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‘Denial Citadel’ walls breached

The defensive walls of the ‘Denial Citadel’ were breached on Saturday by Richard Muller’s announcement that he is no longer sceptical about climate science.

Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.                 Richard Muller in New York Times 

This particular ‘road to Damascus’ moment carries weight because Muller was outspoken in his criticism of aspects of the temperature record and he attracted significant funding from the Koch brothers (fossil fuel billionaires who fund climate change deniers).  Arch-denier Anthony Watts took the extreme step of cancelling his vacation and imposing a three-day silence on his blog in readiness for the BIG announcement.  Perhaps he was preparing his next line of defence, or gathering forces for a new defensive position.  He has already reneged once on an earlier commitment to accept Muller’s findings.  This latest announcement backs him into an even smaller corner.

To most working in the field, Muller’s latest announcement merely brings him up to date with where the science was in the mid 1990s.

At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of a few years!     Michael Mann

This  event has me thinking of those wonderful defensive structures – the medieval castles of Europe and the Middle East.

Kidwelly Castle, Carmarthenshire, Dyfed, Wales, is a great example. Like most castles, it was constructed in a location with natural defences.  Kidwelly was originally a timber castle built by the Normans about 1100 on a prominent ridge overlooking the river Gwendraeth.

Over the centuries it was rebuilt in stone and embelished with new defensive features.

For more than 400 years Kidwelly Castle provided a safe place for citizens to retreat when attacked and  housed garrison forces that could sally forth to attack mauraders and fight rivals.  Its river, moat, steep berm leading to castle walls, towers, gates, parapets and other defensive features made it relevant and effective.

If an outer defence was breached, the defenders moved back to the next line of defence.  If it came to the worst, defenders could withdraw to a single tower where they could hold out in the hope that relief forces would come to their aid.

Climate change deniers have the same approach to defending the Denial Citadel.  Here are the defensive lines around the citadel.

  1. The outermost defence is an earth berm where the mass of defenders rattle their spears and chant, “It’s not warming! It’s not warming!”
  2. The next line of defence is the moat where the defenders shout, “It’s warming but it’s not us!  It’s the sun!  It’s water vapour!  It’s a natural cycle!  It’s a squirrel!”
  3. Then there are the outer walls of the castle, where diminished defenders run to and fro shouting, “It’s warming, we did it, but it’s not a big problem.  Warm is nice, CO2 is good for plants, Greenland was lovely in the medieval warm period.”
  4. Then there is the inner wall of the castle, where the handful of remaining defenders stumble around muttering, “Yes, it’s warming; yes human activity is the cause; yes, it will be horrible – but mitigation is too hard/expensive, so let’s plan to adapt instead.”

As each defense is breached, some defenders have their ‘road to Damascus’ moment and become advocates for action.  Others fall back to the next line of defence.  A few lost souls remain forever in No Mans Land crying in the wind, “It’s not warming!” or “Look!  It’s a squirrel!”

Time passes and by 2050 the Denial Citadel will be as irrelevant as the ruin of today’s Kidwelly Castle. However, while Kidwelly Castle leaves a beautiful monument to the necessities of past culture, the relic of the Denial Citadel will be a monument to shame.

UPDATE: Anthony Watts’s response to the Muller announcement was, “Look! It’s a squirrel!”  Maybe he thinks that’s a useful tactic at any of the the defence lines – the berm, the moat, the outer and inner walls. Maybe he will still be shouting “It’s a squirrell!” when the last defenders are holed up in the last tower.  Or maybe he has joined the lost souls in No Mans Land, crying out for relevance.

Author: Gillian King. Reposted from Thisness of a That, with permission.

This entry was posted in Climate Communication Narratives and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to ‘Denial Citadel’ walls breached

  1. Tom Smerling says:

    “To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape.
    Show him there is a road to safety, and so create in his mind the idea that there is an alternative to death.”
    (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).

    It takes rare courage and maturity for any of us to change strongly-held, publicly-expressed positions. That’s why, as Nobel physicist Max Planck dryly noted, “science advances one funeral at a time.”

    But we can’t wait for generations to pass. Climate activists must ‘leave the door open’ to skeptics now, not corner them with ridicule or contempt. To change course, we all need an honorable, face-saving line of retreat.

    No doubt Sun Tzu welcomed defectors, and took care not to humiliate them, because he knew that other waverers would be watching.

    Muller deserves a warm, respectful welcome.

  2. Gillian King says:

    Tom,

    What a wonderful and powerful idea. Thank you for bringing it forward here.

    Gillian

  3. Makan says:

    Here is a useful resource -

    Holtcamp W 2012. Flavors of Uncertainty: The Difference between Denial and Debate. Environ Health Perspect 120:a314-a319. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.120-a314

    Gillian

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