Over at Denialismblog, Mark Hoofnagle has a nice article about the Heartland Institutes conference on climate change. I must say, give the Heartlanders credit for actually putting their money and mouths where their views lie and putting it out there for public consumption. Unfortunately, they merely revealed what cranks they are, as described by the Wall Street Journal, and then expounded on by Hoofnagle:
"WSJ: One challenge they faced was that even within their own ranks, the group -- among them government and university scientists, antiregulatory campaigners and Congressional staff members -- displayed a dizzying range of ideas on what was, or was not, influencing climate."
Hoofnagle: This is a feature of cranks we discussed in our Unified Theory of the Crank almost a year ago. There is no interest in creating an explanatory theory or framework to incorporate the data into a useful picture, just a desire to crap on that which they don't want to hear.
It explains the tendency of cranks not to care if other cranks (and denialists in general for that matter) have variations on their own crazy ideas, just as long as the other cranks are opposing the same perceived incorrect truth. Cranks and denialists aren't honest brokers in a debate, they stand outside of it and just shovel horse manure into it to try to sow confusion and doubt about real science. They don't care if some other crank or denialist comes along and challenges the prevailing theory by tossing cow manure, as long as what they're shoveling stinks.
This is something we see among cranks of all stripes. Some of the global warming denialists claim there is no global warming (though their number is shrinking), some claim it is occurring but is overstated, or not caused by man, or will not cause disasters, or will but there is nothing we can do about it, or will actually be a good thing. And this causes them not one whit of concern or intellectual curiosity. All they care about is attacking the mainstream view.
This is the same don't-ask-don't-tell strategy we see among evolution deniers as well. Some accept common descent and some don't, some think the world is thousands of years old and some think it is billions, some believe all the design was at the beginning, some think it occurred at various points, and some think it is ongoing. Search the literature of HIV denialists and you'll see the same pattern. This is not how science is done.
There is also a tendency for denialists to frame the issue in personal terms, usually attacking the perceived authority of the theory that chaffes them so. This is predictable given the authoritarian religious background of most denialists, regardless of topic. Evolution deniers are fond of digging up any kind of dirt they can on Charles Darwin, even to the point of making shit up, as if a tarnished personality changes the data.
But with AGW, it is even more personal. Conservatives have a hate for tree hugging hippies that goes far beyond anything a historical figure could elicit, with roots as far back as the Viet Nam War and the fight against communism. Those of the Bill Buckley era are unlikely to give anyone even remotely resembling anti-war commies a fair scientific hearing:
"Global warming crankery, more than anything, isn't a generalized dismissal of science but an extreme dislike for the people identified with the science. Consistently through these arguments you see this streak of defiance, that no one should be able to tell anyone else how to live. If they want to spend their free time disposing their used motor oil by pouring it onto a pile of burning tires, that's their business, and Al Gore can go screw himself...If we care about convincing the remainder of Americans, or at least diminishing crankery on this topic, we also have to make the people who despise Al Gore care...
Ah yes, Al Gore. Nothing illustrates the echo-chamber life of so many conservatives as the impression they have that global warming is about Al Gore. They attack Gore personally, as if any of his flaws of character or behavior change the data. It's "Al Gore's global warming theory" to many. This is the danger of getting one's news from Fox, Townhall, and the rest of the Republican Shill Media.
Hoofnagle is right. To bring the Bushites on board, we have to make this not about Al Gore, but about something they care about. And here is where Hoofnagle hits on what I've always thought the common ground between the Greens and the Hawks is - the fight against the radical Muslims.
"For one, we must continually point out that being stubborn about using fossil fuels doesn't make you a rebel but rather OPEC's bitch. By letting the cranks frame this around Al Gore we've missed out on a lot of ways to make this matter to a larger group of people. For one, we could do a better job pointing out that all that money we spend on oil goes to the repressive governments we like least in the world. There's a good reason Putin's underlings showed up at this event. Oil money is what props up his regime. Same for Ahmadinejad. Same for the genocidal thugs in Sudan. I think the best frame is "Save the environment, stop sending your money to these assholes".
Amen! Those opposing environmental measures to combat global warming and develop non-fossil fuels need to be reminded over and over again that every SUV they buy, every gallon of gas they put in their cars, every extra degree of cooler AC they waste money on, every disposable camera they throw away, every extra plastic bag they use but don't need, puts money in the hands of the very same radical Islamic extremists that they are so eager to sacrifice our civil liberties in order to fight. Color me liberal, but I'd much rather give up a few small wasteful comforts than my 4th amendment rights. Hit the terrorists where it hurts - their pocketbooks - and help the environment at the same time. It's beautiful.