There’s a phenomenon I’ve been noticing on social media for a while now, in those sections focusing on climate change, AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), and the infantile, ideological denial thereof. The latter, the denialists, come in a variety of flavors. There are the Galactically Stupid, who insist AGW is not really happening. Press these willfully delusional intellectual children even a little bit, and they are all forced to fall back on some kind of conspiracy theory or other, since that is the only way they can dismiss the overwhelming scientific evidence proving them wrong. Yes, that’s right:
Tens of thousands of scientists, publishing of thousands of research papers, on hundreds of independent lines of evidence, in dozens of independent scientific venues, have collectively joined in an insidiously impenetrable conspiracy to foist upon the world a demagogic lie whose sole purpose is to destroy capitalism. Meanwhile, a few well-paid heroes of the proletariat struggle desperately to save the innocent fossil fuel industry from this terrible onslaught.
The second type of denialist – more popular these days given the insufferable infantilism of the pure denialist sketched above – is the “the climate is always changing” imbecile. These pathetic boobs try to dodge the indefensible nonsense of the pure denialist by hoping their audience and interlocutors are so monstrously incapable of basic cognition as to have no grasp of context and relational connections at even the most elementary level. Well, since THEY are that stupid, it is not impossible that other people are as well … It is not hard to refute such twaddle, although the vacuous twits regurgitating it are not the sorts to permit logic, principles, evidence, or facts, to interfere with their ideologically driven nonsense.
But there is a third type I’d like to devote the bulk of my attention to here. These are the sad-sacks who claim to believe in their heart-of-hearts that AGW is real, but they also believe there is no hope for mitigating the coming disasters, because the chance(s) for such mitigation are now long past. “We are all doomed, so just give up.” These are the ones I am calling the “too-late trolls.”
There are are four main possibilities here that I wish to address:
(1) What they are saying is true, and they believe what they are saying.
(2) What they are saying is false, but they believe what they are saying.
(3) What they are saying is actually true, but they don’t really believe what they are saying.
(4) What they are saying is false, and they believe it to be false.
In all four cases, the reasons for rejecting the Too-Late Trolls’ advice are compelling. Let’s look at cases #1 and #3 first, where the claim that “it is too late” is “true.” I want to look at those first, because the “true” must be scare-quoted.
Because, what does it mean to say that it is “too late”? Too late for what? Too late to save civilization as we know it? That is a silly thing to say, because it is always too late to “save” “civilization as we know it.” Every little scintilla of new information changes us irrevocably and forever. So even if we succeed in stabilizing AGW at the magical (albeit, arbitrary) 1.5o C level of warming, we will forever after know that we can change the climate of the planet. Even if we manage to forget that fact, in some catastrophe or other, that forgetting will be predicated upon the original knowing, and the civilization that originally never originally knew that reality at all will still be lost forever. There is never a return circle to zero; at most there is only ever a spiral that passes over that permanently lost zero point.
The idea that the “too late” scenario translates into a George Miller, “Mad Max”, dystopian dream – and it is a dream, as the overtly sexual elements of power and individualism of such stories all conclusively demonstrate – is a world of heroes against impossible odds proving their humanity is stronger than the world. The problem with such entertainments – besides the obvious – is that real heroism is hard, and long, and only exists in a full-throated community (not just the rag-tag collection of misfits who somehow manage to defy all obstacles, as in the movies.) If you look at the real history of Medal of Honor recipients (it is NOT an “award,” by the way. This isn’t a prize which they’ve won, but a commendation they have earned with blood), they were all persons who spent long periods of time in dedication to their community of fellow soldiers, and on the moment placed that community above themselves.
So community is indisputably the basis of heroism. But what heroism rings out from the “give up” message of the Too-Late Trolls? Even if we cannot stop AGW at the idealized1.5o C level of warming, how could this possibly justify not working to prevent the 2o C level of warming? Things keep getting worse from there, but shouldn’t we still work to stop 3o C level of warming? The Too-Late Troll has nothing to offer here since, if s/he actually believes their own spew, they can’t even distinguish between degrees of bad. People who cannot (or will not) distinguish between very real degrees, are people who have abandoned the very pretense of thought or reasoned discourse.
The above should make it clear that there is little real difference between the Tool-Late Troll theses when they are either true or false. The “true” version takes for granted a razor sharp difference in empirical fact that manifestly does not exist, making it effectively indistinguishable from the “false” version. In the instance where the Too-Late Troll’s thesis is simply false, but the Troll does not know it, then listening to the Troll would be the single most catastrophically bad choice any of us could ever make. Because in listening to the Troll, we allow ourselves to be influenced by the Troll’s “doom and gloom” story, and thus, through our inaction, make that story a reality.
Which brings us to the case where the Trolls don’t believe their own Cassandra blather. This is a very special kind of hypocrisy; I am inclined to believe that, in at least a few instances, it is also very real. Because if the Too-Late Trolls really do believe the pronouncements, then what is their motivation for saying anything at all? Obvious answers to this question include infantile “look at me-ism”. But another obvious reason is the calculated desire to undermine the movement gathering around climate change science. Such persons avoid all of the obvious responses of climate denialist trolls, since they pretend to accept the science, while still arguing for the same position as the denialists: do nothing.
Granted, this smacks more than a little bit of a conspiracy theory, but things not be so absurd as all that in order to be true. All that is required is for one denialist trolling a climate change site to pull the stunt as a joke, then share the experience on message boards at denialist sites. Others pick up the idea and try for themselves, discovering that they can continue to troll various sites without getting banned as quickly as would happen if they resorted to blatant science denial.
All of which is entirely hypothetical, of course, and not necessarily all that credible, either. I am merely speculating here at the oddity of the Too-Late Troll. The gains seem so little, and the claims so absurd.