Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fiorina: the next line of defense of climate denialism

The recent Republican entrant to the US presidential race gave an interview on Yahoo where she spoke about several issues, including climate change. It is an extremely interesting clip to understand what we could call a "moderate" position in the Republican field. Ms. Fiorina's statements on climate change are in this clip and are summarized in text form on Vox, with the title "everything she said was wrong." I think it is worse than that.

Ms. Fiorina is expressing what may well be the next line of defense of climate denialism. She does not flatly deny climate change, as many of her colleagues do, even though she states that it is a minor problem in comparison to others, such as terrorism. But, yes, she admits that it is a problem. So, what should be done about it? Here, Ms. Fiorina puts forward a series of lies and half truths to push for the idea that we wouldn't/shouldn't/can't/ do anything except hoping to be saved by some uspecified "innovations". Why? Because, you know, coal is too important for us, and even if we fight it, China won't. And, without coal, the economy can't work; don't you see how many jobs are being lost because of these silly environmental regulations? It is much better to work at making coal cleaner, isn't it? Besides, renewables don't work because, you know, wind turbines kill birds, they are ugly, and solar plants need a lot of water, etc...

I think that with this interview we have a glimpse of the future of the debate on climate change. As the evidence becomes undeniable, deniers will shift back to admitting that, yes, it exists and even that it may be human caused. But they will propose to do nothing about it because it is impossible/too expensive/will cause jobs to be lost, etc....  And we'll be back to square one: we'll keep doing nothing, for one reason or another.

So, the fight is still long and hard. And I am afraid that if we don't change our strategy, we are not going to win it.


  1. Looks like most of the die-hard denialists are in the US of A. But is it so? Or is it just an impression created by the world dominance of US of A related news and media?

    Seems to me that everywhere else, acceptance of science is established, at least as a lip service. But talking and acting accordingly are very different things - as I even experience concerning my own, personal behaviour.

    In any way, it is not a mere question of intelligence, I mean cognitive intelligence, but one or two layers deeper. It is really puzzling.

  2. Well, they r right in a sense that nothing can be done because
    a) 4 the present global economy cutting carbon consumption in any meaningful for global emissions and future climate way means a severe economic depression and then a systemic failure - global socio-economic collaps.
    b) cutting carbon consumption locally means next to nothing for global emissions (underconsumed carbon will be overconsumed somewhere else)

    They r wrong in a sense that there could be done something - but only while changing global socio-economic system to another one which doesn't require growth to function and which doesn't collaps without it. Capitalism cannot function without growth. So they (and not only they) just cannot accept this option. The system itself cannot accept that option - that would be a suicide. And there are no other options except running BAU as long as possible and hoping for some miracle to happen - until it can't be done.

  3. I''ve come to the realization that the people advocating for doing something about climate change share a lot of the blame for this situation. The vast majority of the talk has been about rising temperatures, a little bit of sea rise, some more hurricanes and droughts, etc., and often in isolation. Someone who does not know much about the world system, which is almost everybody, will easily brush these off as problems, but not problems of the kind that mandate a complete transformation of the socioeconomic system. Fiorina might in fact be sincere in here statements because she is probably just as (un)informed as the average person on the street -- I see Stanford and MIT degrees in her biography but those are in law and management, and after that she has had to run as fast as she could to get ahead in the Darwinian race of the corporate world. Most likely there wasn't much time to study the geological, palaeoclimatic and palaeontological history of the planet, or the rise and fall of past civilizations in between business meetings.

    So if almost nobody is talking about climate change as a cause for the collapse of civilization, even fewer are connecting it with resource depletion and other sustainability issues, and yet fewer still are noting that this will most likely be the end for advanced civilization on this planet because the resources will have been dissipated after we're done, is it any wonder that the average person cannot connect the dots from the isolated bits of information he is given and tends to brush it off as something that does not warrant a change in lifestyle?

    It's understandable why scientists and environmentalists have been reluctant to use stronger language -- after all being too extreme and claiming imminent human extinction due to methane release or something of the sort will indeed undermine your credibility, and justifiably so. But the failure to communicate to truth is no less disastrous because of that.

  4. Conservative politicians all over the world look like idiots when it comes to climate. How many actually fully acknowledge the science and the need for sweeping changes? None.

  5. I am for raising the cost of carbon through a carbon tax that starts out with a ratcheting upwards mechanism to make carbon energy ten times more expensive over ten years. The revenue should be used for financing "innovations" in renewable energy and renewable fuels including fuels from hemp, along with financing the ten year long transition removing fossil fuels from cars and light trucks.

    The USA took about a year to convert automobile manufacturing to military equipment in WW2, so don't tell us that the USA could not convert cars to at a minimum plug-in hybrids running on renewable fuels in extended range mode.

    Now that the greed-heads have denied the advancing climate disaster until the effects are becoming undeniable.

    AND NOW... They want to tell us that it is too late and too expensive to do anything about it now!


  6. Ciao professore,

    My bet is that the conservatives will completely deny the problem and the electorate will let them get away with it for quite a while longer. Perhaps we will completely skip the "how we do avoid it" phase and jump straight to the "who gets the money to mitigate it" phase.

    That said, the "technology will solve this" argument is very alluring, particularly if you have a connection to Silicon Valley. So far, technology has always been one step ahead of disaster, so that we didn't have mass starvation in the 19th century, or run out of oil in the 1970s. But was Malthus wrong, or just 200 years ahead of his time?

    Something I do not understand is whether we would have a better chance to developing clean energy sources if we invested more in pure R&D at the national level. The SUA put a huge amount of our national GNP into both the Manhattan Project and the Moonshot.

    Why can't we do that for clean energy?

  7. There are many ways of being in climate and resource depletion denial but whatever one says our real beliefs are betrayed by our actions. If we are not personally doing everything we can to reduce our resource use then we will be perceived as (and really are) just some clown in a theatre screaming FIRE! without even getting up from our own seat. The rest of the crowd will just figure we want a better view.

    So get started, we all have a long and difficult learning process ahead of us, most of it will be about changing our lifestyles, little about buying 'greener' technology, and you are the only one you can count on to start making changes. Do not expect of yourself to get directly to zero, just start. The good news is that most everything we learn will serve us well as we try to survive in the deepening consequences of our specie's conduct.

    Rob Rhodes, Canada

  8. Carly Fiorina the woman who as chief executive officer and chairman at Hewlett-Packard nearly destroyed it now tryes to destroy the planet?
    Very likely if she will be appointed President of USA.

    Prof. Bardi let be serius please and get rid of that caricature!



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)