Whom do you trust on climate change?

Greg Craven in his excellent What’s the Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate, spends chapter 3 explaining why we should never trust ourselves, and chapter 4 on which sources he does trust and why.

Greg Craven
Greg Craven

Reading these two chapters and doing his exercise on sources may help center any group studying climate change.

I rely on somewhat different sources than does Craven. I don’t ever look for the facts in one category he considers important, people saying something different than you expect—while I learn a lot from military analyses of the consequences of climate change, I don’t necessarily consider them reliable on climate change. Another difference between our lists is that I rely on the hierarchy scientists have created, eg, for Chernobyl facts, go to International Atomic Energy Agency. For climate change facts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides the top level of discernment.

But over time, I have begun to understand which just plain folks I trust on climate change. Not to get the facts right, perhaps, but I trust that they care about climate change. So far, I’ve identified only one characteristic: they have changed their mind on something important.

Most people talking about climate change solutions sound just like they did before their interest in climate change. In the old days, they knew that the most important environmental issue was expanding nuclear power, eliminating nuclear power, avoiding meat, renewables, or living simply. Now it turns out that these are the most important solutions to climate change. They sound to me like they have added an amplifier to their recording: see, my solution is absolutely critical!!!!!!!!!

I also distrust their interest in climate change if they reference a number of extraneous issues. Wall Street Journal op-ed pieces on climate change frequently mention the United Nations as a problem. Many addressing climate change want to solve all the world problems, not just climate change and biodiversity loss, but poverty and women’s rights. I don’t object to solving all the world’s problems, but I don’t trust people to focus who have too large a vision.

So give me someone who emphasizes behavior change today in addition to promoting nuclear power from times long ago, or who promotes nuclear power now in addition to advocating for behavior change way back when. Someone who wants to focus on a small number of topics related to climate change (affordable energy, pollution), but doesn’t bring up furthering democracy or raising children. I hear that person as so interested in climate change, she is willing to concede that her old thinking was insufficient.

I know intellectually that I am unfair. Until I find a way to bring my intellect and my emotions into harmony, this is where I am.

What about you?

One Response to “Whom do you trust on climate change?”

  1. Thanks for introducing me to this useful book. That your rating of sources doesn’t agree with Craven’s is exactly his point. We need to think for our ourselves to come up with a list that works for us. Since sending you the best list I could think of at the time, I have thought of a category that I would put at the very bottom-advertisements and commercials. They ask us to make decisions based on the information they present. They are certainly not going to include information that would cause us to not buy their products. Whether to invest my money in the stock market or in precious metals is an important decision. I shouldn’t make it based only on what I heard in a radio commercial for a company that sells gold. Craven suggests we give greater weight to sources with opinions that contradict their biases. They are the exact opposite of commercial messages that only intend to sell products to us and exclude facts that contradict their message.

    For me, the most useful message from Craven’s book is that we human beings are really bad at evaluating risk. Another good book related to that topic is “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. De Becker gives advice on evaluating risks that can keep us from being victims of violence.

    Finally, you might be interested in an interview of David Mikkelson of Snopes by David Pogue in the New York Times. http://tinyurl.com/27vhxsd Snopes is a web site that evaluates the truthfulness of urban myths, many forwarded by e-mail. When asked what causes people to forward such e-mails, he suggests 3 motivations.
    1. People want to be helpful and believe the e-mail will help someone else.
    2. People want to show off and prove they know more than we do.
    3.People want to prove others wrong, especially those with contrary political opinions, and want to validate their own opinions and prejudices as correct.

    And yes, when it comes to sources I trust, forwarded e-mails would be near the bottom of that list.

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