"READING HIS local newspaper last month, Bruce, a 70-year-old retired
executive, could take it no longer. “Almost every article” on Nola.com—website
of the Times-Picayune, New Orleans’s paper of record since 1837—had “an element
of Wokeism”, he wrote in an email cancelling his subscription. Among those
elements, he objected especially to references to climate change, an issue that
he considered “had not been empirically established”.
“Case in point: It’s August 23rd and there is no tropical activity presently
being monitored in the Atlantic or the Caribbean,” he wrote. “But just a couple
of weeks ago Nola.com advised that we should be ready for a higher-than-normal
level of tropical activity this season—due to Climate Change.” As Bruce was
desperately manning the defences of his home this week against the severe
flooding wrought by one of the fiercest tropical storms on record to hit
Louisiana, your columnist got in touch to ask whether he had revised his
Not a bit. Louisiana had had bigger hurricanes than Ida, he said. His house on
the Bogue Falaya River was flooded in 2016. And though he didn’t claim to
understand storms, Bruce (who asked for his surname to be withheld because he
feared retribution from the federal flood-insurance agency) felt scientists
didn’t either. He did not deny climate change was happening. But he believed it
was “on a longer cycle” than that described by scientists and journalists, whom
he accused of trying to “divide people”.
It was once hoped that as Americans started to experience global warming’s
devastating effects they would become more accepting of climate science. But as
Bruce and millions like him illustrate, this is not happening. After four years
of warming-related tempests in the south-east and infernos out west, public
opinion has hardly budged. Six in ten Americans think global warming is
anthropogenic and already manifest, and want drastic cuts in fossil-fuel use.
The rest, a group that represents a majority of Republican voters, say the
opposite, come fire or high water.
This capacity for motivated reasoning is losing its power to amaze. Every day
brings reports of Trump voters denouncing covid-19 vaccines on their covid-19
deathbeds. By comparison, the complacency the same voters show towards the
impacts of warming is almost rational. Bruce believes in hurricanes. He just
doesn’t believe climate change is making them more frequent or fiercer; so why
should a bad storm, or several, make him think differently? Especially—as
covid-19 also shows—because people normalise extreme circumstances. In a
seminal study of white conservatives in coastal Louisiana, the sociologist
Arlie Russell Hochschild asked how they reconciled their loathing of
environmental regulation with living in one of the most polluted areas of the
country. Part of the explanation was that they grew used to the pollution.
Unlike the maligned frog, which will try to flee a dangerously high temperature
however gradually it has been raised, humans are liable to wallow and boil."
Via Robert Sanscartier.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics