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Us Not Them: On Misunderstanding Climate Denialism


Us Not Them: On Misunderstanding Climate Denialism

Martin Kirk

So we’re in the midst of another round of climate-change related mud slinging. The latest issue of National Geographic, “The War on Science”, was seen to sneer at the 130 million American who don’t believe in human induced climate change.


The real problem is a frame that is bipolar in nature with science on one side and patriarchal religion on the other. Both sets despise anything genuinely spiritual, and by that I mean rooted in Indigenous mysticism, poetry, and an esoteric understanding of Cosmos starting with earth. However, it is this third perspective that is most holistic and best suited to guiding human beings to living in harmony with the natural world and by extension, one another.

Religion, dominated by the perception of a male god (often amenable with war) and science, dominated by left brain (mostly male) scientists misses the wisdom and teachings of the Great Mother and the entire Feminine source of sentience so long left out of BOTH equations.

Also, whenever two forces are placed into irreconcilable opposition, THE DEBATE stops there. The nature of opposition is itself, deadlocked… just like the duopoly political system.

In all levels of human existence, the time for a 3rd way calls out. And since Truth has never gone out of style, those with an understanding of Universal Law can pave the path.


Thanks for the comment. I agree, there is a lot to be learnt from Indigenous wisdom, from concepts of the Great Mother and the Feminine.

Don’t you fall into the same trap I’m talking about, though, by saying, they’re all wrong, with their despising of the ‘genuinely spiritual’, and I’m right, with my understanding of Truth? That immediately activates the logic of division, or hierarchies of belief, of competition. By your own logic, then, you are in judging mode, which is always the precursor to fighting, and ultimately to war. The very male instinct - by your reckoning - you are saying is the problem? Simply calling something a 3rd way is unlikely to ring true if your logic is of division. It reminds me of the old saying, “I can’t hear what you’re saying because what you are doing is speaking too loud”.

The alternative is to look first for commonality. For our shared humanity, and the deep instinct for love, empathy and compassion that lives in all people. Connect there, first; offer respect and non-judgement; and then draw attention to where our views may differ.


I have a more practical bent. What will be the consequences of right wing climate denial? What are the left wing alternatives? For the Bible belt it will be drought and roast. A hell of their own making which they will no doubt see as God’s punishment for tolerating homosexuality. I offer a theological alternative. God’s punishment is no more than the consequence of human rapaciousness, stuborn refusal to adapt and folly. What then is God’s grace? It Is the hope that maybe that the human race is able to change and has time to change,(his mercy), is able to respond to the challenge it faces before it really is too late.

Let’s take the hopeful side. What are the alternatives needed to respond adaptively and positively to climate change? The right denies it is even a problem. The left gives us daydreams that solar and wind can give us enough energy to survive with our lifestyle intact. Here is the truth as I see it. The remediation of the earth will require vast amounts of cheap, safe, reliable, carbon free energy that will have to come new sources. With that energy we can close the Carbon cycle, taking carbonic acid from the ocean and turning it into usable hydrcarbons, or with even more power lower ocean acidity, sequestering those hydrocarbons and thereby lowering atmospheric CO2 levels. With that energy we can desalination ocean water and provide that resource which will be desperately needed, with that energy standards of living for the populations of the world can improve not be cut back. We do have time. We do have a way out of our dilema. Call it God’s grace if you will but it will not happen until we sqarely face what that energy source will be. Here is where I alienate both tbe left and the right. That cheap abundant, carbon free and safe energy will come from some form of gen 4 nuclear power, the brightest prospect of which is LFTR, thorium based breeders. Don’t believe me, that’s OK, the Chinese are going all out for it, and will have reactors to sell us by the time our frack gas gives out and our solar wind dreams have shown themselves to be the fantasies that they are. God’s grace is really wonderful, the clueless stupid but God fearing Americans saved by the godless Chinese. It is all in his plan.


Meanwhile, sublimation of the methane clathrates of the East Siberian shelf are sublimating into the atmosphere at an accelerating rate. The atmospheric level of methane over the Arctic Ocean did not drop below 2400 ppb this winter. That translates to a little over 200 ppm CO2. Add that to 400 and the Arctic is over 600 ppm CO2 equivalents. Add in that less and less of the Arctic is now freezing every winter. Add in that recently at the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean entrances into the Arctic winds have been near hurricane force. That methane has been and of course continues to move south out of the Arctic. The atmospheric level of methane at Mauna Loa is over 1900 ppb and rising. Last year it jumped 100 ppb. The northern hemisphere is approaching 600 ppm CO2 equivalents or may have passed it when other greenhouse gases are added in. There is enough latent heat in the atmosphere to take us past 4 C within 20 years. Food production has been suffering from the effects of Global Heating with the 0.84 C rise that has occurred so far. Food production is expected to implode at 4 C. I haven’t read anything from scientists that give any hope for geoengineering to make a timely and significant effect.


Interesting point about the long’-term strategy. I hadn´t considered it but it rings true. The difficulty with the long-term strategy is that phase 1 and phase 2 only ‘buy time’. I find it hugely amusing that capitalism has inserted itself once again. The idea that parts of the great Pachamama’s lands or waters can / should be owned, bought, and sold was sad enough. And now, the idea that TIME can be bought? How preposterous the thought process of western society.

Anyway, while the article was interesting, I think the phrase from the end is quite telling: ¨… we must find the best way to protect this planet and the life on it¨´

When I read this sentiment, it takes me right back to religious indoctrination - choose your colour and flavour, they are all the same. To wit, it is our job, our purpose to have dominion over The Mother and all her creation. As if humans are the parents and the earth is our child.

In a word … BULLSH%T. Great Mother needs no help from the human species to protect Herself and Her creations (of which the human species is one). She can do that quite nicely all by herself thank you very much.

We do need to honour Her, to give gratitude to Her - to Her lands, Her waters, Her breath. We need to remember how to live in harmony with Her, how to accept and to be at peace with our small place within all of Her immense creation.

Gratitude, harmony, acceptance, peace. If the human species practiced all of this, there would be no need to even speak about protection.


Factually speaking, I agree entirely.

So how do you get those people who are blocking the evidence from informing our response to stop doing that? Shout at them louder? Call them stupid? Do you know anyone who responds well to that? Or, indeed, should respond well to such personal attacks and disrespect? And more importantly, how well is it working out for us so far?

Until we can see the humanity in each other, and can start from a position of mutual respect, we’ll keep on circling the drain as we are.

The uber-rationalist left will watch the destruction and suffering caused by climate change from their self-proclaimed moral high ground, feeling superior and righteous, which is sure to give a nice, warm, self-satisfied glow and all but is ultimately a strategy more focused on being narrowly correct than getting change. A strategy that rests on lots of smart objective analysis, perhaps; but is deeply unwise for sure.


A courageous inquiry from Martin Kirk, posted here to CD. And just realized you are responding here. I agree completely with “how well is it working for us so far?” In the flavor of an article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine asking why so many intelligent people believe in conspiracy theories. Now, SI is no stranger to bashing those it believes obdurately un-moved by reality, but they have of late begun to examine their (our) own tendency towards scientism, and why the hell when we’re paddling as fast as we can we’re going in the opposite direction.

Remember those heady days of campaign rhetoric when Obama once stated that a revolution of climate driven response could spark an economic revitalization? Though plausible, it is a direct threat to fossil fuel interests because their continued wealth rests in their owned reserves. They could lose everything if the world rejects them for alternatives. And they are the ones that actually fund the many layers of denialism.


Very good point on taking action. I would just say it’s a both/and, rather than an either/or.

There is something ironic about comments proposing a “talk vs do” binary. You’re talking on here, engaging in debate - does that therefore mean you’re one of those ‘others’ who is not doing? I get the sense you are very active, walking the talk, which is fantastic. You are also talking.


Yes, indeed, Justaman.

Have you, by any chance, seen the speech John Ashton gave this week to an energy industry conference in Paris, addressed to the CEO of Shell? I’m not allowed to post links here but if you go to therules.org, and see the “The Best Climate Change Speech You’ll Ever Read” blog, it’s up there. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Especially, in light of this conversation, for anyone interested in how to speak from a position of respect while still being entirely honest and uncompromising about the evidence. Masterful stuff.



Thank you for the link, in a minute I’ll go there. Your piece referred to the 130m or so Americans that reject AGW. I was involved at the end of my career in the shalegas boom going on here. Identifying and locating land boundaries ahead of the actual drilling to follow. I had to talk to the property owners to get their permission and that was the most fascinating part of what I was doing. I was intently interested to know what everyone thought about what was happening. These people are not ignorant and many educated me on aspects of the business I was unaware of, though I was vigorously researching to determine if this was a boon or a bane. I know what the fossil fuel industrialists think, and how they act. For many (non-industrialists) here at least, it is like what Sinclair Lewis said: “Hard to get someone to understand the truth of something when their paycheck depends on not understanding it.”


How does that alienate the right? My experience has been that the right is highly supportive of plentiful energy and the development of new energy technologies. And while it is true that fossil fuel producers are major contributors to Republican politicians, they also welcome non-fossil donors and they are not committed to excluding non-fossil energy–which is how wind power has flourished in deep red Texas.

Tea partiers and free marketeers are opposed to market-distorting subsidies and regulations, which would include those which pertain to existing nuclear power, but if a different form of nuclear power were developed which could operate in a market based system, I’m pretty sure they would have no objections to that. But the more mainstream Republicans I know already support present nuclear power, so I see no reason why they would oppose even better nuclear power.

The obvious question here is why is it important to convince climate change deniers that anthropogenic change is real? Presumably it is so that they can be brought around to supporting action to curtail the burning of fossil fuels. But once you get them to that point, they will quickly conclude, as James Hansen has, that nuclear power is going to have to be one of the heavy lifters in the low-carbon mix, and at that point the roles of anti-scientific irrationalism and dogmatic denialism will reverse, and it is the left which will have to be brought around to accepting nuclear power.


When I googled it, it came right up. Very good piece.


A very astute argument. It remains to be seen whether the nuclear industry can exist without market-distorting subsidies and regulations though. But in the face of climate collapse, which is worse, subsidies or world chaos? Tammons argument rests on the belief that solar and wind is a figment of the imagination. Only insofar as the problem of storage is concerned. Researchers working on solar are making a lot of practical headway because of, not in spite of, lack of subsidies.

While looking for information on BRICS I came across an article about Putin recently visiting Egypt and new alliances being formed there. Putin pledged vigorous investment of technology and funds for Egypt’s nuclear energy industry. This, in sun-drenched Egypt. One of the earliest working installations of solar power was accomplished there. Sorry, I don’t have a link to provide.


Thanks for that. :smile:

It told me that because I’m a new poster I couldn’t post links. I must earn my stripes!


Perhaps you should read the article.


Go to Mauna Loa’s most recent graph on sub-Arctic methane levels and to Arctic-News most recent post on Northern Hemisphere methane atmospheric levels. Methane has risen 60 ppb/year the last two years from the June 2013 level, hardly a slow down.


I like research and development subsidies, but I’m less keen on implementation subsidies. The early days of solar power saw lethargic progress because the principal customer was the government, primarily for space applications, and their willingness to pay high prices for small quantities basically undercut the impetus for developing cheap solar in larger volumes. And if we are looking for solutions which would have global application, they need to be able to compete on their own–or else we need to develop a global subsidy system.

“Tammons argument rests on the belief that solar and wind is a figment of the imagination.”

I think what Tammons said was “The left gives us daydreams that solar and wind can give us enough energy to survive with our lifestyle intact.” And there are certainly luminaries of the left who take that position. Most wind/solar advocates agree our energy consumption will have to drop, but many, like Amory Lovins, take the view this reduction can be accomplished without any hardship by simply improving efficiencies. Indeed, Lovins argues this approach can lead to a broadly elevated standard of living, increased employment, and sustained economic growth. All we have to do, as he and others assure us, is to simply decide to do it. But a vision without a realistic plan for how to get there is the functional equivalent of a daydream.

Cheap mass storage would be great, and I’m happy to hear there are multiple ventures and research teams trying to crack that nut. But Solartopians are quick to dismiss and even oppose forms of nuclear which do not exist yet while simultaneously invoking energy harvesting and storage technologies which are critical to their vision, but which also do not exist yet. It also seems inconsistent that they characterize climate change as an existential threat, but apparently not so bad that we need to investigate all of our best low-carbon alternatives. They even applaud Germany’s rush to shut down nuclear, even if it has resulted in burning more forests and more lignite than they would have otherwise.

Egypt isn’t the only sun-drenched country in the region pursuing nuclear. The Saudi nuclear plan may be the most extensive at this point, calling for the construction of 16 nuclear power stations averaging more than a gigawatt capacity each. They also plan to do 40 GWe capacity in photovoltaics, to cover mid-day demand increases due to air-conditioning, but nuclear amortizes out cheaper in the long run, it’s easier to protect (ever seen what a sandstorm can do to a solar panel?) and it could drop in to replace base-load generation which is currently being provided by oil (one-quarter of Saudi oil production goes to meet domestic energy needs). Nuclear is also a natural fit with water desalination, which is kind of handy in that region.


There are no levels of reality. There is only reality, and the various ways humans misperceive it. Humans tend very strongly to dichotomize reality and misperceive it in one of 2 ways; what the ways are depends on the subject area and the culture we’re talking about. The reason for dichotomizing is psychological dysfunction; a fully healthy person perceives a third way–not a middle way and not a compromise and not a mix–but what might be called (for lack of a better term right now) an embodied gestalt synthesis or end around.

People who perceive science as the way to perceive reality may also cling to childhood forms of religion out of the conservative impulses toward duty, obligation, habit, comfort, lack of anything better, but in the end the 2 are incompatible. Reality is either real, and knowable, through sensory-based investigation and inner wisdom in an integrated whole and above all a cooperative effort of innerly-wise sharing individuals in a community, or it’s based on what’s disguised and sold as “faith”, that is, counter factual, counter intuitive, counter sensory, punishment- and coercion- and shame-based “lessons” to create trust in the patriarchal and hierarchal authorities who tell people what to feel, believe, think and do, in the interests of the patriarchy, the hierarchy, and those in higher levels of being in thrall to them, in higher positions of privilege within those destructive, proprietary-fracking-fluid-flows-downhill systems.

Disregarding what I think is a misguided–maybe manipulatively sucking up–use of the phrase “good people…of the right”, we have to realize we are, like light, both particle and wave–both separate and one. That’s a fundamental–maybe the fundamental paradox we have to come to a non-dichotomized embodied “understanding” of (actually more of a feeling into-ness) to be fully alive. People on the right feel the world as one or more black boxes–not so much mysterious (although that’s the falsely romantic patriarchal warping of the feeling into one that will get people to accept nonsensical religious interpretations of life and unknowns) but simply uncontactable. Unknowable, or at least deeply unknown. And therefore scary as hell. And shaming and rage-inducing, and projection-stimulating because of the fear, and the inner knowledge, held somewhere deep, that it shouldn’t be this way–in fact, it isn’t this way. So there must be something wrong with the self.

As social animals above all else in the physical world, we have a template for connecting to life, in ourselves, other people, other beings and the universe. Filling in the template with “lessons” (a bad term) gotten intimately, cooperatively-only-ever-so-much-more-so, by interacting with life, and others, is what we do instead of knowing everything by instinct, as mayflies do. Filling in the template IS our instinct. So when, through the failure of others to give what’s needed to do that–physically, emotionally, psychologically–we fill it in with whatever comes handy–bad ideas, conspiracy theories, blame, shame, rage, a desire to destroy…

What we do typically is to hang on to just enough feeling of oneness not to be made to feel unbearably alone by the childhood abuse, neglect, and misattunement every one of us suffers at the hands of imperfect parents in a far from perfect, skewed way-to-the-right society. That society, civilization itself, creates humans that are also skewed, as well as institutions that reinforce that rightward veer.

Conservatism is the belief in separateness. What motivates people of the right is the feeling, and the resulting belief, that they are alone in a harsh world, that everything is a competition for life itself, that everything “left” is a threat to the rigid and painfully-maintained solitary ego, that the “communists”–that is, every body, every fact and meaning and event that draws a person closer to feeling life than they’ve become comfortable with (because of the intolerable pain of rejection and disappointment at the fundamental level of existence), must be poised to pounce on and merge with, or “share!” (OMG!) and thus destroy that ego. People on the left are taught through nurturance at least part of the oneness side of existence; the further to the right on is, the less there is of that.

Virtually all of this is unconscious, especially for conservatives. I don’t see evidence that the 3 stage plan exists as such or as a sequence, but where there are elements of it it’s hidden–to those who believe it, most of all. What there is of deeply-buried faith in geoengimagical solutions is not a solution that comes out of that imaginary 3 part plan but a Hail Mary, a deep admission of complete ignorance about the functionings of, well, anything, (the black box) but especially the natural world, including ourselves.

That’s a powerful lot of healing needed for the most intransigent conservative denying delayalists. We can do some of it through community, certain kinds of education, mass use of symbols sort of in the same way and mostly in the opposite way the right has used them for 50 years, and through Gandhian direct action, meant to simultaneously provide what’s needed and heal those who stand in the way of it. We should get to it, cause geoengimagicalism ain’t gonna do it, and conservatives ain’t gonna do it except to the degree that we compel them to reexamine their entire worldviews, and that’s a tall order and a long process. Even if the best we can do is to shake their resolve in their aloneness, and even if that’s enough, it’s still a huge job. We need to start decades ago.


Deadly waste? How many people do you think spent fuel has killed anyway?

Some of the forms of nuclear under development are aimed specifically at burning and disposing of the existing stockpiles of spent fuel. Are you opposed to those as well?

You think you have good reasons for opposing nuclear power, but climate change deniers think they have good reasons for their positions too. How do you determine when you’ve gotten hold of a bad position?