Watch as a thoughtful journalist engages David Roberts of Gristmill. Roberts has been attacking Andrew Revkin for not sharing his unremitting hostility towards Bjørn Lomborg and other centrist environmentalists. For Roberts, the key issue is to marginalize and damn those who at least try to apply rigorous cost-and-benefit thinking about climate regulations, including those who accept that human-forced climate change is a reality and that a costly measure like a carbon tax is a desirable step.
The way I see it, you’re taking people on the right who are clearing a very, very low bar — acknowledging that there’s a problem and proposing to do something (albeit not much) about it — and showering them with attention and praise. But there’s a large, robust community of people that have accepted the science for a long time, and have interesting debates over the best way to proceed. Why not give them the attention? Why not locate the “center” among the actual debates taking place?
So really, the debate should be between James Hansen and David Roberts and Joseph Romm about whether to ban all coal plants now or later. To report on those like Lomborg who express skepticism about this framework without issuing stern denunciations is evidently a species of thoughtcrime.
Revkin, a journalist who clearly embraces a fairly strong brand of environmentalism (to his credit, in my view), tries to stake out a middle ground.
The real reason I feel it necessary to write about him (and a lot of my Dot Earth commentators and a heap of angry scientists thought I shouldn’t have) is that he’s been kind of an intellectual lifeboat for a lot of doubtful, disengaged or disinformed people out there. When this comfort-zone character says we need a carbon tax and a big technology push, that takes away the comfort zone for folks.
But that’s not enough for Roberts.
But you’re assuming that those people will stop using him when they find out his other positions. Surely the denial/delay community has demonstrated, if nothing else, it’s opportunism. They’ll use Lomborg for FUD, and if/when he’s no longer useful, they’ll use somebody else.
So evidently Revkin is obligated to offer a Gramscian reading of US ideological debates. This is fascinating. Better yet, Roberts believes that Revkin, someone he clearly sees as a basically sympathetic if misguided figure (which is interesting in itself), ought to minimize all mention of Lomborg and related figures.
The way I see it, you’re taking people on the right who are clearing a very, very low bar — acknowledging that there’s a problem and proposing to do something (albeit not much) about it — and showering them with attention and praise
Given that Revkin never in fact “praised” Lomborg, the problem must be that he mentioned him at all. Given that Revkin never claimed that a “centrist” position was necessarily good, it seems strange that he’s condemned for characterizing a difference-splitting position (which is in fact much closer to the environmentalist mainstream than to the climate denialists) as “centrist.”
Revkin is, for Roberts, obligated to engage in a public education campaign on behalf of a sustained campaign to sell the US public on strict environmental regulations.
I don’t envy Revkin, and he deserves our admiration and respect. Clearly he agrees with Roberts on the relevant issues. He simply believes that those he disagrees with merit some basic level of respect and consideration.
But apparently this is dangerous given that we are in a climate emergency. Similar logic has been deployed by the Bush Administration to not-salutary effect.