Legal Eagle (LE) published this post at SkepticLawyer: Climate change, scepticism and elitism, wherein she says that she is “agnostic” on the science of climate change as it pertains Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and catastrophic scenarios, that she is offended by climate change activists belittling climate change denialists. LE finishes by stating that she is particularly concerned that various policies proposed to mitigate/reverse AGW are likely to disproportionately impact people on the poverty line and developing nations barred from certain technologies, and that she wants more scrutiny of such policies and more attention paid to egalitarian outcomes, and that this is her primary reason for being agnostic on climate change..
Rob Merkel criticised LE’s post strongly in this post at Larvatus Prodeo: The intellectual laziness of climate skepticism. He concentrated on her statements of doubt about AGW and climate catastrophe, and he was harsh, as were most of the subsequent comments. Too many of the commentors confused LE with her co-blogger SkepticLawyer (SL) and conflated the separate views of LE and SL on this and other matters, which didn’t help at all.
However, the reason that critics at LP and on her own blog were so harsh about LE’s stance on climate change science, while virtually ignoring her points on inequitable outcomes of climate change mitigation policies? Because of how she wrote her article – LE tied together two separate things as if one was dependent on the other, and the one she waxed passionate about first got the lion’s share of the attention, because what one puts first is generally considered to be what one considers most important.
It didn’t need to be that way. Being skeptical about many climate change mitigation proposals because they are likely to inequitable social outcomes is a viewpoint that doesn’t depend upon one’s position on climate science and AGW/Catastrophism. I’m utterly convinced by the science behind AGW and while I have hopes that the less catastrophic models are what will happen, I fear for the worst and believe that we need to prepare for it. That doesn’t mean that I think that developing nations and the poor in our own country should be the ones to pay the bulk of the economic burden for what needs to be done to enhance the world’s food security and remaining biodiversity.
Climate change science and climate change policies should be closely entwined, but in the real world they tend not to be so closely aligned as an idealist would wish. Where do I go to vote for some luxury taxes on delicacies and fripperies whose production and transport pushes carbon emissions out into the world for no reason other than consumerist display? Currently nowhere, because economic “rationalism” models say that doing so would be A Bad Thing for The Economy. You know, those “rational” models which do not account for such non-essentials as breathable air or drinkable water or edible seafood because there’s no profit in Clean Atmosphere or Clean Rivers or Living Oceans.
We do need to be having a better conversation about how we balance the needs of the poorer people and nations to use affordable technology to improve their economic security and the need to preserve the ecosystems that keep us all alive. The West cannot ethically tell poorer people and nations that we could use fossil fuels to build our economies but that they cannot, at least not without giving them a viably affordable alternative. Framing that conversation within doubts one has about climate change science per se merely confuses the issue.