“Unpublished” Interview with Pielke Jr. on Climate and the Typhoon

David Beebe made some statements implying attribution of the recent typhoon to climate change here, which reminded me that I thought these comments by Roger Pielke, Jr. on his blog to be of interest to us. First, there are similarities between the disasters we deal with (fires and floods) and other disasters.

I especially like these quotes:

Disasters are well understood to be consequences of human development (As Gilbert White used to say, extremes are acts of God, disasters are acts of Man) — where we live, how we live, etc. So you could say that a disaster is 100% human caused. At the same time, without the extreme event there wouldn’t have been a disaster either. So you could say that the disaster was 100% natural caused. Not sure this is a useful question, though I do understand the urge to assign blame. A better question is, what actions can we be taken so that future storms have a lesser human impact?

and (shades of our discussions about people simply moving out of wildfire country)

The same question could be asked of Miami, San Francisco, Tokyo, or Boulder etc etc. As Dennis Mileti used to say, we cannot avoid disasters, but we can shape how we experience disasters. The Philippines are always going to experience tropical cyclones, some very extreme. Similarly, San Francisco is always going to experience earthquakes. The questions to be asked well before an event occurs (or in the aftermath of the most recent event) are how do we want to experience those disasters, and what can we do to shape those experiences via purpose action (which invokes issues of wealth, politics. capacity, etc.)?

and Roger suggests something that is always wise to do:

Again, rather than speculate we should await rigorous post-disaster assessments. These are important questions that deserve thoughtful approaches.

Sound familiar? But going back to the Gilbert White quote, the idea that extremes are now thought by some to be themselves “Acts of Man” leaves the Deity out of the equation entirely (I wonder how She feels about that? ;)).

Those of us who are familiar with historical prophets may feel a resonance with “repent or God will destroy the world,” to “repent or Humanity will destroy the world.” I wonder whether, if given the facts of the situation, it’s ultimately brain chemistry that determines whether you tend to trust that people (aligned with Spirit, if that’s your belief system), will ultimately prevail in making a better world, or not. Many of us on the blog are old enough to remember that we were thought to be close to nuclear annihilation at one time. Is some level of fear of the future a part of human brain wiring, and the space is filled by “sinners” “nuclear warfare” “climate change” depending on who gets closest to the media with their fears? Is there a “right” balance to living in the moment and planning for the future? Do certain personality types tend to focus on the current versus the future? Where does “planning for” cross the line into “worrying about”? (Hmm.. that was pretty philosophical).

Also of interest is the way the interviewer asks questions and Roger pushes back when he thinks they are “ill-posed.” Harder to be that quick in a real time interview than a written one.

Anyway, I lifted these from two comments (4 and 6) to this post of his. Sorry, it wasn’t clear how to link directly to his comments in Blogger.

Seth Borenstein of AP sent me an email asking some questions, my quotes didn’t make it into his story, but here they are:

Here are ten questions:
1. What human factors do you see in play here in Typhoon Haiyan?

RP: If you are referring to the physical qualities of Haiyan, then I will defer to the recent IPCC AR5: “In summary, this assessment does not revise the SREX conclusion of low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.”

That means that the scientific evidence does not presently support claims of attribution of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on tropical cyclone behavior with respect to century-long trends (much less the behavior of individual storms). The IPCC AR5 cites some of our peer-reviewed work in its report (Weinkle et al. 2012, Journal of Climate).

Our peer-reviewed work suggests that assuming model predictions for future changes in tropical cyclone behavior are perfectly accurate (for a range of models) that it will be many decades, even centuries, before such a signal can be detected in trend data. More generally, I have written: “In practical terms, on timescales of decision making a signal that cannot be seen is indistinguishable from a signal that does not exist”

Of course, there are scientists willing to go beyond what can be supported empirically to make claims at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus on this subject — e.g., Mann, Francis, Masters are always good for inscrutable and unsupportable quotes. Such outlier views are welcomed, as help to push science forward. But they are also a minefield for journalists, politicians and activists who may cherry pick them as if they are somehow representative.

2. What about poverty and coastal development? How much of those were as factors?

RP: In general there is an inverse relationship between loss of life and property damage. The wealthier nations become the less loss of life in big disasters (again, in general). At the same time, more wealth also means more property damage.

While the details of Haiyan’s course of death and destruction will have to await post-disaster assessment, what we can say is that the development of warning systems and responses have led to a dramatic decrease in loss of life to tropical cyclones (and disasters generally) around the world. See:http://www.jpands.org/vol14no4/goklany.pdf

Haiyan, and events like it, tell us that there is still much work to do in addressing vulnerability to disasters. The long-term trends tell us that we have a sense of what actions will be effective in that work.

3. How about construction quality or is this a case with winds (depending on who is measuring) of 150 or 200 mph, is construction no longer an issue?

RP: Construction quality, including standards, enforcement, etc. is always going to be important in locations exposed to high winds. When the intensity is such that it exceeds building capacity to withstand, then it is important to have plans in place for evacuation to safe zones or shelters. To suggest in any situation that “construction is no longer an issue” is probably the wrong way to think about the challenge – construction always matters.

4. What about disaster preparations, quality or lack thereof, as a factor?

RP: The Philippines have centuries of experience with typhoons and the tragedies that can result. The specific lessons from Haiyan (Yolanda there) should await a careful assessment of what worked well and what might be improved. It is premature to speculate.

5. What about sea level rise, especially that attributed to climate change?

RP: Sea level rise is inexorable and relatively slow in comparison to the surges associated with tropical cyclones. It is important to be aware of, especially in the context of long-term planning. It is not possible to identify a “sea level rise” signal in historical normalized losses from tropical cyclones, and of course, not a GHG-driven sea-level rise signal. More generally, when we are talking about 5 meter storm surges, I am not convinced that 3 mm/year of sea level rise is a big issue in the magnitude of disaster losses (because building and adaptation along the coast is continuous and in the context of where the sea is presently), even though sea level rise is (again) real and important to consider in long-term planning and will have economic and social consequences.

6. When you look at all the human factors and then look at all the natural factors, what percentage would you put at human-caused (including poverty, development, population, preparation, construction, and climate change related) and what part natural? And why?

RP: Sorry, I don’t understand this question? What part of what?

Disasters are well understood to be consequences of human development (As Gilbert White used to say, extremes are acts of God, disasters are acts of Man) — where we live, how we live, etc. So you could say that a disaster is 100% human caused. At the same time, without the extreme event there wouldn’t have been a disaster either. So you could say that the disaster was 100% natural caused. Not sure this is a useful question, though I do understand the urge to assign blame. A better question is, what actions can we be taken so that future storms have a lesser human impact?

7. This is an area that normally gets more tropical cyclones than anywhere else in the world and generally stronger ones. And the Philippines are 7000 islands smack in the middle, how much of this is unavoidable? And when we talk unavoidable, what about just avoiding living in dangerous places, does this count?

RP: The same question could be asked of Miami, San Francisco, Tokyo, or Boulder etc etc. As Dennis Mileti used to say, we cannot avoid disasters, but we can shape how we experience disasters. The Philippines are always going to experience tropical cyclones, some very extreme. Similarly, San Francisco is always going to experience earthquakes. The questions to be asked well before an event occurs (or in the aftermath of the most recent event) are how do we want to experience those disasters, and what can we do to shape those experiences via purpose action (which invokes issues of wealth, politics. capacity, etc.)?

8. There’s also a few human factors that lessen disasters _ warning, good construction, disaster preparations, etc. What were their roles here?

RP: Again, rather than speculate we should await rigorous post-disaster assessments. These are important questions that deserve thoughtful approaches.

9. In this case did human factors that lessen disasters outweigh or come close to outweighing human factors that exacerbate disasters? And why?

RP: Ill posed .. see #6.

10. In general, looking at the last decade of mega-disasters worldwide, are human factors worsening or lessening disaster effects? And why?

RP: Overall, globally and over decades, disasters from weather events are resulting in lower damages per unit of GDP and less loss of life. This is a sign that the world is collectively doing better. Events like Haiyan remind us that there is a lot of work still to do, and other very large, consequential disaster events (Japan and Boxing day tsunamis, etc.) also remind us that the human toll can still be very tragic. In this sense disasters are too important to merely serve as a talking point in the debate over climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

11 Comments

  1. Sharon,
    You’re covering a lot of sketchy territory here that hadn’t occurred with invocations of God, psychoanalytic speculation as to whether certain personalities are disposed to ” trust” and all, but speaking of trust and quoting Roger Pielke Jr. (as if he wasn’t once on the Heartland Institute’s Experts” list of Climate Denier/Skeptics.) is really over the top.
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/05/09/481348/roger-pielke-jr-is-an-official-expert-for-heartland-institute/

  2. David, I don’t think my speculation can be “psychoanalytic” as I am not a Freudian see Wikipedia here. And I don’t believe in using “ad hominem” arguments, see Wikipedia here. I think it’s important what someone’s background is, to give context, but “Joe says bad things about Roger” seems pretty ad hominem to me.

    Your cite was to Joe Romm, for heaven’s sake. In 2011 here’s a Roger post about Joe called “Joe Romm Lies” http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/05/joe-romm-lies.html

    Joe is not exactly a trustworthy source of info, especially on the topic of Roger.

  3. Sharon,
    I’ll read your link, but first, Im trying to figure out how the screenshot of the “Heartland Expert” featuring Roger Pielke Jr. isn’t true because Joe Romm posted it? (To use your words back at ‘cha, “seems pretty ad hominem to me.” — to say nothing of your statement, “Joe is not exactly a trustworthy source of info, especially on the topic of Roger.”)

    The rest of Romm’s post went to creditable lengths to cite Pielke’s curious response. So what precisely is untrustworthy about Romm’s post of this event then?

  4. David, sorry I was unclear. Here’s my logic path.
    Roger made claims in the interview I posted.
    You are free to criticize those claims.
    You can say “I don’t trust Roger as a credible source due to his background.”
    But you cited something else about Roger (Romm’s claims) as being relevant. That’s the part that seems ad hominem to me. I can’t keep track of all the reasons various people in the climate biz critique each others’ opinions. I’d like to keep us to discussions of a) Roger’s specific claims in this piece, or b) facts about his background that affect his ability to make claims (technically). Otherwise we could open up Joe’s and Roger’s entire lives for review. Which is neither helpful nor particularly interesting to do, IMHO.

    So which claims made by Roger do you disagree with and why?

  5. This interesting post’s focus on whether natural disasters are god-caused or man-caused recalled to mind a tidbit about the deep history of modern views of such events. I remembered, from a time more than a few years ago, being stopped cold at page seven of Paul Schrecker’s book, Work & History: An Essay on the Structure of Civilization (1948). In the course of a discussion of the difference between the “history of nature” and the “history of civilization,” Schrecker made what struck me then – and still strikes me now – as a remarkable point about the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. “Why did this disaster play a greater part in human history than, for instance, the earthquake of San Francisco, which destroyed more human lives and work? One could pointedly state that the historic impact caused by the earthquake in Lisbon was by no means its destructive effect, but the fact that in an epoch of free-thinking and enlightenment it again raised the theodicy problem. Fires, pestilence, and floods had ravaged Europe throughout the preceding centuries. They were then considered divine punishments imposed by God’s inscrutable will, and did not take on the importance of historic events. Such justification of evil in the world could no longer be accepted by the second half of the eighteenth century. The first spectacular natural calamity occurring in the Age of Reason therefore provoked a rediscussion on the fundamental problems concerning man’s relation to nature, in which philosophers like Voltaire, Kant, and other leading thinkers partook; it was this intellectual effort which singled out the earthquake from among similar disasters. The even in the history of civilization thus proves here, too, not to have been identical with a change in nature; it was rather the spontaneous human reaction to this change which constituted the historical event.” Since then, others have suggested that the Lisbon quake was western civilization’s first “natural disaster” – in the sense that the Enlightenment’s philosophes for the first time gained significant “ownership” of the phenomenon’s cultural interpretation, now suggesting natural, secular, and physical explanations in the place of a vengeful deity. Old memories.

    • Excellent point, Ron! Indeed, some people still want a “faith-based” policy of land management, considering that “whatever happens” is always a good thing, within the framework of “Mother Nature”. Particularly disturbing is the idea that man-caused wildfires are always bad, while nature-caused wildfires are always good. The Rim Fire, before the information about its ignition was released, was being considered a good thing, by some. Once the cause was released, people were saying how horrible the fire was, and that the responsible party should be punished severely. “Natural” ignitions happen all the time in the Yosemite area, with tree ring data showing that fires burned about every 10 years. In reality, there is little difference between the two types of ignitions. in such areas.

  6. Sharon,
    Sorry too, that I wasn’t clear when I asked, “So what precisely is untrustworthy about Romm’s post of this event then?” I should’ve made clear I expected a good faith, straightforward answer.

    With all due respect, I believe the question is valid, but you have refused to answer it. This is consistent with a history on this blog of your tendency to make unsupported statements and then apologetically backing off from them by refusing to answer logical, straightforward questions arising from your statements.

    Again, I ask you, what is untrustworthy about Romm’s post linking Pielke as a “Heartland Expert?”
    (please answer )

    That Joe Romm noted Roger Pielke on the Heartland Institute list of experts is not the issue at all. In fact it was likely Pielke himself who provided, or gave permission, for his picture and bio to be used for the “Heartland Expert,” page. After all, Pielke is on record stating, “If they chose to highlight me as an expert, that is their business.”

    Business indeed.
    Such as Heartland’s “nonprofit” business of using funds from ExxonMobil and other environmental criminals to obfuscate international scientific consensus on climate change (for instance) by launching a national ad campaign comparing the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski to those who accept climate science consensus or report on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heartland_Institute

    This parallels the Heartland business of using funds from Philip Morris, Altria and Reynolds American and other merchants of death and disease to publicly obfuscate established medical consensus on the firsthand and secondhand effects of tobacco smoke.
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heartland_Institute )

    This has been covered in the 2010 book, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming,” written by the American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, who examine the parallels between the climate change debate and earlier controversies over tobacco smoking, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer.
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchants_of_Doubt )

    You ask, “So which claims made by Roger do you disagree with and why?”

    Not being a climate scientist myself, I do my best to understand the arguments of minority outliers of climate science (denialists like Pielke championed by “trained scientists” such as yourself), by comparing his denial of AGW with the international consensus. Given what is at stake, (a timely, dramatic reversal of business as usual in regards to GHG emissions is necessary in order to avert the high likelihood of “irreversible, catastrophic, climate change,”) outlier denialists such as yourself and Pielke publicly market doubt to the benefit of the corporations profiting from GHG emissions. Corporations which practice environmentally destructive timber extraction.

    This helps me to understand why you categorically reject the ethical dimensions of climate denialism.
    (You don’t happen to smoke cigarettes too, do you?)

    • David,

      I posted a piece about disasters and quoted Roger. You are free to disagree with Roger’s claims. But when you bring up any other disagreement between Roger and Joe, in my opinion, that is not related. If you think it is related, well, I disagree with you. Which means that I am not going to read about this other disagreement and form my own impression.

      “Denialist” is not an accurate presentation of my nor Roger’s views. In fact, even relatively careless people don’t call him a “denier” but rather a “darling of the denier community” , e.g. http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-good-science-makes-one-darling-of.html)

      Anyway, sticks and stones .. if anyone is curious about my views, as I’ve stated before, they are pretty much in line with the Hartwell Paper, here.
      Here’s a quote from the Executive Summary (my italics):

      However, there are many other reasons why the decarbonisation of the global economy is highly desirable. Therefore, the Paper advocates a radical reframing – an inverting – of approach: accepting that decarbonisation will only be achieved successfully as a benefit contingent upon other goals which are politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic.

      The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever their cause may be.

      It explains radical and practical ways to reduce non-CO2 human forcing of climate. It argues that improved climate risk management is a valid policy goal, and is not simply congruent with carbon policy. It explains the political prerequisite of energy efficiency strategies as a first step and documents how this can achieve real emissions reductions. But, above all, it emphasises the primacy of accelerating decarbonisation of energy supply.

      This calls for very substantially increased investment in innovation in non-carbon energy sources in order to diversify energy supply technologies. The ultimate goal of doing this is to develop non-carbon energy supplies at unsubsidised costs less than those using fossil fuels. The Hartwell Paper advocates funding this work by low hypothecated (dedicated) carbon taxes. It opens discussion on how to channel such money productively.

      To reframe the climate issue around matters of human dignity is not just noble or necessary. It is also likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness -which has failed and will continue to fail.

      The Hartwell Paper follows the advice that a good crisis should not be wasted.

      I don’t reject (let alone “categorically”) any ethical dimensions; rather I disagree with you on policy (although we do agree on our distaste for REDDs).

  7. ” Which means that I am not going to read about this other disagreement and form my own impression.”

    Hmm. Something tells me you’ve already read about this disagreement Sharon and formed your impression; you are familiar with “The Merchants of Doubt”; and I understand your reluctance to answer my question. You would rather leave Romm out of this, as he is a formidable force in exposing Pielke, et al. to the light of day.

    (from, http://thinkprogress.org/person/joe/ )
    “Joe Romm is a Fellow at American Progress and is the Founding Editor of Climate Progress, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called “the indispensable blog” and Time magazine named one of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010.” In 2009, Rolling Stone put Romm #88 on its list of 100 “people who are reinventing America.” Time named him a “Hero of the Environment″ and “The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger.” Romm was acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, where he oversaw $1 billion in R&D, demonstration, and deployment of low-carbon technology. He is a Senior Fellow at American Progress and holds a Ph.D. in physics from MIT.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    ” It is now plain that it is not possible to have a ‘climate policy’ that has emissions reductions as the all encompassing goal.” (Hartwell Paper, Executive Summary)

    ‘Those of us who are familiar with historical prophets may feel a resonance with “repent or God will destroy the world,” to “repent or Humanity will destroy the world.”’ (Sharon Friedman)

    “It is also likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness -which has failed and will continue to fail.” (Hartwell Paper)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Thanks Sharon.
    This helps explain where you acquired your criticism of the ethical dimensions of climate change and
    your curious invocation of “sinfulness.” However, I (like many of your readers no doubt), have NEVER encountered invocations of “sinfulness” in any reputable treatise on how to achieve a timely reversal of our present policy path towards planetary annihilation.

    The Hartwell Paper’s Executive Summary invokes “sinfulness” as an unfortunate distraction, an illegitimate claim, and an unnecessary straw man argument by invoking the definition of sinful, (i.e. violations of “God’s will”) in its counterclaim against the inevitable accounting of which corporations are responsible for most of the planet’s GHG emissions.

    As it turns out, a recent study has determined just that though:

    “A new study, meanwhile, shows just 90 corporations have been responsible for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution began in 1854. According to the Climate Accountability Institute, half of all emissions have been produced in the past 25 years. The top corporate polluters are Chevron, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, BP and Gazprom.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/20/90-companies-man-made-global-warming-emissions-climate-change

    I couldn’t help but notice the Hartwell Paper is financed through the generous efforts of free-market fundamentalists and strident industrialist opponents of the Kyoto Protocol agreement.

    (Principal Funding was provided by the Japan Iron and Steel Federation, Tokyo, Japan and Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc., Tokyo, Japan , the Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York and the Fondation Hoffmann, Geneva).

    This brings to mind Donald Brown’s spot-on observation of the role of free-market fundamentalist ideologies in his response to the NYT oped failure to acknowledge, “ethical objections to a nation basing its climate policies on cost-benefit analyses.” (Donald Brown, Scholar in Residence, Widener University School of Law, climateethics.org)

    Donald Brown pointed out,
    “One of the reasons why there has been a widespread failure of citizens to understand their ethical responsibilities to reduce the threat of climate change is because free-market fundamentalist ideologies have successfully framed the climate change debate as a matter of economic interest rather than global responsibility.”

    (btw, despite your above claim of abstinence in the use of ad hominem — ” I don’t believe in using “ad hominem” arguments” — that claim is belied by your ad hominem attack on Donald Brown, whom you asserted was, “claiming superior moral authority.”) Your categorical (defined as, “unambiguously explicit and direct”) refusal to entertain the ethical obligations invoked by Donald Brown stated,

    “… my experience has been that people are more successful in changing peoples’ views by standing in the trenches with people, and listening to them, (sic) than claiming superior moral authority. But perhaps that’s just my experience.”

    Your citation of the Hartwell Paper as your policy statement of choice, if anything, serves for us all to understand precisely WHICH people you are “listening to” and given the economic profiles of the funders of the Hartwell Paper, their free market fundamentalist ideologies, and their central roles in generating AGW, profiting from AGW, and opposing Kyoto, something tells me your “experience” is anything but, “standing in the trenches.”

    Perhaps you meant “standing with the entrenched,” like Pielke and his free marketeer fans? Otherwise, as a scientist professing objectivity how can you cite Pielke calling Romm “a Liar,” without understanding Romm’s concerns?

    Could it be that Romm has previously tied two authors of the Hartwell Paper (Nordhaus and Shellenberger of Breakthrough Institute) with the quintessential neoliberal free marketeers, the American Enterprise institute?

    “Excerpt: Recently, the Breakthrough Institute launched a major attack on energy efficiency. They used talking points that right-wing think tanks have pushed for years (see The intellectual bankruptcy of conservatism: Heritage even opposes energy efficiency). This shouldn’t be terribly surprising to longtime followers of TBI. After all, last year they partnered with a right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, to push right-wing energy myths and attack the most basic of clean energy policies, a clean energy standard.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/02/15/207530/the-breakthrough-institute-attack-energy-efficiency-clean-energy-backfire-rebound-effect/

    And lastly, I’d like to address the Hartwell Paper’s unsurprising support for the corporate carbon producers receiving the benefits of “carbon taxes” in stark contrast to James Hansen’s carbon tax model which would have those tax revenues go straight to the public. The Hartwell Paper’s authors clearly misrepresented the public’s likely reaction to carbon taxes by being the recipient of carbon tax revenues and by ignoring Hansen’s model entirely.

    Like I said, this is not surprising.

  8. David, I am not critiquing Donald Brown in his personhood, nor worrying about who funds him and their ideologies.
    But let me very clear. When he says in that quote

    “One of the reasons why there has been a widespread failure of citizens to understand their ethical responsibilities to reduce the threat of climate change is because free-market fundamentalist ideologies have successfully framed the climate change debate as a matter of economic interest rather than global responsibility.”

    I believe that citizens understand ethical responsibilities but do not agree with certain policies (say cap’n’trade) to reduce climate change. Because many of them have seen what markets did in terms of regulation of financial markets.. not so much.. and leading to much corruption and personal disasters for people at the bottom of the pigpile. So his claim that when people reject market-based approaches to policy they are actually being misled by the framing of “free-market fundamentalists” seems difficult to accept.

    Perhaps Mr. Brown would be more successful in his dealings with “the public” if rather than berating them, he would consider following Pinchot’s Maxims:

    A public official is there to serve the public and not to run them.

    Public support of acts affecting public rights is absolutely required.

    It is more trouble to consult the public than to ignore them, but that is what you are hired for.

    Find out in advance what the public will stand for. If it is right and they won’t stand for it, postpone action and educate them.

    Use the press first, last, and all the time if you want to reach the public. Get rid of the attitude of personal arrogance or pride of attainment or superior knowledge.

    Learn tact simply by being absolutely honest and sincere, and by learning to recognize the point of view of the other man and meet him with arguments he will understand.

    Don’t make enemies unnecessarily and for trivial reasons. If you are any good, you will make plenty of them on matters of straight honesty and public policy, and you need all the support you can get.

    To say that people who disagree with you misunderstand their “ethical responsibilities” sounds like Mr. Brown is claiming to know more about their ethical responsibilities than they do. It could appear to some to be the “personal arrogance” Pinchot eschews. No one likes to be lectured to by someone who claims to have higher moral authority. People who actually have higher moral authority generally find they don’t need to lecture people, as people come to them and ask questions.

    Many people have grown up in spiritual traditions and deal with ethical decisions and dilemmas in that context. I am always wary when folks with different backgrounds wander into the field of advising people on their morality. Here’s his CV. http://law.widener.edu/Academics/Faculty/ProfilesHbgAdj/BrownDonaldA.aspx

    Note, I am not criticizing him for doing this (he is a beloved child of Gaia, as we all are). I am just saying I do not accept his view that he knows more about the ethics of citizens than they do.

    • Sharon,
      I have to wonder what segment of the “public” you are speaking for in your critique of Donald Brown’s style. But as an important teacher, I appreciate this lesson from you.

      I find it fascinating that we can agree on the industry’s market based (false) solutions, (i.e. the rigged games of carbon credits as derivative financial instruments, REDD, CDM, etc.); we can agree on the necessity of a regulatory imposition of a carbon tax as a solution to reducing carbon emissions; but we differ significantly on WHERE the revenues of the carbon tax should be distributed.

      There could hardly be a more perverse logic than that of the Hartwell Paper’s advocacy for awarding the biggest free market (aka, anti-regulatory) carbon polluters (and saboteurs of international climate agreements) with carbon tax revenues. This continues the long storied pattern of paying ransom demanded by free marketeers as recidivist environmental criminals and global extortionists.

      This, in contrast to Hansen, et al.’s model of directly distributing the carbon tax revenues back to the public (a brilliantly conceived tax model far more likely to be accepted by a directly benefited public.) This also neatly fits into the universally recognized ethical premise of reparations going to the victims rather than the criminals.

      Thanks, also, for helping me to understand how “people who disagree” with Donald Brown’s thesis of “ethical responsibilities” are disposed to ignore the substance of ethics on the basis of personal interpretations of style. (aka, “shoot the messenger”)

      There is nothing in that isolated quote that isn’t true, but you prefer to morph the discussion of the substance of it into a discussion of style you label as “arrogance.” (But then ironically, see no issue of demonstrated arrogance on your part by calling into question Donald Brown’s credentials?)

      This is representative of many disturbing undertones on this blog implying one has to be properly credentialed in order for what is said to be awarded credence. Worse yet, even when credentials are present, complete with effusive notable accolades such as Joe Romm’s, there exists an outright refusal to entertain the merits of even his point of view.

      (just sayin’ as a lowly un-credentialed member of the public in the trenches )

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