Saturday, May 13, 2006

World Climate Report: Setting the Record Straight

One of the unfortunate features of ecomyth discussion is the habit for them to be personalized. The late Julian Simon suffered greatly from ad hominem attacks and most of the criticisms of Bjorn Lomborg and The Sceptical Environmentalist have exhibited the same characteristics and tactics: which is somewhat ironic, since Lomborg set out to "correct" the errors of Simon only to largely confirm his findings. Lomborg's "mistake" was to publish his findings in a best-selling book that gave people the facts and asked them to determine for themselves if the state of the world was improving or not. He then faced the very same criticisms as Simon from ideologues who 'refuse to allow themselves to be bewildered by the facts. Instead, they simply reject the facts and deride anyone who presents' them.

Late in his life, Simon reflected upon the extensive ad hominen attacks he had received and he wrote:

'One cannot argue with personal attacks. One can, however, attempt to explain them. Concerning the purpose of the attacks, I see them as a device for marginalizing, devilizing, and thereby dismissing from consideration people like me so that their ideas should not be taken seriously.' (Simon: A reply to my critics)

I am especially frustrated when environment "goes Hollywood" -- usually when a well-meaning celebrity "discover" an issue, lends their name and media currency to promoting "greater awareness" of that issue. Since the main expertise of any celebrity is media manipulation, it is unsurprising that celebrity endorsement of any environmental issue usually has more than a smidgen of hype, exaggeration and mis-understanding attached to it.

This link from the World Climate Report shows that celebrities are often guilty of hypocrisy -- asking others to do what they themselves do not. In this case, a minor celeb is questioning the personal scientific credentials of a well-known climate change sceptic, when she herself has no formal science background. Truly galling.

Its at times like these you remember what your grandmother taught you as a child: "people in glass houses shouldn't throw bricks".