Guest essay by Eric Worrall
President Obama has found time in his farewell speech to accuse opponents of his climate policies of not caring about science.
So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.
None of this is easy. For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.
This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.
Isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations? How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating. Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.
Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.
Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.
I would take President Obama’s appeal for more inclusiveness more seriously if he wasn’t such a hypocrite when it comes to applying the principles he claims to value. When President Obama talks about “a common baseline of facts”, he means his own view of the world.
Obama’s climate lackeys over the years have repeatedly point blank refused to engage with people [who] dispute their version of the facts. Take the following interview, in which NASA’s Gavin Schmidt refused to even sit in the same room as renowned climate skeptic Dr. Roy Spencer, because he didn’t want to talk to a scientist whose interpretation of the evidence differed from his own.
If Gavin Schmidt’s behaviour isn’t an example of “talking past” an opponent, I would like to know what is. Roy Spencer would have been happy to engage with Gavin Schmidt, it was NASA’s Gavin Schmidt who refused to engage with Roy Spencer.
President Obama never to my knowledge criticised this lack of engagement by politically favoured climate scientists. As far as I know President Obama has never sought advice from climate scientists who wanted to say things which Obama didn’t want to hear.
President Obama in my opinion only wants his opponents to acknowledge other points of view, because he is no longer in the driving seat.
President-elect Trump does listen to people whose viewpoints differ from his own – which is why Trump will be a far better President than Obama was.