Thursday, December 23, 2010

Carbon Kitsch

In Jonathan Lethem's novel "Chronic City", the New York Times is called the "hegemonic bulldozer". Considering the fact that the NYT is for sure among the world's leading journals and home of the best journalists, no one should underestimate its influence. Journals like the NYT do not mirror reality, but they filter relevant news out of the sea of information and turn them into narratives. They socially construct reality, to use a term we appreciate and use here on klimazwiebel.
This, of course, is also true for how we perceive global warming. Global warming is both a scientific fact and a story to be told. A story about science and about morals that has to be re-narrated again and again. To put a long story short, yesterday I stumbled across such a grand global warming narrative in the NYT, 'A scientist, his work and a climate reckoning'. 

 This article tells the story of global warming from the discovery of the role of carbon for global climate to the climate negotiations in Cancún. It does so in the way of  American storytelling,  as we are familiar with from Hollywood films. It's about carbon measurement on Mauna Loa; the 'father' of it, Dr. Keeling, and how the knowledge discovered there was transmitted from father to son, who also became a famous climate scientist. There are the very evil guys in the story who threaten both the peace of families and the clean production of scientific knowledge, the skeptics. They make use even of the Internet to spread their evil news! There are also the less evil guys like Richard Lindzen who admit that carbon is rising, but who are not able to see the menacing consequences. And there are those incapable politicians in Cancún who failed once more to save the planet. The story ends in a Al Gore like sentimental  picture, uniting three generations of Keelings. This is what Ralph Keeling says:
“When I go see things with my children, I let them know they might not be around when
they’re older,” he said. “ ‘Go enjoy these beautiful forests before they disappear. Go enjoy
the glaciers in these parks because they won’t be around.’ It’s basically taking note of
what we have, and appreciating it, and saying goodbye to it.”
But dry your tears, folks, and face reality:
At midnight midnight Mauna Loa time, the carbon dioxide level hit 390 - and rising
Of course, it's easy for skeptics to blame and to ridicule this kitschy alarmism. But beware: you are also only a part of this story. Skepticism also only follows a script, mostly only fulfilling its role of being the counterpart in this alarmist master narrative. Fred Singer is the best example. The overall problem is the narrative and how to break it. Otherwise we will be caught in a Hollywood movie and forever try to save a fairy tale planet (from global warming or from alarmists) instead of coping with the real problems.

6 comments:

fred said...

Well, it's like Santa Claus, he's coming back every time but nobody believes he really exists.. right?

Hans von Storch said...

I read the international version of the NYT regularly, and enjoy it quite a bit. But when it comes to climate I would not mind if they would have a somewhat more investigative attitude.

I was also impressed how the speaking about the Obama administration abruptly changed on the day after the midterm election. Before, the administration was almost perfect; now, after the mid-term eelction I find more an more critical articles. Maybe, it is not such a perfect newspaper?

facepalm said...

"...Skepticism also only follows a script, mostly only fulfilling its role of being the counterpart in this alarmist master narrative. Fred Singer is the best example. ..."

Yes, Singer is a very good example; playing an active and well-funded role in distorting science.

Therefore I think we have not to rescue a "fairy-tale-planet" but a planet from oil-funded fairy-tales.

Anonymous said...

HvST said: "after the mid-term eelction I find more an more critical articles"

Correlation is far away from showing causality (for instance: there are more and more critical articles since Michael Jackson has died). It's rather the annus horribilis after climategate and a much broader view of all kind of studies not supporting the belief in sort of a "consens".


facepalm said: "Therefore I think we have not to rescue a "fairy-tale-planet" but a planet from oil-funded fairy-tales."

Whatever you conceive and believe, just forget about this urban legend or popular narrative that Big Oil does not support the AGW-hypothesis. Why shouldn't they - as long as we pay the bill?

http://www.ieta.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=168&Itemid=136

Hans von Storch said...

May I remind you that we ask people to not post as "anonymous" but to use an alias (or a real name even better) instead. This allows to distinguish the different "anonymous'es" - Hans

itisi69 said...

"Yes, Singer is a very good example; playing an active and well-funded role in distorting science."
Could you provide us with some more substantial evidence for the term well-funded distorting science, or is it just another AGW sound byte?