28 October 2011

"Selfish &%$#@!" Theme Week: Friday

So many sad things in the news these days. I suppose the reason we here in the West (in EuroAmerican countries) are okay with committing atrocities overseas and allowing or even supporting atrocities overseas (short-term and long-term atrocities) is that if we don't think about it (look at it, hear about it, talk about it), it's not a problem.

For example, a new study out of Norway shows that Norwegians are in denial about climate change not because they "don't believe in it" (it's not a religion, after all), but because acknowledging climate change will challenge their image of themselves as nice people who don't harm anyone (except with the greenhouse gas emissions from their economy based on oil and gas). Here is Paul Thagard describing the research at Psychology Today:
Kari Marie Norgaard is an American sociologist who spent a year in a small city in Norway interviewing people about their beliefs and attitudes concerning climate change.... Norgaard says that global warming is difficult for ordinary Norwegians to think about because it threatens their individual and collective sense of identity. Norwegians tend to view themselves as egalitarian and socially just on an international scale, so it is difficult for them to acknowledge that their country's large production of oil and gas contributes to global warming....

Given their knowledge of climate change and their political values, it upsets Norwegians to think that global warming is a threat to human well-being, so they steer clear of thinking and talking about it.... Norgaard plausibly argues that explanation of climate change denial by ordinary Norwegians needs to be framed in terms of complex links between emotions and social structures. Denial results not just from individual thought processes, but also from processes of social interaction that encourage people to talk and think in some ways rather than others.
What if we turned these thought processes and social norms on their heads, and started asking Americans and Canadians and Norwegians and all the other comfortable, fossil-fuel producing/consuming people in the world to approach the climate change emergency with compassion, altruism, and selflessness. Because caring about the world's most vulnerable will, in the end, be good for all of us.

Selfish &%$#@! Theme Week is wrapping up today, so I just want to say it one more time. Selfishness when it comes to what we do (or don't do) today to mitigate climate change for future generations will come back to bite us in the butt. And if you're so old that you scoff at that notion, then please consider your role as an ancestor, or simply as a fellow human being.

And yes, to the man who said those incredibly selfish things in our local newspaper, I am talking to you. Please, have a heart and get some compassion. For your karma if not for your kids. Feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about the science.

p.s. I'm taking tomorrow off. Going to spend the day with some very unselfish, wonderful friends.


  1. Hi Julie

    I've just run into a question from a denier I don't know how to deal with regarding the "logarithmic" effect of CO2. He is telling me because the effect of CO2 on the atmosphere drops off logarithmically, CO2 can't account for the warming attributed to man.

    Can you help me, or point me in the right direction? - Thanks

    Here's the link to this guy's argument:

  2. Hi, and thanks for writing. I'm chuffed that you've asked for my opinion.

    Archibald is a known skeptic. This is a guest post of his at the site of a well known skeptic. Visiting this or any other popular skeptic site -- and especially reading the comments section -- is like going down Alice's rabbit hole! It's so surreal how so many people can make up so much stuff, ignore so much reality, and ascribe so many malicious intentions to people who simply study the atmosphere and the climate for a living or as volunteers.

    If you put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, they are going to heat it up. That's basic physics.

    I *think* (and I'm no expert) that the logarithmic relationship means that if you keep on doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the global temperature increase doesn't keep on doubling. But that's a moot point when the small amount of temperature increase to date (0.8ºC due to an additional 100 or so parts per million) is already wreaking havoc with the climate, especially impacting those in the most vulnerable regions.

    The scariest part is that because of positive feedbacks, global warming will always accelerate itself. And let's not forget that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas.

    This post at Real Climate might help: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/my-model-used-for-deception/. I note that Archibald thinks he's "made it" because Real Climate talks about him. ;-) I could suggest simply not engaging, but sometimes it's hard to resist.

    Good luck!


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?