Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth discusses climate change scaremongering (off-putting) vs climate change formalism (invisible). He asks an interesting question.
In a line that didn’t make it into an article, [a source] said that a quieter tone in describing the problem “could be interpreted as satisfaction with the status quo.”
So if quiet warnings are ignored, and the politics of fear is as empty as pornography, what is a message on climate risks and responses that is true to the science, but also effective?
I don’t know. I do like the question.
On the other hand, it seems the legal/political habits of mind are so pervasive even among journalists that even the best of them, like Revkin, can not only make but repeat clunkers like this from the same article:
I explored these questions in the context of global warming last year in a piece called “Yelling Fire on a Hot Planet,” and then again last January in a story exploring the durable, but largely invisible, “middle stance ” amid all the shouting. Scientists holding this view say the world should move assertively to curtail emissions of heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases, but mainly to limit the worst outcomes decades down the road — not so much because such actions could reduce today’s climate-related risks.
This doesn’t ring true for me. I don’t think asserting that there is an “invisible middle stance” among scientists is a useful model.
Anyone who knows anything about the climate system, including but not limited to geoscientists, knows that greenhouse-relevant actions taken now have minute immediate effects. Arguably, the whole reason we have a problem at all is that effects of anthropogenic emissions changes are cumulative over decades, far outside the political cycle and unaccounted for by conventional politics. That’s not the “middle”, that’s the facts of the matter. Whether your attitude about that is alarmed, sanguine or resigned comes from personality, political or philosophical differences, not from scientific “stances”.
On the whole, I like what Revkin does, but his continuing efforts to put climate science into camps or “stances” suffers from the usual confusions.
While there certainly are camps on open technical questions, there really isn’t a left, right and middle in climate science. Whatever “stance” we take on the big social and political questions is outside the purview of science. This is why Revkin’s “middle way” stuff rings hollow for most of us.