New York Times: Global Warming Scare Tactics
This article confirms what I've been arguing for some time now:
... evidence that a fear-based approach backfires has grown stronger. A frequently cited 2009 study in the journal Science Communication summed up the scholarly consensus. “Although shocking, catastrophic, and large-scale representations of the impacts of climate change may well act as an initial hook for people’s attention and concern,” the researchers wrote, “they clearly do not motivate a sense of personal engagement with the issue and indeed may act to trigger barriers to engagement such as denial.” In a controlled laboratory experiment published in Psychological Science in 2010, researchers were able to use “dire messages” about global warming to increase skepticism about the problem.
Many climate advocates ignore these findings, arguing that they have an obligation to convey the alarming facts. ...
... What works, say environmental pollsters and researchers, is focusing on popular solutions. Climate advocates often do this, arguing that solar and wind can reduce emissions while strengthening the economy. But when renewable energy technologies are offered as solutions to the exclusion of other low-carbon alternatives, they polarize rather than unite.
One recent study, published by Yale Law School’s Cultural Cognition Project, found that conservatives become less skeptical about global warming if they first read articles suggesting nuclear energy or geoengineering as solutions. Another study, in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2012, concluded that “communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society” rather than “on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.” ...
There is going to be substantial economic growth in coming years. Presently, the global median income is about $1,000 per year. If we were to freeze the economy as is (impossible, but work with me here) we would have two alternatives: 1) leave billions living in poverty while a minority live with much higher income, or 2) balance out global income to about $7,000 a year, meaning the standard of living of people in advanced nations would drop to a fraction of current standards. The first is immoral and the second, short of global totalitarian government, isn't going to happen. Therefore, there will be growth, growth will require energy, and present forms of energy are carbon based.
If we are serious about carbon being a problem and about the realities I just described exist, then we will pragmatically find ways to reduce carbon in ways that honor these realities, not just throw out idealistic ideas and scream "anti-science" and "denier" when people balk at them. The unwillingness of so many activists to pursue pragmatic solutions is to me one of the biggest indicators that this is more about ideological demagoguing in pursuit of other ends than it is about addressing any truly imminent threat.
My thoughts are that we need to work toward greater energy efficiency in both production and in final products. We need to ramp up use of natural gas as an intermediate energy source. It is still a fossil fuel but produces much less CO2. That would buy us more time to build more nuclear power plants and to bring renewable energy technology to a level where it will be able to make a cost-effective contribution.
Furthermore, while there is scientific certainty that humans have an impact on climate, the climate's sensitivity to human influence is not so clear. Neither are the environmental impacts clear. Buying more time allows us to improve our understanding of the climate, helping us better understand the risks and benefits involved. In essence we, are talking about prudence and risk management.