Message to Environmentalists: Self-Righteousness Is Not the Way To Sell Climate Regulation

Until now, I haven’t posted about the climate change email brouhaha. I haven’t thought it mattered. I didn’t think it affected the underlying validity of climate change science and I still don’t. That science seems overwhelming to me. 

However, I have concluded that the email issue matters.  Yesterday’s ClimateWire reported that climate scientists had repeatedly ducked Freedom of Information Act requests, in ways that demonstrate an astounding degree of arrogance. Here’s the money quote from Phil Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia:

When the FoI requests began here, the FoI person said we had to abide by the requests,… It took a couple of half-hour sessions — one at a screen — to convince them otherwise, showing them what CA [Climate Audit, climate skeptic Steve McIntyre’s Web site] was all about. Once they became aware of the type of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA … became very supportive.

In other words, the Freedom of Information Act is meant only to provide information to those who agree with you? I don’t think so. 

Doesn’t it seem as though there’s a reason why environmentalists are often described as elitists? Isn’t this the essence of elitism? I know what the data means and you don’t and you can’t be trusted to have it, because you’ll do bad things with it. I may be naïve, but I don’t think that’s what democracy’s about.

Which is what brings me to a related criticism – self-righteousness. God is on my side. The future of the planet is at stake. I can therefore do anything to ensure what I personally know to be the right outcome. 

Sorry, folks. Doesn’t sell. Most people have very sensitive self-righteousness detectors and it’s a major turn-off. Precisely because climate change is so important, climate scientists need to knock it off. Right now, they are their own worst enemies.

4 thoughts on “Message to Environmentalists: Self-Righteousness Is Not the Way To Sell Climate Regulation

  1. Reminds me of a funny South Park episode where the whole town starting driving Hybrids, which led to environmental disaster when the town was overtaken by “smug”. Of course, I say this as a Prius driver with my own degree of smug-forming emissions (or lack thereof).

  2. Uhm, the guys at UEA are not environmentalists, or politicians, or lobbiests, they’re scientists and educators. So they really don’t have any desire to be dealing denialists, and are only guilty of being smug is so far as they’ve earned the right to talk with the authority of decades of scientific research. As for Climate Audit, not all FoI requests are harassing, but they seem the ones who are coming off as arrogant having done no research and knowing nothing about the topic. They’re just doing their best to grind an axe, interfere with valuable research, and make everyone in the scientific community paranoid that everything they publish will be subject to lawyers, laymen speculations, and politicization.

  3. Pingback: Self Righteousness Still Does Not Help the Environmentalists’ Cause | Law and the Environment

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