The question has been raised — why spend time “debunking” S&N when they seem to be well-meaning folks struggling for a genuine solution to global warming, unlike, say, Bj¸rn Lomborg? Aside from the fact that they are adding great confusion and misinformation to a critical debate, the answer is simple — they aren’t well-meaning.
S&N spend far more time attacking the environmental community (and Al Gore and even Rachel Carson) than they do proposing a viable solution. Worse, they don’t even attack the real environmental community — they spend their time creating a strawman that is mostly a right-wing stereotype of environmentalists.
S&N’s core argument is that environmentalists only preach doom and gloom and sacrifice, and that solving global warming …
… will require a more optimistic narrative from the environmental community. Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, like Silent Spring, was considered powerful because it marshaled the facts into an effective (read: apocalyptic) story…..
In promoting the inconvenient truth that humans must limit their consumption and sacrifice their way of life to prevent the world from ending, environmentalists are not only promoting a solution that won’t work, they’ve discouraged Americans from seeing the big solutions at all. For Americans to be future-oriented, generous, and expansive in their thinking, they must feel secure, wealthy, and strong.
Gore has never promoted such an inconvenient truth — they should read his book or listen to his speeches — and indeed I don’t know any major environmentalist or environmental group who has promoted such a message. Just spend some time on the climate websites for NRDC, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and Greenpeace. They all support (most of) the same big solutions S&N do, they just don’t think you get those solutions the way S&N does (i.e. a massive government spending program).
So why do S&N, who appear to care about the climate, attack the mainstream environmental community in such a vicious and distorted fashion? Who knows? Watthead points out, “it may be a great way to get attention for your articles and books, but it’s not a great way to build alliances with the kind of folks who you should be building alliances with.”
I would go further. It is particularly destructive for one’s supposed allies to repeat myths that Frank Luntz and Rush Limbaugh and President Bush want people to believe about environmentalists. The Deniers and Delayers want people to believe that environmentalists are backing climate change to achieve a hidden agenda of government limits on their consumption. They can’t win on the merits of the science, but they can scare people into inaction. S&N play right into their hands, reinforcing tired old stereotypes: