Sunday, November 20, 2011

What's 'In' and 'Out' in Climate Related Disasters?

Much like a fashionista's excitement for a debut of a designer's latest line, the world's climate intellectuals have waited with bated breath for the IPCC's latest review of disasters and climate change released this past Friday.

The blogs went wild, as everyone weighed in on the IPCC's qualitative judgment of science's array of argumentative points supporting and negating links (in both type and magnitude) between weather disasters, climate change and social effects.  There is much that can be said in the successes and failures of their judgment calls and the wording of their official summary that still looks like a draft (The final report is out in February.)  Such comments have been eloquently summed up with the workday's highlights here.  That the blogs buzzed in such a way with discussions of right and wrong indicates something else too... the important role the IPCC plays as purveyor of what is 'in' and 'out' in moral claims about climate change and its scientists.  

In the past, those that have discredited assessments/judgments made by the IPCC have faced great wrath from those that have sought to quell any disagreement with the entity's authoritative word in interpreting climate science.  The behavior is characteristic of any moral panic worth its salt.   In effect, the arguments the IPCC made were "in" and arguments against them or questioning them were not only out of fashion but amoral.  On Friday, the IPCC revealed a new interpretation of scientific truth.  This has changed not only what is in and out, moral and amoral, but who falls into these categories.  In an instant, the persecutors became the folk devils and now we all wear a scarlet letter.

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