There’s a technique I am beginning to see more and more (1).
The inevitably laughable COP26 looms, and yet another “we’re screwed” climate report [e.g. IPCC WG1 6AR] is out.
In response, fossil fuel companies are either heading for the exits as best they can OR they are claiming that they are part of the solution. Now, this has been going on for years, with Shell in particular trying to position natural gas as some sort of transition fuel, invoking the “cool” of Godard on the way.
What I want to point to hear is one step beyond though- simply the claim that continuing to burn fossil fuels in the same way we have in the past, we are contributing to a better world.
This sort of “parking tanks on enemies’ lawn,” is fascinating, to me at least. Two examples:
The Australian Financial Review carried a piece on Monday 11th August 2021 (the day the IPCC report dropped) with the title “High-quality Australian coal is lowering global carbon emissions.” It was by the head of Whitehaven Coal.
Secondly, in its inaugural “Bad Climate Journalism Awards”, the website BellaCaledonia notes –
“But this weeks winner is the Scotsman newspaper for publishing this piece by Deirdre Michie, CEO of Oil and Gas UK (‘Drilling new Cambo oil and gas field off Shetland will actually help the UK cut its carbon emissions‘)”
I guess you see it as a tactic in all sorts of these battles, where someone who is trying to defend the indefensible makes a claim so audacious that it baffles and silences and renders those observing confused. So, people caught white-handed in racism will make some absurd counter-claim and say “Who’s the real bigot here?” Bullies wanting to be an oppressed minority (which I guess in their heads they often are – “the only one willing to call it like it is” etc etc).
Why is it so?
These should be seen as part of the Infowars. The main aim is not to inform but to confuse and demoralise, and to take up time and energy in rebuttal.
Crucially, they either believe it or don’t care if it is particularly true or not. They see this as a game and they are determined to win because they have money and/or career advancement in the game. They are not doing this in some sort of disembodied search for truth or even truthiness. It’s hard for those with a commitment to those things to really understand.
The key problem is that so many people WANT this to be true, want it to be possible for us to keep going with fossil fuels, because that would mean the scientists are all wrong. And if the scientists aren’t all wrong then we are in serious trouble. So it goes.
What is to be done?
Name this tactic –
“You’re just ambitting” You’re making a totally ridiculous counter-claim as a form of gaslighting.”
“Firstly you’re trying to take up time so we have to not only rebut your bullshit
“However, secondly, and more significantly, you’re trying to confuse people with bullshit and setting a false peg in the ground, for people to think the truth must lie somewhere in between. But it doesn’t: you’re just lying and/or bullshitting.”
Help people understand this is a tactic. It needs some good names. It needs some good analogies from real life.
When a cheating husband blames his wife for having put on weight. “Well, I wouldn’t have gone to her if you hadn’t let yourself go. You put on five pounds! And you’re always too tired. You keep using “gotta look after our three kids as an excuse. Get the eight year old to look after the two year old – it’s not rocket science dammit.”
As the planet burns up (literally) those who have been throwing gasoline on the fire and want to continue to do so because that’s where the money and power is are trying to make themselves seem reasonable, proportionate, necessary and (still) part of a “reasonable” conversation by “serious” people. Although in the cosmic scheme of things it probably doesn’t matter so much, for those who want to act as if there is still something salvageable from the shit storm, naming the tactic and refusing to be sucked into it is probably as little a waste of time and energy as anything else.
(1) Claims that Australian coal, because it is relatively free from impurities, is somehow helping reduce emissions compared to other “dirtier” coal have a history dating back to the late 1980s.