January 25th, 2013
The climate movement suffers from a lack of effective leadership. Here’s an example and an explanation: EXAMPLE: the problem of climate skeptic “debater” Marc Morano run amok (as I discussed yesterday), EXPLANATION: the recent report from Theda Skocpol on the collapse of climate legislation details the absence of effective singular leadership. Who’s in charge of this enormous movement? Who is even the lead voice?
SEEKING CLIMATE BLAME. Theda Skocpol this month released an interesting report in which she seeks to get to the bottom of “Who or what caused the climate movement collapse of 2010?” Was it the economy? Obama? The climate skeptics? The movement itself? She compares the climate movement collapse to the success of Health Care. In my (albeit questionable) opinion I think a lot of it was the arrogance of assuming Cap and Trade worked for acid rain so the fact of that will cause it to “sell itself,” not needing a sustained sales campaign.
A STORY OF LEADERSHIP IN THE EVOLUTION WORLD
Let me explain how this leadership stuff works. In the fall of 2006 we did a big screening of “Flock of Dodos” at William and Mary University where my trouble-making former officemate Dr. Mark Patterson managed to line up for the post-screening panel, not just the standard local evolution professor, but also an utter nutball neurophysiologist from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University who was a Young Earth Creationist.
When the evolutionist heard this, he did what good evolutionists know how to do, which is to seek leadership and guidance from the voice that firmly leads them — Genie Scott at the National Center for Science Education. He called, talked to her, and she simply advised him no, don’t do it — don’t “debate” a creationist in public, it’s a no win situation.
THAT is how leadership works. And it does work for evolution. I know. I’ve made two movies on the two anti-science attacks of evolution and climate. I’ve surveyed the two landscapes. The evolution crowd runs a fairly tight ship, and with Genie’s diligent eye, now keeps a pretty good watch on the countryside.
The climate crowd seems proud of their “individuality” I guess. And they have the further complicating element of large NGO’s claiming they are solving the problems partly through education as they raise donor dollars but in the end they are eco-corporations and no more education-driven than Coke or Pepsi (sorry).
I know NCSE has entered into the field of climate now. If you can’t think of any better approach to the leadership void, just use them the same way as the evolution folks do. Why not? At least they are brave, bold, and willing to take the mantle, unlike the terrified science organizations.
All climate folks, when asked to “debate” Marc Morano, should know how to do what that evolutionist at William and Mary did — call the central source of knowledge, guidance and leadership and seek an opinion. Why can’t that happen? I simply don’t get it. “Oh, we don’t believe in anything centralized.” Good, then fail away.
And I disagree with the climate friends yesterday who, in response to my essay on Morano, dismissed Bill Nye and the Sierra Club dude as a couple of last stragglers who haven’t gotten the memo. There is no memo. There is no single voice of leadership. And the result is disarray as Theda Skocpol pretty much pointed out this month …
SKOCPOL’S REPORT: WHO’S IN CHARGE?
For the past three years I was on one national committee for AAAS, now I’m on another for the American Institute of Physics. I get to see this lack of leadership in the science world up close and ask annoying questions about it. Last year I locked horns with Alan Leshner, head of AAAS (and a great guy) in our committee meeting, asking him why there doesn’t exist the leadership to aggressively take on the anti-academic attacks of climate skeptics (like when they are trying to discredit individual scientists or the entire idea of peer review). He replied that the science world is intentionally, “by design” (his exact words) built around committees and thus lacking leadership and not likely to change. He added, “that said, could we use a little bit more leadership at times, certainly.”
The problem is it’s a profession designed for the 1970’s (or really the 1950’s), when the public was so in awe of science that no one would ever dream of attacking an entire profession. But times change. Climate science has been under attack for a decade, and the attackers get to have a field day because there is no effective leadership. It’s that simple.
The problems of the attacks on climate science are reflective of the overall problems of the climate movement in general.
NO fer shure
A MOVEMENT ADRIFT
Skocpol does a great job of highlighting the major milestones that have led to this disarray. Clearly Cap and Trade was the final downfall. In 2007 over 70% of Americans felt we were to blame for climate change, today the number has dropped to below 50%.
Of course, obligatory companion reading to Skocpol’s report is Joe Romm’s critique (he’s always good reading on things like this), where he focuses more on climate skeptics (60%) and irresponsible media (30%) for the blame in his opinion.
There’s so many possible pathways of blame: POLICY – the right sort of policy (the sort that is an easy sell) wasn’t crafted, COMMUNICATION – the campaign was poorly communicated/sold, OPPOSITION – the dirty dawgs of the climate skeptic movement did it, TOP DOWN – the President needed to be the top climate voice but wasn’t up for it.
On and on. I personally like best the basic implications of Daniel Kahneman’s NAS talk last spring which I keep pointing back towards — where he said basically that until the movement creates a voice that is TRUSTED and LIKED, it ain’t gonna be selling squat.
I really hope Naomi Klein is aware of this with her upcoming “Do The Math” campaign that she talked with Bill Moyers about in November. If her campaign this spring comes from the same old UNTRUSTED and UNLIKED voice of elite academics it will be dead on arrival. Sorry, dude.