A symbolic battle against a way of life

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By Marita Noon

As the author of a 1998 book, “Talking So People Will Listen,” I perked up when an article within an issue of The Atlantic earlier this year was brought to my attention: “How to Talk About Climate Change So People Will Listen,” by Charles C. Mann — which offers some noteworthy insights.
Mann is obviously a believer in anthropogenic (or man-made) climate change, making his observations all the more interesting.
Much of his essay is spent deriding the left for its unrestrained rhetoric that it uses to “scare Americans into action.” He says “the chatter itself, I would argue, has done its share to stall progress.”
Within his argument is some history and context that is illustrative for those who see climate change as cyclical — something natural that has happened before and will happen again, rather than something that is new, scary and human-caused.
Those of us who believe the climate changes, but that human activity is, certainly, not the primary driver, struggle to understand the cult-like following of alarmists like Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
Mann starts his history lesson with Paul Erlich, author of “The Population Bomb” (1968), which Mann calls “a foundational text in the environmental movement.” He points out that Erlich’s “predictions didn’t pan out.”
Instead of being discredited Erlich’s work, somehow, gave birth to what Mann calls “environmental politics.”
Continuing, Mann asserts that Earth Day “became an opportunity to denounce capitalist greed.”
Using acid rain as an example, Mann points out “environmentalists meanwhile found out the problems were less dire than they had claimed” and that “today, most scientists have concluded that the effects of acid rain were overstated to begin with.”
Addressing the charts and graphs that so frequently accompany the climate change hyperbole, Mann said, “in the history of our species, has any human heart ever been profoundly stirred by a graph? Some other approach, proselytizers have recognized, is needed.”
Mann accuses McKibben of stoking concern “Erlich-style.” Mann explains “the only solution to our ecological woes, McKibben argues, is to live simpler, more local, less resource-intensive existences” — which McKibben believes “will have the happy side effect of turning a lot of unpleasant multinational corporations to ash.”
He concludes his section on McKibben with this: “McKibbenites see carbon dioxide as an emblem of a toxic way of life.”
But, Mann acknowledges “nobody seems to have much appetite for giving up the perks of an industrial civilization” that Mann calls a “boon to humankind,” for which he credits “cheap energy from fossil fuels.” He says: “an unprecedented three-century wave of prosperity” was “driven by the explosive energy of coal, oil and natural gas.”
Toward the end, Mann states “the environment has become a proxy for a tribal battle.” He doesn’t state what the tribes are, but from the preceding pages, it is clear that he means the left and the right.
Democrats and Republicans, those who want to turn corporations to ash, denounce capitalist greed and force humanity into a straitjacket of rural simplicity — and those who understand that the industrial revolution, the market economy and “cheap energy from fossil fuels” have been “an extraordinary boon to humankind.”
Yes, Mann is correct. “The environment has become a proxy for a tribal battle.”
But, as Mann points out, the climate alarmists scare tactics aren’t working — only 20 percent of likely U.S. voters believe the scientific debate about global warming is over.
He believes it is because they “don’t know how to talk about climate change.”
I believe people are smarter than he gives them credit for. They have heard the “chatter.”
They’ve seen, that the “predictions didn’t pan out.”

The author of “Energy Freedom,” Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).