Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of August 8, 2011
Reader's write in with thoughtful and heated responses to Andrew Hoffman's commentary "Don't ignore climate skeptics – talk to them differently."
Discourse on climate change
Andrew Hoffman's June 27 commentary, "Don't ignore climate skeptics – talk to them differently," was a refreshing addition to the discussion of climate change and a call to reassess the persuasive strategies employed in a debate too often fraught with distortion and distrust.
No argument can be reduced to data. No claim can be sustained solely by passion. How the sides treat each other matters a lot. Scientists must resist the assumption that a lay public is a disinterested or ignorant one. But the lay public interested in a discussion must also hold to a higher ideal.
Of course, there are limits to Mr. Hoffman's talisman of talking "differently." Some people, no matter the side to which they claim allegiance, don't truly want to debate climate change. Their bias has calcified into a fixation on what they already know. The seemingly objective focus of the debate is shaded with value for all who discuss it.
In the right hands, rhetoric can be used to bridge the divides that all sides have conspired to create. Climate change is too important to be left to the feedback loops of the status quo.
The drivers that matter most to renewable-fuel advocates have bipartisan appeal: energy self-reliance, national security, economic stability, resource sustainability, and pollution mitigation. They are intertwined and globally relevant. Climate-change mitigation is a consequential byproduct but it is not the primary driver that US detractors claim it is.
In fact, many rural communities of US "red states" are leaders in the fight for fuel independence and making more consumer choices available at the pump. Yet the GOP appears to throw them under the fossil-fuel bus in the name of penny-wise, pound-foolish "cost reductions" – cuts in research and development, incentives, and deployment of alternative-fuels technologies, flex-fuel cars, and infrastructure.
The real question should not be whether climate change exists. That is pretty much a given and it has existed for millions of years. The proper question is whether global warming is caused by human activity or not. Commentary such as Hoffman's assumes, or at least implies, that human activity since the Industrial Revolution has caused the climate to change. That should not be assumed.
Whether man should endeavor to affect the climate is a separate question for scientific as well as moral study, but should not be a knee-jerk reaction to apparent global warming cycles. We can't just blame industry and try to force bureaucratic measures onto nature. We should study the issue properly and not fixate on judgmental demagoguery.