A Glib Non-pology for Dropping off the Face of the Skeptosphere
So, a few years ago a family member dies and I get roped into attending the funeral. She was a Keyes of the Presbyterian Keyeses, so we all know what we’re in for when the celebrant asks us to be seated.
Sure enough, the thesis of the next hour and 50 minutes is that we’re gathered “not so much to celebrate Agnes Day-Keyes’ life, as to mourn her painful, drawn-out death from asbestosis.”
Let us not give thanks for having had the privilege to know someone like Agnes but rather remind ourselves, as we look on her ravaged cadaver, that ours is a malevolent and scheming Lord who gets off on withholding information; that all we can ever know is that somebody in this chapel has no idea they’re about to embark on a ‘cancer journey’ that makes mesothelioma look like a quick heart attack on a beach.
(This must be what regular churchgoers mean when they say it’s an uplifting way to start your Sunday.)
So I’m standing there afterwards, trying to enjoy the finger food when I’m suddenly forced to ignore my older cousin, who’s broken down in disproportionate, rib-fracturing sobs.
Then this total random—a verger or sexton, I assume, or someone from a minor cadet branch of the family—comes up to her and hugs her and tells her chin up, dear, because “Agnes wouldn’t want us to be sad.”
Who do I see tapping this well-meaning shlemiel on the shoulder but the lady of the hour herself?
“Yes I bloody well would,” snaps the old bag of osteoporosis and embalming fluids. “The last thing I want is for these people to focus on the happy memories, blow their noses and move on with life.
“You obviously don’t know me, do you? Let me guess: that pointless son of mine is letting anyone wander in off the streets and help themselves to the finger food I paid for [from my earnings as a glove model in the 1960s and reputed concubine to a certain Australian James Bond], isn’t he?”
Of course, I’m using the verb “see” in the climate-scientific sense—as in, you only need to look out your window to see the impacts of climate change all around us. Is this an impact I see before me?
(To put it another way, “imagine.”)
The world isn’t a Woody Allen movie, and these Marshall McLuhan moments are sadly few and far between. Most of us will live our whole lives without getting the chance to smack a poseur down at our own funeral.
Still, my Lazarus-like return to the deniosphere feels like the next best thing.
I’ve now had an opportunity to haunt all the haunts you people frequent, seeing for myself how skepticism is faring today, on its own two feet, after coping with the unexplained loss of one of its best minds. Let’s just say it’s not what I expected.
Don’t worry, though: I’m not disappointed in you people, just angry.
Angry that you haven’t had the decency to collapse in a gibbering mess without me. It wouldn’t even have to be a hot (ECS 4.0-6.0ºC) mess—I’d have been content to return to the lukewarm mess of a 1.5-degree world.
The State of the Union of Unconcerned Science Deniers
It’s almost (not quite, but almost) as though my departure didn’t even devastate the entire movement. For example, since my revenance I’ve learned that:
- Notwithstanding minor hand losses over the last three consecutive quarters, we still have the upper hand in the “battle to control the low ground” that is the PR knife-fight
- According to the scientists-who-publicly-change-sides-on-closer-inspection-of-the-science scoreboard, we’ve actually widened our lead slightly (it was only 60-nil last year)
- No reputable countries of international standing have gotten serious about saving the planet yet
- Most Americans still struggle to pass the most fundamental test of atmospheric-science literacy: what percentage of published scientists failed to refute the IPCC between 1991 and 2002?
- All trace of the existence of the world’s 24 million climate refugees—so far—has been interred with them, cleanly and quietly, and the public knows nothing. Interpol even seems to be losing interest in the whereabouts of those reporters who shall not be named (remember: the ones who wouldn’t play ball in Algiers)
- In the population as a whole, denial is down 1.1%—but the 1.3% growth in denialism more than makes up for it
For humanity, the upshot seems to be: we’re still on track to reach the cliff before the Ambien wears off, provided we walk briskly and don’t stop to sleep-snack.
So, so far, so good.
But optimism is an optical illusion, say optometrists, whose message is clear: take off the half-full, rose-coloured glasses and stop cherry-picking. By selectively focusing on humanity in toto, we risk ignoring the bigger question: what about us? Whither the Movement?
I will try my best to answer this in language you people can understand when we return for Part 2. I’ll also be expecting a full accounting of what you did with the list of instructions I left, by the way.
And of course, all will be revealed: why I took a break from denialism; the insights I’ve gained over a year as a gullibilist; and what made me return just now, when mankind needs me the most. (No, it wasn’t Arthurian magic; it was science.)
The sequel ought to satisfy your curiosity, you vultures, but unfortunately I can’t say when I’ll post it. So as a courtesy to your family, friends and employers, let them know you’ll be taking the next couple of days off to focus on refreshing your browser every 30 seconds.