All we’ve got is each other.
This is a follow on article to last week’s discussion of whether there should be some sort of umbrella organisation to represent skeptics of catastrophic global warming. I’m in favour of it and outlined my reasons in the piece. Anthony Watts referenced it when announcing the result of the poll, I think to kick off some more discussion of the idea in the light of the vote.
First off, let’s remind ourselves of the original question – “Is it time for an “official” climate skeptics organization, one that produces a policy statement, issues press releases, and provides educational guidance?”
There’s nothing there about being some sort of controlling organisation. If such a grouping does indeed come about, everyone is free to give it their support or ignore it completely. If all the power, money and influence ranged against us hardy band of skeptics couldn’t exert any control over us, then I don’t see our own organisation being any more successful with any such bizarre move.
Various objections have been raised and I’ll like to run through some of them quickly. It’d serve as central target to be attacked – yes, but we’re always under attack anyway and it would be useful PR. Global warming alarmism is already dying a slow death – true but killing it off sooner reduces the chances of it growing yet another Hydra’s head. Our current guerrilla strategy is working and therefore obviates the need for any unifying organisation – no, that approach, effective though it’s been in the past, has serious limitations going forward into the endgame. We’d need lots of money – not sure about lots but anyway, we simply divert funds from our bulging guerrilla war chests into it.
It’s perhaps my rude boy nature but the deep reservations I have about the whole thing are the darker ones nobody else seems to have thought of, or perhaps didn’t want to break ranks and articulate. If it’s to be nothing more than an ego trip for the leading figures of the skeptic blogosphere or worst of all, laying the foundations of a cult of personality, then it’s a big no thank you.
I’m sure those in favour of the idea will have their own ideas about its structure, governance, financing and what objectives it should commit itself to. After what I’d expect to be some spirited discussion but a bit of give and take, I’m confident we can settle those questions to most people’s satisfaction.
What I’d like to do here is offer some overall thoughts which might inform those discussions.
They are the imperatives I believe we should use to design any organisation around. You may agree with them or not but bear in mind that we can only realistically work with the assets to hand on any such project. We don’t have an excesses of assets, but the ones we do have tend to support the imperatives I’m thinking we have to take into consideration.
The most important one is that we need to attract as many bodies in it as we can get. If it only attracts a handful of participants or is limited to “suitably qualified” people, whatever that means, it simply won’t have the critical mass nor the legitimacy to offer a representative voice of climate skepticism. To that end, we can’t be too rigid in defining either its membership criteria or higher objectives and dare I say it with such an open approach, we might even attract some folk of a luke warmist persuasion into the fold. I see no harm in such plurality of opinion, just as long as the central scepticism about catastrophic global warming is maintained by the organisation.
It must not align itself politically. The climate debate is too often framed in terms of people’s political leanings but what’s often forgotten is the original environmental movement was apolitical, and that was one of the reasons it was so successful. It unified people of diverse viewpoints under the common objective of not trashing nature. To achieve that end, your personal politics were irrelevant. I know too many people of a leftward leaning who strongly disapprove of climate alarmism and hold their tongue, and too many people of a rightward persuasion hesitant to voice any criticism of it. We have to identify and agree that common ground. Not an easy task but certainly doable.
What seems like a long time ago, I characterised the skeptic opposition to alarmism as being essentially guerrilla warfare. All around the world are scattered bloggers, commenters and activists resisting things like windmills being forced on their community. That is a great strength which rather than abandoning it to build an overly complex hierarchical structure, we can find ways to leverage into the new organisation, make it an integral part of the thing. The imperative is to work with the assets we already have to hand. We’ll need each other and our skills even more, and I can think of several ways that can be done.
For instance, setting up an online resource pool of people asking for help or volunteering their services, utilises that huge diversity of skills, talent and experience.
If we had pool contributors prepared to translate a few leading articles into their second language, we can almost certainly widen our readership. Not everyone speaks English but for instance 1.2 billion people speak varieties of Chinese, a country noted for its hostility to climate alarmism. A quarter of the readers here come from outside the English-speaking world. I could probably do two blogs a week if a volunteer with the appropriate expertise could take some of the technical research load off me. Does someone out there want to know how to organise a local campaign? Leave a message in the resource pool and watch the help flood in. You’re a web designer or programmer with some free time you want to donate? We could certainly use your expertise.
The more you think about it, a pool of diverse expertise that we can all dip into, is a tremendous communal asset, but that’s an obvious example. We’re the lads and lassies comfortable thinking outside the box. There are many more ways of enabling the guerrillas to emerge out of the jungle at their own pace and after a few successes working together, seeing the advantages and buying into the thing.
It has to have an international flavour if it wants to attract the largest number of people. There are already some national organisations like the GWPF, and while they do a good job, an organisation based in London hardly looks relevant to someone in Brazil wanting to start something local. Initially it should be based on the web with a good spread of material that was not all aimed at one country, but there’s nothing to prevent it having offices in a few years.
If it grows, the day will come when we have to send a representative to a climate meeting abroad. Having a local member put them up and show them around would cut down on the overheads considerably. Imagine having Chris Monckton as a houseguest for a few days.
The skeptic blogosphere is habitually reactive to moves by alarmists, so unless the organisation is proactive to some degree, it’d be difficult to not see it as nothing more than a tarted up blog. There are many effective things it could do. At a low-level for instance when a person is being victimised in academia or their workplace for expressing sceptical opinions, we should publicise their story, if not give them a platform to tell it themselves. If we can’t protect our own members from eco-thuggery, what’d be the point of a central organisation?
We can run larger and very cost-effective campaigns by coordinating with the independent blogs, which will always be there. For instance, the increase in fuel poverty is rising up the political agenda across the developed world. Why not pick a week to campaign on that issue, with the independent bloggers simultaneously doing specials on that same topic in their own countries? I’m sure such an initiative would receive support and help from those various charities contending with the issue around the world. Because of an apolitical stance, it’d be easier to build mutually useful relationships with those outside organisations, who could make use of our technical expertise.
The branding and level at which materials are pitched will have to be considered carefully if we expect to attract a big readership outside the skeptic purview. If it isn’t intended for a larger audience than just the skeptic blogosphere, then you’d have to ask the question what was the supposed gain in forming it. For instance, we might be comfortable talking about PDOs, NIPCC, CRU and Maunder Minima (rather than minimums) but it’d just be gobbledegook to the average person, who’s never even heard of climategate. Yes, we need the technical detail but not on the first tier of pages on the main site.
Putting together a new umbrella group would take patience, cooperation, a willingness to compromise and a lot of hard work. Not everyone will be interested in participating for a variety of reasons. Fine, let’s go into it accepting in advance that we’ll lose some people and respecting their decision. I for one look forward to the opportunity to contribute in whatever capacity I can.
There would inevitably be vigorous discussions on the exact shape and aims of such an organisation, but what is essential is to agree the common ground, keep the focus on it and then put a huge effort into building a large and inclusive community of helping hands to build something the common person can not only relate to, but use. It won’t work any other way.
At the moment this is nothing more than a poll, which might become a proposal and then the hard work would begin.
There’s a dismal phrase we’ve all have heard so many times – “someone should do something about it.” We all know it’s a cop-out, a recognised cue, a verbal preface to a whinge which means the person saying it is really too lazy or apathetic to do anything about it themselves, because as everyone knows we’re all powerless against “them”, whoever the dreaded them is. Resistance is futile, let someone else do the work.
Irrespective of whether it might turn out to be a great success or a crash and burn experience, I’ve already made my choice but decision time has arrived for my fellow skeptics. Keep repeating that tired phrase above or become one of those someones prepared to take the risk of doing something about it.
All we’ve got is each other.
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