Rocks & Rolls & Twists & Turns

The rocks and rolls of the climate change policy debate have taken mind-warping twists and turns in recent months.

Stop there.

Note that the reference is to climate change policy and not to science. The latter, notwithstanding doubters’ continuing insistence to the contrary, remains unaffected.

Stop there too.

“Unaffected” in so far as the trajectory of the scientific evidence goes. It continues to flash red, certainly no less than blinking bright orange. The message remains unphased by the political shenanigans that abound: Danger ahead. Proceed with caution.

Back to the policy side of the ledger, no less controversial and subject to (hopefully not endless) debate.

In this case, it’s the lexicon, the terminology, the phraseology that holds sway.

Long it has been that terms like “global warming,” “climate change,” “skeptic,” “contrarian,” and “doubter” have been compromised and deemed unworthy. Nota bene, for instance, the Kerry-Lieberman legislation introduced in the Senate: the American Power Act. Not a hint of climate change, global warming, or – excuse the lapse – “cap and trade.” Now dirty words all.

It’s all about creating jobs, energy security, safe exploration, conservation, no more BP deep-water spills.

It gets better. Though some will surely say it gets only worse. May be.

So much of the blogosphere and bandwidth now is consumed by navel-gazing and wordsmithing – “reframing” to be polite – that one wonders what might come if the same effort put into talking about the doing went instead into the actual doing.

The doing of the doing, some call it, however wistfully.

One perhaps must acknowledge here that the current communications/reframing emphasis is in some ways a perverse tribute to the confusion fostered by those most opposed to the doing.

Granted that they’ve been handed the gift of the bull in the china shop, in the form of the hacked e-mails and the recent IPCC mistakes. But tramp through the china (no pun) shop they did … and the bull (What bull!) has taken it from there.

One growing concern, too early just yet to call it a recognition, is that the whole approach to initiating a constructive and responsive policy is kaput. Busted. Outta here.

So say, for instance, some presumably pointy-headed academics and scholars who have co-authored something called the Hartwell Paper.

Stop once more.

Avoid the rush to judgment here. There are those on the policy and political sides who will quickly dismiss that start-over effort as a charade: A quicksand into which any remnant of hope for progress inevitably would sink.

That may be the case, but the involvement of some worthy minds begs more studied assessment.

All of which – ALL of which – falls to a hobbled and cobbled infrastructure of news media and other information providers to share, probe, and clarify.

Not a cheery prospect, some might think. But if they don’t do it …

Then who?

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is editor of Yale Climate Connections. (E-mail: bud@yaleclimateconnections.org).
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