OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!
from The Ballad of East and West
by Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)
Toward a conversation
Those comments deserve proper consideration in this separate post, for Matt raises the superb subject of what we ought to call each other in the climate debate. I’d like us to have a go at resolving this.
It would be especially interesting to hear from the ‘pro-AGW’ readers who have commented here lately, like the perspicacious Keith Hunter, David Winter, Matt Flaherty of course, and any others who have been just lurking until now. How would you like to be characterised, if at all?
For simplicity, there are two sides: the ‘warmists’ and the ‘deniers’; those on the one hand compelled to believe that mankind is destroying the planet and those on the other hand who cannot believe it. It’s a simplistic view which ignores the many neutral debaters on all sides and the widely varying and deeply conflicting opinions, from the painfully polite to civil disobedience fanatics, but it’s a convenient fiction for the purpose of discussion.
We need to find names for each other which disengage our egotistical triggers and let us converse reasonably on what matters.
There are deplorable epithets used on both sides which we need not rehearse here. Let’s just talk about the reasonable names. Matt introduced his thoughts with this brief comment:
For what it’s worth, my investigations are revealing to me that there are many more genuine AGW sceptics with valid arguments than I had been led to believe. I will no longer use the term denialist or denier and apologize for any offence I may have caused. In exchange I would ask that people please refrain from using the terms “warmist” or “alarmist”.
This is an important statement. It requires a man of courage and integrity to so calmly acknowledge truth in his antagonist (using ‘antagonist’ in its clinical sense of impersonal opposition) and to make such a generous concession to continue a dialogue. We have an opportunity to bring both sides together here, and removing offensive terms would be a grand beginning.
Not about each other
Of course, we only need names for a few occasions; most of the time we talk about the topic itself. We talk to each other, not so much about each other, or at least we should. But access to descriptive, neutral terms when needed would help a lot.
Matt declares himself willing to make a generous change, giving up ‘denier’ and its variants. What can we suggest for a suitable answer? What terms would we a) like to be known by and b) consider suitable for those on the other side who believe the CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) hypothesis?
What terms adequately describe each side to the other and to themselves while letting them engage intelligently and productively with the subject of global warming and its constituents and derivatives?
I had thought ‘warmist’ to be the least offensive term; perhaps it is, but Matt doesn’t want to hear it, so it must be a little annoying.
Both sides want the best name
In offering to avoid using ‘denier’ and its variants to refer to us, he hasn’t proposed a replacement. I suspect we might like ‘realist’ or ‘climate realist’ best, with ‘sceptic’ a close second.
But what to call him? He hasn’t suggested a name for himself (probably wisely, but he might yet suggest something). I see that another reader, Mike Jowsey, has proposed ‘AGW proponent’, which has merit, but which puts the warmists firmly in an activist kind of camp, not a scientific (and therefore neutral) one. I suppose ‘climate scientist’ fits only the suitably qualified on each side. I certainly oppose reserving that term for one side only.
The term AGW itself is deficient, because few sceptics doubt that there must be some level of human influence on warming (we just haven’t detected it at the global scale). Some think it essential to add the term ‘dangerous’ or ‘catastrophic’ to properly indicate the magnitude of human influence. In other words, if human activity has just a minor effect, there’s nothing to worry about; if it will cause ‘dangerous’ warming then there certainly is something to worry about.
Maybe we should call each other by the very same name, without differentiating between the two sides at all. Would that smack too much of political correctness to work?
Both sides want to be heroes; both want to save the world; both want to be right and proved right.
Both sides want the best name.
What the hell can we do about that?