How should my daughter in final year of an Arts degree in Melbourne approach the following 3000-word essay question: "Did the Green movement internationally fail to provide adequate warnings on the dangers of climate change?"
It's wrong on so many levels, I know, but she still has to submit an essay!
All help appreciated!! :)
Answer by Valiuth
I would say it is hard to imagine what more could have been done by environmentalists to push the issue. Considering that from the point of view of Global Warming people their strongest data and assertions did not come about until 90's. In fact their "consensus" wasn't reached until the mid 90's from what I understand. Give the great innertia of any movement in global politics and economics it is hard to realistically imagine being more successful. I mean attempts at limiting nuclear weapons did not really come to fruition until the 1979, almost 20 years after the first attempts at such arms reductions (SALTII) and the biggest gains were not made untill the START treat in 1991 another 12 years later.
Considering that talks about climate change did not being until really 1988 with the establishment of the IPCC, and the first treaty attempting to deal with it was not until 1997 (Kyoto) things moving faster. Simply put the early evidence was probably not conclusive enough for any one to push such concerns. The strongest way to build support for combating climate change is building up a strong portfolio of evidence supporting its existence and supporting purposed changes. This takes time! Any attempt to rush this could have led to bad science, and nothing would hurt earnest efforts more than bad science, and scientific practice.
This is the general way I would try to argue this in a back handed kind of way. Since I am rather skeptical of the merits of climate change activists. Yet, the scientific process of understanding the world still require people to put forward varying hypothesis and test them, as well as possible. So I do have respect for many climate scientists, who are earnestly supporting their theory with their best evidence.
I think most people appreciate a sober analysis. I do at least. There is no reason to have your daughter try to write a paper she won't believe in. She doesn't have to defend global warming just say whether people have done enough to make it an issue. I think they have probably done as much as they can and still retain a modicum of integrity. (That is being generous I know).
Answer by Tom Lindholtz
I've recommended it in other places, but it applies here as well. A copy of 'The Skeptical Environmentalist' by Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistics professor and founding member of greenpeace, is one of the basic tools in a conservative tool box. It covers a wide range of liberal doomsday topics and refutes them with data that is extensively footnoted to public sources. Lomborg started out to see if he could take on the Julian Simon bet that Paul Ehrlich so famously lost. Thinking he could put the position together the right way, he began studying the facts only to discover that the liberal positions are uniformly wrong. So I'd start with that.
Another place to look is at Patrick Moore's bio. He was an early member of Greenpeace also, and was the President of Greenpeace Canada. In the link Wikipedia includes this, "In 2005, Moore criticized what he saw as scare tactics and disinformation employed by some within the environmental movement, saying that the environmental movement "abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism." Moore contends that for the environmental movement "most of the really serious problems have been dealt with", seeking now to "invent doom and gloom scenarios". He suggests they romanticise peasant life as part of an anti-industrial campaign to prevent development in less-developed countries, which he describes as "anti-human". Moore was interviewed in the 2007 film documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, in which he expressed similar views. In 2007 The Guardian reported on his writings for the Royal Society arguing against the theory that mankind was causing global warming, noting his advocacy for the felling of tropical rainforests and the planting of genetically engineered crops. He has expressed his positive views of logging on the Greenspirit website. In 2010, Moore was commissioned by forestry giant Asia Pulp and Paper to report on its logging activity in Indonesia's rainforests, resulting in a glowing review."
But the question as posed asks the respondent, in essence, to prove a negative; something that is impossible to do. Your daughter could enumerate all the myriad things that the Greenies have done, but the response can always be, "Yeah, but, if they'd just done X then they would have persuaded the world." So, I'd suggest that she needs to turn the question on its head. I would re-pose the question: "The Green movement internationally provided repeated warnings in all manner of forms and media on the dangers of climate change; why have they failed to make a persuasive case?"
This can be addressed in several discrete chunks: The data have been poor, the trend is far longer than human impact can account for, the projected change is too small for people to take seriously, the change could have some beneficial impacts (like improved crop yields in presently cold regions), and so on. There are good answers for all of those points.
Answer by John Murdoch
As a generalized answer, the safe bet in any kind of an academic essay question is to
- Observe that the limitations of the format (written, verbal, video, whatever) prohibit a "seasoned observer" from fully and fairly considering the question;
- Nevertheless, you will endeavor to provide some preliminary guidance on the subject;
- In which you damn existing scholarship, such as it is, with faint praise;
- And only ever refer to any commentary that is actually on point by the surname of the lead author;
- Recite the generally-accepted "truths" about the subject;
- Pick one, and raise the question of whether or not it either (a) covers the subject in sufficient depth, or (b) goes too far;
- Depending upon whether you opted for 6a or 6b, flog the narrow subject to death, or flog the hapless author of the subject to death, using 70% of the remaining space you have;
- And conclude with a firm, ringing call for more federally-funded study of this vitally-important subject.
This approach will succeed in practically any subject of study, whether you are comparing the environment challenges of the Mexican spotted owl vs. the California spotted owl; the implications of thorium-fueled nuclear reactors for international relations and arms limitation diplomacy; or the differing stresses of tide-driven cooling on rolled steel bridge girders versus fabricated steel.