Turbulence and shifting gusts of hot air: the forecast for perceptions of "scientific consensus" in response to NAS geoengineering reports
They aren’t the first National Academy of Sciences Reports to call for stepping up research on geoengineering, but the ones the Academy issued Tuesday are definitely raising both the volume and intensity of this recommendation.
In response, I predict an interesting counter-reaction by many of the advocacy groups involved in promoting graeater public engagement with climate science.
A prominent if not dominant stance among such groups, I’m guessing, will be to dismiss geoengineering as impractical, dangerous, futile, etc.
And impolitic as well: triggering an outcome referred to as "moral hazard" (an inapt label, given the established meaning of this term in economics), talk of geoengineering, it is asserted, will lull people into believing climate change can be met w/o significant changes in their lifestyle, thereby dissipating the groundswell of popular support (?!) for restrictions on use of carbon-emitting greenhouse gasses.
I’m guessing that we'll see this reaction, first, because that’s already how many climate-policy advocates have reacted whenever anyone mentions geoengineering.
And I’m guessing this is what we'll see, second, b/c such a reaction would be in keeping with dynamics of cultural cognition generally and with studies of geoengineering and perceptions of “scientific consensus” in particular.
Just the day before yesterday (we take seriously our commitment to our 14 billion regular blog subscribers to be as topical as possible!), CCP’s study "Geoengineering and Climate Change Polarization: Testing a Two-Channel Model of Science Communication" was published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
It reports the results of a two-nation—US and England—experiment that found that subjects who learned of scientist’ call for research into geoengineering were in fact less cultural polarized in their subsequent assessment of the strength of the evidence of human-caused climate change than were subjects who first learned of scientists’ ‘call for more carbon emission limits.
The latter were in fact more polarized than subjects in a control group, who considered the evidence of human-caused climate change without any information on carbon-emission limit or geoengineering-research proposals.
This finding was consistent with the hypothesis that learning that geoengineering, a pro-technology response, was being given serious consideration would reduce the defensive biases of citizens culturally predisposed to discount evidence of human-caused climate change insofar as accepting it implies limits on markets, commerce, and industry—activities that individuals with this cultural orientation value, symbolically as well as materially.
Contrary to the often-asserted "moral hazard" claim, telling people about geoengineering research did not reduce concern about climate change risks.
On the contrary, the subjects who learned about the proposal for such research were more concerned, presumably because the ones most prone to skepticism reacted much more open-mindedly to evidence of global warming.
The second study that predicts that many climate-change policy advocates will react dismissively to the NAS (and Royal Society) recommendations to research geoengineering is the CCP study on cultural cognition of scientific consensus.
That one found that individuals tend to credit or discredit representations of scientific consensus on risk and related facts in a selective pattern that reflects their cultural worldviews.
Egalitarian, communitarian individuals credit the expertise of scientists who assert that climate change and nuclear power pose huge environmental risks and dismiss the expertise of scientists—ones with exactly the same credentials—who assert otherwise.
The pattern is reversed in hierarchic, individualistic subjects.
If that's how people process information about "scientific consensus" in the real world, than people with these opposing outlooks will end up forming opposingly skewed understandings of what scientific consensus is on these and other issues. And in fact, that’s what surveys show to be the case.
So here we can expect egalitarian communitarians—who readily perceive scientific consensus in favor of human-caused climate change—to dispute that there is "really" scientific consensus in favor of investigating the contribution geoengineering can make to counteracting climate-change risks.
They’ll either dismiss the NAS and Royal Society reports or construe them as saying the opposite of what they say (that more research is indeed warranted) because the suggestion that one response to climate change is more innovation, more technology—not less of all of those things—disappoints their cultural worldview, which is exactly what motivates a good many of them to exhuberantly embrace evidence of climate change.
Geoengineering is “liposuction,” when what capitalism really needs to do is go on a “diet,” as one commentator poetically put it.
Identity-protective reasoning doesn't discriminate on the basis worldview.
And the reactions to geoengineering might help us to see that; or it might not, precisely because it's in the nature of the disease to discern its effects only in those who belong to an opposing cultural group and never in the members of one's own....
Anyway, that’s my prediction about how people will react to the new NAS reports.
Guess we'll find out.
National Academy of Sciences discovered to be Republican Party front organization!!
Latest geoengineering "expert consensus" reports prove furnish "pumpkin papers" proof of Big Oil conspiracy!