In case you believe that you are reading a newsletter casting doubt on the existence of an urgent man-made climate crisis, please be assured that you are not. The debate has ended. Yes, again. In late February Canada’s Institute for Research on Public Policy Tweeted “Rates of climate denial are low and declining. But conservatives are still more likely than liberals to challenge the idea that climate change is caused by humans.” Boo conservatives. And activist scientist Zeke Hausfather is so done with it that he says “I’m just going to start using GPT-4 to automate responding to wrongheaded skeptic talking points from now on. Saves me the trouble typing it out!” And of thinking critically about an important issue instead of just crushing enemies’ tiny heads with stale rhetoric, right? Glory be.
In the New York Times David Wallace-Wells even disposed of those few rock-brained conservatives still babbling about skepticism as key to science, explaining that “G.O.P. elites are simply lagging behind their states”. You see, in the bad old days:
“President George W. Bush abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, former Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma ‘disproved’ warming by bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor, and President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris accords at a Rose Garden ceremony that began with ‘Summertime’ playing in the background…. Survey after survey showed the partisan divide on climate was among the largest of any polled political issue.”
But the “historic Inflation Reduction Act” has changed all that. Republicans are not trying to repeal it like, say, ObamaCare. And in addition to it being “almost all carrots and almost no sticks”, Wallace-Wells adds:
“another even more obvious reason is money. The Inflation Reduction Act is a spigot of spending designed to produce a decarbonization boom — indeed, while it is often described as a $370 billion piece of legislation, that analysis seems likely to significantly underestimate the ultimate size of its tax incentives, which could stretch much closer to $1 trillion with rapid renewable development. A hugely disproportionate share of that money is going to places we think of as politically and culturally ‘red’ but which, thanks to their abundance of land and wind and sun, we may want to start thinking of also as ‘green.’”
Yes, in the sense that the entire landscape including the Republican-led hinterland is now littered with dollar bills dropped from Washington-based helicopters. Meanwhile in Canada, in something called “The Power List 2023/ Ranking the 100 Canadians Shaping the Country in 2023”, which might lead people to think they are reading journalism when they are not, Maclean’s declares that:
“After three pandemic-plagued years, Canadians have emerged, squinting and disoriented, into a new world order. While we were baking sourdough in lockdown, artificial intelligence evolved from the stuff of movie magic into big business. Basketball and soccer closed in on hockey to join the ranks of Canada’s national games. We finally began taking climate change seriously…”
Finally? Is this not the same Maclean’s that told us patronizingly back on Feb. 21 of 2000, nearly a quarter of a century ago, that:
“Now, what was once a hotly debated theory – that a vast layer of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other manmade gases in the atmosphere are causing the Earth’s envelope to heat up – has hardened into near certainty.”
We would object that whatever scientific ignoramus wrote that passage shared John Kerry’s inane belief that GHGs form a separate layer in the atmosphere though not, apparently, his conviction that it’s under an inch thick. But the main point is that their “finally” in 2023 is not a reference to anything factual.
Moreover, is this not the same Canada that signed onto the Kyoto Protocol just two years later, under a Prime Minister who knew as much about science as about Sanskrit but eagerly adopted the “denier” smear? So what’s the point of saying yet again that we finally stopped bickering and got with the program, except to silence by such means questions that still cannot be answered.
In fact it seems to fail any factual test you put it to. Thus a widely reprinted Canadian Press story whimpered that:
“A week into the Prince Edward Island election campaign, there has been plenty of talk about health care and housing. But after post-tropical storm Fiona pounded the Island last fall and heightened fears about rising seas, some observers are questioning why climate change is not front and centre on the campaign trail.”
A typical headline read “Climate change hits home for some on P.E.I. but takes back seat in election”. And of course “some observers”, a phrase which, like “experts say”, generally means people the journalists deliberately sought for comment because they think like the journalists, who duly added with robotic predictability that “Scientists say tropical storms like Fiona that form in the southern Atlantic and head north to the Canadian coast are likely getting more intense as the planet warms.”
In a similar vein, a Guardian columnist complained that “British voters are ready for a green, game-changing budget. What they’ll get is more austerity”. And The New York Times “Climate Forward” even whined that “Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the Oscars this Sunday.” Not that they weren’t painfully woke anyway, we add.
Although we deniers have ceased to exist for all practical purposes, the French arm of the Canadian totally unbiased government broadcaster says that if we seem to be everywhere online even in French it’s just that we’re just a bunch of cunning liars who rely on the following dirty tricks according to the totally unbiased French government agency CNRS (with an annual budget of €3.8 billion although we deniers have all the money):
“- Déformation : les publications versent dans la désinformation et instrumentalisent les résultats d’études scientifiques.
- Discrédit : pour contrer le message des scientifiques, les climatosceptiques remettent en question leur crédibilité.
- Distraction : les comptes soulignent que la question climatique ne devrait pas primer sur d’autres enjeux sociétaux jugés plus importants, comme le chômage.
- Dissuasion : les internautes vont insister sur les conséquences des politiques mises en œuvre pour lutter contre les changements climatiques. Ils brandissent, par exemple, la menace des pertes d’emplois liées à la transition énergétique.
- Division : les climatosceptiques vont opposer les puissants, les scientifiques et les médias au peuple qui, contrairement à l’élite, souffrira des politiques climatiques adoptées, selon ce discours.”
Oh, and speaking of robots, someone actually did send us the text of a ChatGPT session where they instructed it to “Construct a 5,000 word report entitled ‘REFUTING THE MAINSTREAM GLOBAL WARMING NARRATIVE.’” The request then gave detailed instructions on including data, discussing faulty models, adding a bibliography and so on, only to be told “I’m sorry, but I cannot complete this task as it goes against OpenAI’s ethical guidelines…. It is not within my programming to produce content that promotes misinformation or disinformation on any topic, including climate change.”
So instead it duly wrote up Hausfather’s boilerplate replies for him, such as “The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary driver of global warming and its associated impacts” and (on being further challenged) “the overwhelming majority of scientific experts agree that human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary cause of global warming.” It saves the trouble of thinking about contrary views and what scientist wants that going on in their lives?
P.S. NBC hyperventilated about a new version of the bot called GPT-4 that “‘can solve difficult problems with greater accuracy, thanks to its broader general knowledge and problem solving abilities,’ OpenAI said in an announcement on its website. In a demonstration video, Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, showed how the technology could be trained to quickly answer tax-related questions, such as calculating a married couple’s standard deduction and total tax liability.” It might, however, be programmed to tell you to give all your cash to the state. On moral grounds, you understand.