Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Policy inaction is the aim of those that dispute global warming

with 9 comments

I promise you that I did not go looking for this quote from James Hansen – I merely stumbled upon it – in Storms of my Grandchildren (2009, page 15). However, this is a wonderfully-simple – yet precise – summation of our current problem and, it seems, our current paralysis.

What is the answer? I don’t know, really. However, one or two things I am sure of:
– 1. Arguing with “sceptics” about whose science is more reliable is a complete waste of time. Unless (or until) they are willing to admit that their entire premise that “AGW is a false alarm” is flawed, they are never going to admit that rejecting the vast majority of evidence is conspiracy theory rather than “scepticism“. It really is that simple.
– 2. However, even though they did not get themselves into that position by means of logical argument, or an objective assessment of all the evidence, one has to hope that such methods will help them to escape from their self-constructed alternative reality. Unfortunately, we cannot do this for them, they must do it for themselves.

Therefore, once again, some quotations from the work of Peter Jacques (reference details for both are appended below) would seem apropriate…

In prefacing their research, Jacques et al. observed that:
Since environmentalism is unique among social movements in its heavy reliance on scientific evidence to support its claims… it is not surprising that [Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs)] would launch a direct assault on environmental science by promoting environmental scepticism in their efforts to oppose the environmental movement…” (2008: 353).

Furthermore, based on their findings, they concluded that:
Environmental scepticism is an elite-driven reaction to global environmentalism, organised by core actors within the conservative movement. Promoting scepticism is a key tactic of the anti-environmental counter-movement co-ordinated by CTTs…” (ibid: 364).

A year later, Jacques highlighted the central aim of CTTs as being to cause confusion and doubt amongst the general public, in order to prevent the creation of a popular mandate for change (i.e. achieved by countering supposedly “junk science” with their “sound science”), which he refers to as the “science trap” (2009: 148).

Finally, based on the findings of the research published in 2008, he concluded that environmental scepticism is a social counter-movement that uses CTTs to provide “political insulation for industry and ideology from public scrutiny”; and that this deliberate obfuscation stems from a realisation that “anti-environmentalism is an attitude that most citizens would consider a violation of the public interest” (2009: 169). However, Jacques does not blame the CTTs for the ecological crisis he feels we face, as they have merely exploited a dominant social paradigm within which “neoliberal globalism and its logic are protected from critique” (ibid: 119).

This clearly identifies who the real enemy of the human race is; and the scale of the problem we face in dismantling their entirely short-sighted and selfish campaign of deceit but, nonetheless, we must do it. The fate of the entire planet depends upon our success. Task number one – stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline being approved.


Jacques, P. et al. (2008), ‘The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism’, Environmental Politics, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp.349-385. [Free download available here]
Jacques, P. (2009), Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power and Public Life. Farnham: Ashgate.

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9 Responses

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  1. Unfortunately, Martin … As long as governments and many scientists of this world feel that the only way to resolve the Global Warming issue is by … Taxing people … then the problem will not be solved.


    29 October 2011 at 03:15

    • Scienists do not (or at least should not) get involved in policy decisions (although they should be free to express opinions without having their characters assassinated or motivations questioned). Furthermore, no sensible politician would (or should) advocate only taxes as a means to address the problem. Although there is most-certainly a place for market-based incentives, what we need is bold and decisive action to decarbonise our economies; including forcing energy companies to invest in sensible renewable power generation solutions (i.e. not just stupid wind turbines); rather than acquiescing while they try and extract every last drop of fossil fuel from the Earth in ever-harder and more ecologically sensitive places.


      30 October 2011 at 18:12

    • Donald, it has occured to me that, once again, you are just being argumentative for the sake of it? If not, this is straight out of the Conspiracy Theorist’s Handbook, which says that AGW is a hoax designed to allow governments to excercise ever-greater control over people’s lives and over-tax them. Unfortunately, as I have said so many times before, the reality of the situation is that AGW denial is an elite-driven conspiracy to ensure that no control is excercised over their own lives; that they remain under-taxed, and that they are able to concentrate ever-more wealth in the hands of a vanishingly-small minority.


      30 October 2011 at 18:21

  2. “1. Arguing with “sceptics” about whose science is more reliable is a complete waste of time.”

    Agreed. A link to Skeptical Science saves hours of wasted time.

    “2. (paraphrase) “deniers must find their own escape from their self-constructed alternative reality”

    Can’t agree here.
    Without education, nobody learns. Persuasion need not involve modes entailing blood-letting but must have teeth. Big problem here is that the strongest teeth are manipulated by those same ole status quo seekers (eg brers Koch), who have become oh-so-good at the divide-and-conquer principle :(

    Your link to Grist underscores that ‘money’s the only argument these guys have left‘ quite rightly: but they’ve successfully ensured that they’ll always have as much of the stuff as they can print, and the means to keep everyone else focused more on ‘what’s for dinner next week’ than on ‘how are our children going to survive this?’.

    Smoke and mirrors. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain (he is a very bad man).


    6 November 2011 at 14:00

  3. [...] of misinformation and obfuscation that has been waged for so long now by those whose only goal is policy inaction (James [...]

  4. [...] Just as the Occupy movement is trying to force our politicians to dismantle Crony Capitalism, we must force our politicians to dismantle the Fossil Fuel Lobby; and admit to themselves, the lobbyists, and the general public that the business-as-usual presumption that humanity shall burn all fossil fuels simply because we can is not a survivable option: At the risk of sounding like Scotty on Star Trek, “The Earth canny take it Captain!” The same applies to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). As I have said before, if ever proven feasible, CCS would be more dangerous than burying nuclear waste and, in the interim, it is merely an excuse for policy inaction. [...]

  5. [...] In October last year, while reading Storms of my Grandchildren, I stumbled across James Hansen’s statement that “Policy inaction is the aim of those that dispute global warming”; and was so taken by it I used it as a title to a post (on 28 October 2011). [...]

  6. [...] Although people like Peter Jacques have been telling us for years that “anti-environmentalism is an attitude that most citizens would consider a violation of the public interest” [Jacques, P. (2009), Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power and Public Life, Farnham: Ashgate (p.169)], it is only now, thanks to the self-sacrifice of Peter Gleick, that we have direct evidence of the lengths to which Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs) will go to defend their pro-business agenda from demands that the right of nature to exist should also be respected. More than that, we now know of the depths to which CTTs will stoop to invert reality and corrupt the minds of schoolchildren. And all for what, exactly? James Hansen nailed that one in 2009, when he said: “Policy inaction is the aim of those that dispute global warming”. [...]

  7. [...] However, this lie is rarely explicitly stated: Far more often it is dressed-up and/or made to seem more reasonable by claims that humanity is too insignificant to affect our climate; the climate will not change faster than we can adapt to it; we are not causing the climate to change; we cannot afford to prevent climate change; and/or climate change has stopped. In effect, all such claims can be replaced with one: Environmental “alarmists” are just “crying wolf”. In the face of complex science and supposedly-conflicting truth claims, this is very seductive reason for doing nothing. [...]

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