This, in itself, will create short harvests, and speculators will drive prices high enuf to start riots- and the whole geopolitical free market will crash.

    Its time to get with those who already get what global warming has been doing, and work out what to do for you and those you care about.

  7. Yes, climate change denial is a problem. The same thing happens with population. There are many people that deny that overpopulation is a problem, especially US population. The odd thing is that many of the people who are most concerned about climate change are absolutely in denial about the negative impacts of US overpopulation on our environment, including climate change.

  8. The Burgess Shales contain fossils of animals the world no longer knows–what’s more, some of the animals belong to phyla that have no modern occupants. The phylum–the particular organization of body type, particular codings of DNA–achieved a kind of full and complete expression and then disappeared. Opabinia had five eyes, a backward facing mouth, and a proboscis for rooting around in the mud. But it was an evolutionary dead end–nothing evolved from it. Which is to say, at its fullest expression the phylum proved maladaptive. I sometimes think that the petroleum era represents the fullest most complete expression of the possibilities inherent in a particular species, and that this species–homo sapiens sapiens–would in effect have to jump phyla in order to survive in the world as he has made it. We seem locked into the neurological habits and prejudices that served us so well for eons of evolution. I read about the stupidity of denialists and I think “no way we’re gonna jump phyla….”

  9. Jansen only writes on ONE of the critical issues of our time.. We are admist a Convergnce of Crises (economic, peak oil (peak almost everything!), Enviromental, social, Political all driven by worldwide population growth… 3 billion to now 7 billion in last 50 years… 290,000 a day added to global dinner table…rising middle classes in India, china who demand/want our insane lifestyle..(need another 3-4 planet earths for that)… Yet the one aspect of this, almost no one addresses is… development, levels of Consciousness (individual and cultural).. Google Spiral Dynmanics or Ken Wilber Integral Theory…people inhabit different Worldviews..higher levels Inassessable to lower levels (estimated that 65% of planet, 1/3 of USA) at prerational levels…incapable of discerning rational facts…my mantra is Awareness, Prepareness(for best…and worse) and build and sustain Resilent conscious communities

  10. I see the climate changing around me. I will speak to my own experience on my own land. I’m age 62, my husband is 68 and we are retied on 5-acres in SW Michigan. We live in an area where the old times tell me they have never seen standing water for the past 85 years. Yet, for the past 5 springs we have had flooding on my land. Serious flooding that brought 20″ of water into my home crawl space for months at a time, water surrounding our home like a moat causing us to lose thousands of dollars of landscaping and personal belongings. And causing a great deal of stress about losing our home and living in mold and mildew to lose our health. Five years of being sick… This is climate change. I have the photographs.

  11. I am curious to hear the explanation of the difference in “public perception” and hence, seemingly, “public acceptance” of the seriousness of these two threats: (A) climate change and (B) terror attacks by radical Islamist Jihadists (or whatever).

    It seems to me that (B) is more readily “saleable” with much less evidence. I suspect that (i) mainstream media play an important role, and (b) people (most,if not all, including me) form opinions and make decisions based NOT on evidence, but on something else.

    Someone must have studied this. Help, please?

  12. I agree with Jensen, as obviously the deniers are wrong, but as usual wish that he would try to be a bit less arrogant and condescending in his writing. That doesn’t help.

    (And as somebody else has already commented, overpopulation denial is a root cause/problem…)

  13. The connection Derrick makes between the denial of climate dysfunction and the more familiar pattern of interpersonal dysfunction, abuse and denial is right on target. The source of these two problems is, after all, pretty much the same and arguably connected: the lack, or loss of, a conscious mutual relationship. As modernized, rationalized humans we have real difficulty getting through the static of our personalized egos to experience our own essential beingness, let alone that of another human (dogs are much easier to connect with) or the participatory nature of this great Universe. The possessive, controlling games we play with our planet mirror the ones we play at “home,” and nowhere is that rootless, dominant behaviour more prevalent than in these great United States of America. So telling one of our good fellow citizens that his petroleum-smoking habit is threatening life on Earth is, unfortunately, likely to be taken as a real personal assault and reacted to as such. There is no easy way through or around this standoff but understanding that it is rooted in our culture rather than in our nature is the proper place to start. Three thousand plus years of Nature-dominating civilization is a pretty big rock to crack, erode and reform in the little time ahead of to us to do so, but we do have three billion plus years of evolutionary organic wisdom encoded into our bodies to guide us. If we’re willing to trust it and the deeper than cultural reality of our relationship with this planet. If we can pull this off we’ll finally be at home here in a way that no multi-mansioned, jet-hopping billionaire exploiter can hope to imitate. History may be against us but Nature is with us when it comes to healing dysfunctional relationships at whatever scale.

  14. Well, isn’t the Congress nothing more than a reflection of our society? First, our failure to address the science and understanding of climate change is rooted in the lack of a strong education system that favors science, critical thinking and Environmental Education. I’ve given an entire career to trying to get the public schools to address the connections between social, economic and scientific method. No. Instead our politics have never embraced the fundamental need for our society to be educated in a way that brings light to the very issue we face with global warming. I am not surprised to see the depth of disconnect and, yes, fear based denial we are seeing with the public and the people they elect. They haven’t got a clue and cannot get there because we have not been able to create a society that can “do the math”. I can’t speak to the rest of the world, but I do know that here (USA), education has been gutted and reduced to regurgitation on a test to hold teachers accountable. That isn’t what makes a society tick. If the public can’t understand they cannot hold their elected officials accountable. We created this.

    My second point revolves around the Gaia Hypothesis. The planet has always adapted and will again. If this path that we’re on goes the way the author claims it will go, the planet will survive. Life as we know it will change and may become something we don’t recognize. I don’t like it any more than the author, but today as I sit and listen to the beautiful peepers bringing in a new spring I have to ask……who are we to think the universe revolves around us? If we have not learned humility enough to see our own selves as dispensable, we will never understand why other living and non living things matter so much(empathy). We need a serious attitude adjustment. The people that respond to and read articles in Orion are not the problem. We’re the solution. Find a way to get the word out and help people understand. This needs to change.

  15. Jensenʻs essay points out that the underlying issue is denial…a characteristic human pattern of thought. He is right on the mark. THAT is the stumbling block that must be surmounted, the way the human mind works! There will be no solution to global warming (or any other outrageously unacceptable negative impact of the exploitative, industrialized way of doing things) unless and until the fixed number of patterns of human mentation become widely known and this knowledge is expertly brought to bear in public debate and discussions by the now few individuals who (by the grace of the Creator) remain sane.

    Before one can be expert in recognizing and then constructively handling dysfunctional patterns of mentation in oneself and in others, one must “polish their mirror” which involves study and introspection, a process that certain Sufis encapsulate in the phrase “clearing the brushwood.” If you want to efficiently find your way through the whole forest, you must clear your pathway around the individual trees obstructing your way. Anyone can do this, provided they have access to the proper guidance and “instrumental materials.”

    Thirty-five or more years ago I was introduced to the writings of Idries Shah, which proved to be the most digestible and nutritional, instrumental materials that I had encountered during then over 30 years of searching. Although Shah died some years ago, his materials are still available through the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK), headquartered on the U.S. West Coast, under the leadership of psychologist Robert Ornstein. Shah and Ornstein both, as well as others who are accessible through the ISHK website, are able to express clearing-the-brushwood ideas in the manner most suitable for people enculturated in Western-type materialist, scientific, “rational” linear logic industrial societies. ShahÊ»s writings largely flow from literature and acute observation; OrnsteinÊ»s (he was a student of ShahÊ»s) from scientific research and acute observation. Learn more by browsing at

    Knowing human patterns of thought, and learning how to interrupt dysfunctional and disabling ones, is the key that can unlock all the stalemates that threaten the destruction of Earthʻs biosphere and ecology.

  16. “climate change” usurped the conversation. Before people argued about climate change the conversation was about stopping and cleaning up pollution. Sure, “climate change” is the result of pollution but it has reframed the problem into a (seemingly) scientific argument distracting attention from the cause.
    Bring back pollution as our adversary and concentrate on that as the issue. Nobody likes to live in a polluted environment.

  17. This discussion of climate change is typically anthropocentric in that it comments on the view of a range of people without taking into account simple physical principles. Irrefutable measurements have established that the concentration level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased very rapidly in the past century. Global warming is the consequence and that is causing irreversible rapid climate change. Ironically, the arguments by believers and skeptics can have absolutely no impact on that harsh reality. Natural forces will continue to control what happens so, in due course, the eco system will gradually recover from what the operations of the systems of civilization have done to the climate.

  18. I’m not sure why people get so revved up about climate deniers. Like creationists,you’ll never convince them they are simply wrong, despite mountains of evidence.
    What I worry about is the obsession with climate change, and the shrill doomsday messaging coming out environmental organizations. To me, climate change is a symptom of our disconnection from the natural world.
    IMHO we’re spending far to much time fiddling around trying to treat the symptom and not enough looking for and addressing root causes.

  19. In 1973, when concern over massive flooding caused our focused inquiry into possible causes, we in Houston,Texas looked to the cyclic variations of climate and weather, namely the near periodic “drought deluge cycle,” the approximately 25 year cycle that could be found in many worldwide rainfall and river runoff records. When considered in spatial as well as temporal distribution, we found that the effects of our urban development, especially growth in number, height and dense spacing of tall buildings in Houston during the 60’s, led to an entire change in the rainfall pattern, displacing the rainfall maximum downwind of the Central Business District. When the media got wind (npi)of this we received anecdotal evidence of comparable climate changes from other rapidly growing metropolitan areas in the USA, South Africa and elsewhere. We published our Houston findings (The Urban Costs of Climate Modification, T.A.Ferrar Edt.,1976,John Wiley & Sons)and received little response to the issues raised other than from the U.K. who considered the Houston example extraordinary because of its particularly flat terrain(slope of 1 ft/mile) downwind of the nearby shores of the Gulf of Mexico (about 40 miles away,) its almost year round abundant source of atmospheric moisture, and its CBD mountain-like aggregation of tall buildings obstructing the prevailing moisture laden winds from the Gulf. Back then, our study gave credence to the possibility that anthropogenic effects on local climate can be significant, with impacts on local flooding that warranted continual updating of contingency plans for natural disasters such as severe storms including hurricanes. And when such rapidly developing urban areas are considered in tandem as ground based obstructions along the prevailing West to East direction of the upper winds, their perturbation effects grows spatially and can extend sufficiently vertically to impact the lower levels of the Jet Stream. Just think of the rapidly changing metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuqurque, San Antonio-Austin and Houston beneath the West to East flowing sub-tropical Jet Stream. When we now add the CO2 and other pollutant emissions of these metropolitan areas, including the massive emissions from the Houston Ship Channel, one of the, if not the largest petro-chemical complexes on the planet, to the atmosphere, can there remain any question of our ability to change the chemical equilibrium of the atmosphere that significantly influences the climate?
    During the past more than 35 years since that research study, stratospheric ozone depletion, from our excessive emissions of CFCs and bromine compounds, changes in Arctic and Antarctic sea ice distributions, an historically unprecedented reduction in Arctic sea-ice thickness, rendering the entire Arctic more absorptively suseptible to incoming solar radiation that is contributing to changing the so-called planetary conveyor belt of oceanic currents, that influence the entire biota of more than 70% of the Earth surface, in addition to its climate, have all been verified, documented additions to the body of knowledge that our climate is changing in relation to human activity.
    When we published our study in the ’70s, I was asked to review a cooperative study by glaciologists and climatologists that reported comparable 10,000 year changes that were occurring over 100 year periods. The atmospheric CO2 concentration at that time was the highest measured in 600,000 years of record, determined from ice-cores. Recently the CO2 amount has risen to the highest in 800,000 years of record.
    When asked to debate climate change deniers, I found few with scientific credentials that would stipulate the criteria that would change their denier conclusions.
    As a new octogenarian I find it sad that in our great country where science, engineering and technological innovation were encouraged to flourish for the benefit of all humankind through my first 70 years, and my waning years are to be spent fending off the deceiving, indolent if not ignorant, obstructionists of our sole purpose of existence, namely to improve.

  20. Whether anthropocentric or not, we are where we are with increasing global warming that threatens methane hydrate release. We do not know how much is there nor do we know whether the release will be gradual, allowing adaptation, or so rapid thermal runaway causes a new Permian type extinction.

    We do know policy makers comply with whatever the fossil fuel elites want; what we want will be discounted by their control over the mass media.

    I’ve advocated alternative energy for decades, but now, its too late; economies are too weak to make the needed timely investment. LFTR is the only zero CO2 emission source with a low enuf dollar/newton cost to be affordable by economies that already struggle with austerity.

  21. “Reality is determined by reality, not consensus.”

    In fact, human reality has always been a “consensus reality”, defined both by nature and culture. Since all experience is filtered through our minds, it’s not possible to know what is “really real” outside of our own perceptions and culturally-adopted conceptions.

    A perfect example of this reality-creating function of the mind, is Jensen’s use of the victim-victimizer relationship (his own seminal experience) as the model for every other human or human/nature relationship.

    This filtering of reality blinds him to what is “really real” just as much as other cultural and perceptual filters blind others and society as a whole.

    Until Jensen is ready to acknowledge that his filtered perceptions no more reflect reality than any others, there’s no chance of effecting any real change in our consensus reality.

  22. Nice try, Derrick. I think you should take your own advice and realize there isn’t going to be any solution. Realize that denial and climate change aren’t the problem: humanity’s disconnection from reality is really what is the root of a problem, and the belief of Intentionality. No amount of discussion or information or study or politics will get people to stop being what they are: consumers without moderation. The unfettered rapacity of humanity must fail in its own way if there is to be any change, and even when it does fail, there is no reason to believe the next version of civilization will be less consumptive than this one. What if someone invents a free, clean energy device? So we stop burning carbon; so what? We’ll just use the cheap energy to consume everything else.
    At some point, we have to face our own denial of our failure to be useful to our own environment and our future. Live as well as you can and set an example of generosity while you have some time left. There is no probable path that includes human beings becoming intentionally better. We are programmed by nature and ourselves to be what we are, and only serious generational collapse will allow change.

  23. Are the Yankees still lucky? If so, then LFTR will work and the cost of energy will be sustainable while cleaning up the mess from fossil fuels as well.

    If so, then nanotech will produce a salt water filter and the deserts really will bloom. Nanotubes will replace copper wire, carbon fiber will replace metal car bodies, and cryogenic motors will power them for hundreds of miles.

    But first, we need to fire the crony capitalists trying to protect current profits.

  24. I’m not sure why anybody should be surprised by the mindless persistence of AGW denialism. Think of the resistance to evolutionary theory. The number of folks who believe in Biblical creationism is legion and they require no evidence, just the desire to believe. Oddly among them are the folks in this country who live in the most sustainable way – the Amish.

    Speaking of denialism what is it about so many environmentalists and alternative energy folks that don’t want to touch overpopulation with a 10 foot poll? They chuck it off to some decreased rate of growth projection that may have us peak at 9 or 10 billion in 2050 or 2100 or whatever. I thought we were presently consuming one and a half earths. When does the biosphere go effectively bankrupt?

    I realize reversing population growth isn’t the whole answer but ignoring 200,000 new people added to the planet each day makes every other solution nonserious.


  25. Horses to a burning barn.
    The people who continue to hold to a fossil fuel-based economy/lifestyle as if it is innocuous and the ONLY functional approach are not thinking with rational minds.

    Calling them crazy doesn’t work either even if a horse running back into a burning barn appears to be insane——-it does nothing to help the horse, or the barn.

    We could put wet blankets and blinders on these poor unfortunates and try to lead them to safety at the same time we put out the barn fire.
    But there are also rapists among them who are savaging the Earth…do we simply “Tsk-tsk” admonish and wag a finger to display our displeasure with their actions?

    The situation is very sick, and needs healing desperately.
    Our laws won’t do it.
    Our politicians won’t do it.

    Leadership will come from those who love life.

  26. Whenever I’ve found myself in an uncomfortable conversation with deniers of climate change, I’ve found the best way to handle them is with firm politeness, and then to walk away. For example, I’ll say:

    “With all due respect, I do not find your statement worthy of respect or a response.”

    “Hush. Let others speak.”

    How I wish the media would start handling them that way too!

  27. A few observations : several years ago, I gave a detailed, rational presentation exposing the reasons why the death penalty in the U.S. was not doing what it was supposed to be doing in the minds of its proponents.
    And in the audience, there was a woman who did not share my rational beliefs. And we had a hard time understanding each other.
    It would be intellectually underhand on my part to suggest that she was in “denial”.
    No, she simply believed something different from me. She was talking apples, and I was talking oranges…
    Behind the global climate issue, is the fate of the Enlightenment promise, and agenda for mankind.
    Ultimately, the Enlightenment agenda institutes man as an all powerful.. creator, thus eliminating his status as creature.
    Ultimately, the Enlightenment agenda reduces “God” to a rational, and rationalized principle, or a series of abstract, natural forces at work (dixit Descartes, who would have been horrified at what his 1600’s utopia has now become…).
    This agenda is still at work in the attitudes, and ideas of modern science, and the majority of modern scientists. But since we don’t live, and never have lived, in a pure world, it is also present in the minds, and attitudes of numerous religious people…
    The idea that we can, and will control our fate.
    The ideological battle is over the status of man in the scheme of things (and not just God…).
    Calling people who don’t believe what YOU believe.. insane, crazy, stupid, or in “denial”, well.. that is very counterproductive to achieving any form of dialogue, which may lead to cooperation.
    It sends the message that.. YOU know what is true, right, best, etc., and that their ideas are unnecessary, “stupid” (a word that appears far too often in contemporary speech, I find).
    You know… it is really hard enough these days to not be perceived as an uppity, supercilious know it all without going on a suicidal binge, and courting that prejudice with the “s” or “i” words…
    Maybe we ought to bring back rhetoric classes ? the art of persuasion ?
    We have lost a lot of savoir faire in this domain, it would appear.

  28. Hmmmm, meditating on the proceeding it may be that insisting the earth is round and circles the sun has some sort of potential rationalist hubris embedded in that point of view. Perhaps we should consider the alternative opinion that the earth is flat and the sun moves across the sky as being more existentially and spiritually accurate. After all the most fundamentalist of the Amish, imbibing the latter point of view, curiously have the lowest carbon foot print and are the most locally self-sufficient.

    Since science in a sense seems to be taking us off the cliff maybe we should be more creative in developing our point of view. Perhaps we can start with the implications of being thrown out of the Garden of Eden for chomping on forbidden knowledge.

  29. The book THE POLITICS OF DENIAL by Milburn and Conrad (MIT Press, 1998) is helpful in understanding how deniers get to be that way. While Jansen says they are “abusers” they often have a history of being abused. The data in the book makes it a valuable read. From that point of view, raging against or blaming deniers doesn’t seem rational. It is tough to be dealing with such a globally scary situation and to be dealing with people who think and feel so differently. But even here compassion is important whereas contributing to divisiveness can keep the whole cycle going. Treating people in a way that makes them defensive will inhibit their ability to learn and feel things outside their comfort zone.

  30. The quality of prose and poetry is impressive at Orion as we all rather expect I presume. The intellectual climate here-in understood, with all it’s mesmerizing dialect intact spins mostly positive an ongoing conversation between peers; concerned as we are about the “World” in which we “live”.
    I would like to echo #16- david k 4/19/2013 pollution v climate change. As all “action ” is local so too the simplicity of this lies in the message: i.e. the politics. There is no “Left” or “Right” to “Clean Air and Clean Water” only necessity. Pollution should be our “talking points”. One can counter the need for batteries by requiring that all used batteries be stored in the advocates backyard. Another words asking not merely “How do you make some perceived necessity, but additionally; How do you take that necessity apart when you are done with it? Most pollution is visceral and obvious to any one that smells, touches, tastes, sees, or hears it. They do not want it near them or near the ones they love.
    Their are many great hearts and minds at work here but our message must remain simple too be effective.

  31. Debra, if someone insists the sky is green, when we can see that it is blue, that is not a difference of opinion or perspective. That is someone refusing to deal with objective reality by closing their eyes, putting their hands over their ears and saying, “LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA!!!”

    No, people who disagree with you may not be crazy, but if you’re presenting evidence, and they stubbornly ignore it, then crazy or not they are deliberately doing something irrational.

    The fact is, there really is such a thing as objective reality, outside of our precious “right to our opinions”.

    If I take a trip to a foreign country I believe to be mostly lakes, and I find out it’s mostly mountains, I can either change my mind and admit I was wrong, or I can behave like a stubborn fool and insist that it’s the lakes that are real and the mountains are “arrogant”, or something.

    We cannot solve any of humanity’s problems if we refuse to admit they are there, if we allow people to railroad (and PARALYZE!) every problem-solving discussion in the direction of whether or not a spade should be called a spade.

  32. In the not too distant future I’d like to see the Republican machine sued for all the time it has wasted on this issue. That suit should also take a portion of ill-gotten funds from conservative news networks and talk show hosts who help elect nature-hating politicians. Prison time would be justified for the worst offenders.

    The minutia of how such charges would be brought is the tough part, since nothing outlaws ignorant free speech (yet).

    If scientists warned of a dangerous asteroid and the consequences of delayed action, lawsuits for deniers would be easy to press (no good ol’ boys in gas guzzlers would feel “unfairly” targeted). We need a similar angle for AGW denial and find legal ways to criminalize it.

  33. For klem (Mar 05, 2013):

    It is simply a lie that there’s been no warming for the past 15, 16 or 17 years (depending on which deniers you listen to). It’s mostly based on shallow interpretations of the 1998 El Nino spike as a starting point, while ignoring subsequent trends.

    Plus, 90% of the heat has been going into the oceans and they’ve absorbed more of it than expected. People need to realize that land surface temperatures are only part of AGW’s symptoms. This has been explained quite often but ignored in standard denial fashion.

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