This olive branch could be expressed as the following question:
If AGW dismissives are falsely trying to re-open “debates” about matters already beyond reasonable dispute, what are the genuine areas of debate and uncertainty that remain?
The evidence for AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) and its impacts has grown over the decades, from multiple lines of evidence, to an extent that the IPCC in its latest report, AR6 WG1 (2021) said:
“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.
Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere
Despite this, the blogosphere and “the socials” (social media platforms) have an alarming proportion of views being expressed that are dismissive of the science behind AGW and its impacts. The frequency of these comments is disproportionately large compared with the actual numbers of people in many countries who are dismissive, as estimated by opinion polls and surveys. Even in the more professional online channels, people who are clearly dismissives (rather than genuine skeptics) are frequently to be found trying to re-open old debates that belonged in the twentieth century when the science of AGW was far less clear and far less substantially evidenced than it is now.
Rather than spend a significant amount of time doing what might become a very repetitive (and interminable) task of debunking these anti-AGW “zombie arguments” as Katharine Hayhoe calls them, by a process similar to the popular fairground game of “whack-a-mole”, why not, instead, set out some of the most important areas where there can (and should) be genuine debate? Perhaps this might be an alternative way to attract respondents away from their destructive/ distracting false arguments based on misinformation and disinformation and towards actually making a positive contribution to a just and sustainable future in which climate change has been “sorted”. That was the spirit in which I approached this blog entry.
My suggested list of top areas for genuine debate (in no particular order) are:
1 What is the “optimal” average global temperature (which could also be expressed as optimal warming above pre-industrial)?
The importance of this is that when we work out what is optimal, we can steer our combined plans and actions towards this optimum.
This does not mean we should wait until we know what’s optimal before acting on warming we already know about. We know that there has been about 1.2 degrees of warming since pre-industrial and further warming, with the very likely damages it causes, baked in to some extent. But every amount of further increase we can prevent will help. We already know the optimal is unlikely to be over 1.5 degrees, and the international community has agreed to try to keep warming below that level. It’s likely the optimum will be somewhere between 0 and where we are now (1.2), so once the global temperature anomaly has been stabilised, there will need to be plans drawn up to move from a “new, stable but too high average temp” to a “new, optimal stable temp”.
2 When will we first start to see a really significant “bending of the curve” of GHG emissions (and atmospheric concentrations) so that we can know that our combined actions are really making a difference?
The importance of this is that it will give extra impetus to efforts to decarbonise, and to work towards achieving the optimal average global temperature as discussed in point 1 above.
3 What are the roles of international governance bodies, national governments, businesses and other organised parts of civil society in a transition to a just and sustainable future with optimal average global temps? What could such a future look like?
4 How do we all engage in, and act on, these matters, in an inclusive way (which also includes those who are currently dismissive of AGW) so that we are all “part of the answer”?
5 What are the most significant policy, strategy or change-making levers that are most likely to make the needed changes happen?
6 What are the most significant barriers to change, and how can they best be overcome?
7 What are the “no regrets” or “no brainer” options?
These are the actions that can be taken to address AGW and which do not conflict either with any other actions on climate change or with any actions the dismissives would advocate to achieve a better world irrespective of whether or not they accept the science behind AGW. These are matters where a dismissive could agree with what’s being proposed – any argument about whether or not climate change is largely driven by human activities would be irrelevant to the proposed action or decision.
Encouraging dismissives to think about any or all of the above matters might just provide them with a chance to be part of the answer, if they can break themselves away from their very negative cycle of denial and attack. It could lead them towards a more positive place where they might be more inclined to make constructive suggestions. The topics above are genuinely open to debate, and the answers are not yet fixed, so everyone can contribute to them, and there are many areas of common ground that can be explored and agreed on between people debating them. How much more positive would such conversations be, than the seemingly endless line of arguments that fall into the category of “useless naysaying”. If it wasn’t such a serious matter, such existing exchanges would be laughable, as per the Monty Python “Argument” sketch:
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