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Informed Citizens: Conceptions of Global Climate Change and the Ability to Act 2010

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  Informed	
  Citizens	
   	
  Conceptions	
  of	
  Global	
  Climate	
  Change	
  and	
  the	
  Ability	
  to	
  Act	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  Dan	
  Cooper	
  	
  ASTU	
  400J	
  –	
  002	
  	
  Undergraduate	
  Essay,	
  University	
  of	
  British	
  Columbia,	
  2010	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
   The	
  recent	
  contributions	
  of	
  the	
  academic	
  “posts”	
  –	
  postmodernists,	
  poststructuralists,	
  among	
  others–	
  have	
  drastically	
  altered	
  the	
  course	
  of	
  modern	
  political	
  science,	
  philosophy,	
  and	
  practically	
  all	
  other	
  academic	
  disciplines	
  that	
  fall	
  under	
  the	
  category	
  of	
  the	
  arts,	
  social	
  sciences,	
  or	
  humanities.	
  That	
  said,	
  the	
  main	
  contribution	
  of	
  the	
  “posts”:	
  their	
  rejection	
  of	
  unifying	
  meta-­‐narratives	
  and	
  their	
  suspicions	
  of	
  ‘objective’	
  knowledge,	
  have	
  not	
  swept	
  across	
  the	
  traditional	
  scientific	
  community	
  in	
  the	
  same	
  way	
  they	
  have	
  affected	
  the	
  “soft”	
  sciences.	
  As	
  has	
  been	
  described	
  by	
  contemporary	
  postmodern	
  theorists	
  such	
  as	
  Paul	
  Virilio,	
  modern	
  science	
  has	
  not	
  benefited	
  from	
  the	
  epistemological	
  introspection	
  of	
  postmodern	
  critique	
  and	
  also	
  has	
  also	
  lost	
  much	
  of	
  its	
  philosophical	
  underpinnings.	
  In	
  his	
  book	
   The	
  Information	
  Bomb,	
  Virilio	
  goes	
  so	
  far	
  as	
  to	
  say	
  that	
  “Science,	
  which	
  is	
  not	
  so	
  attached	
  to	
  ‘truth’	
  as	
  once	
  it	
  was,	
  but	
  more	
  to	
  immediate	
  ‘effectiveness’,	
  is	
  now	
  drifting	
  towards	
  its	
  decline,	
  its	
  civic	
  fall	
  from	
  grace”1.	
  In	
  the	
  face	
  of	
  such	
  pessimism,	
  the	
  objective	
  of	
  this	
  paper	
  is	
  to	
  analyze	
  the	
  current	
  state	
  of	
  climate	
  science.	
  Specifically,	
  I	
  intend	
  to	
  drawn	
  upon	
  Canadian	
  case	
  studies	
  in	
  order	
  to	
  analyze	
  the	
  political	
  implications	
  of	
  the	
  production	
  and	
  distribution	
  of	
  modern	
  scientific	
  knowledge	
  with	
  a	
  focus	
  on	
  the	
  most	
  important	
  issue	
  of	
  our	
  time:	
  climate	
  change.	
  	
  	
   There	
  is	
  little	
  doubt	
  that	
  climate	
  change	
  is	
  crucial	
  to	
  the	
  future	
  of	
  life	
  on	
  this	
  planet,	
  and	
  yet	
  the	
  policy	
  response	
  of	
  the	
  developed	
  world	
  has	
  been	
  grossly	
  disproportionate	
  to	
  the	
  data	
  presented	
  by	
  the	
  scientific	
  community.	
  Is	
  our	
  inaction	
  attributable	
  to	
  a	
  declining	
  respect	
  for	
  the	
  objectivity	
  of	
  science?	
  Why	
  do	
  we	
  continue	
  to	
  consume	
  resources,	
  degrade	
  topsoil,	
  and	
  produce	
  energy	
  at	
  unsustainable	
  rates?	
   With	
  respect	
  for	
  the	
  complexity	
  of	
  these	
  questions,	
  this	
  essay	
  will	
  present	
  and	
  critique	
  several	
  possible	
  explanations.	
  I	
  will	
  focus	
  on	
  the	
  structures	
  and	
  institutions	
  that	
  have	
  led	
  us	
  to	
  our	
  current	
  state	
  of	
  misrepresented	
  science	
  and	
  environmental	
  degradation	
  and	
  examine	
  the	
  social	
  theories	
  that	
  have	
  emerged	
  in	
  response	
  to	
  the	
  situation.	
  In	
  addition,	
  I	
  plan	
  to	
  explore	
  my	
  skepticism	
  of	
  the	
  ability	
  of	
  the	
  majority	
  of	
  citizens	
  in	
  Canada,	
  or	
  any	
  country	
  for	
  that	
  matter,	
  to	
  make	
  ‘informed’	
  decisions	
  regarding	
  environmental	
  issues,	
  political	
  or	
  otherwise.	
  And	
  in	
  so	
  doing,	
  attempt	
  to	
  arrive	
  at	
  some	
  sort	
  of	
  definition	
  of	
  an	
  appropriate	
  level	
  of	
  knowledge	
  regarding	
  environmental	
  politics	
  that	
  would	
  allow	
  citizens	
  to	
  make	
  these	
  ‘informed’	
  choices.	
  	
   Contemporary	
  Enviro-­Politics:	
  	
   Before	
  we	
  examine	
  the	
  “why	
  and	
  how”	
  of	
  the	
  relationship	
  between	
  science,	
  knowledge,	
  and	
  politics,	
  we	
  must	
  first	
  contextualize	
  modern	
  global	
  environmental	
  politics.	
  	
  Of	
  utmost	
  importance	
  are	
  the	
  two	
  most	
  recent	
  major	
  international	
  conferences:	
  Kyoto	
  and	
  Copenhagen	
  as	
  well	
  as	
  their	
  objectives	
  and	
  subsequent	
  agreements.	
  Firstly,	
  both	
  conferences	
  were	
  organized	
  in	
  response	
  to	
  the	
  consensus	
  among	
  the	
  scientific	
  community	
  that	
  the	
  earth’s	
  atmosphere	
  was	
  experiencing	
  a	
  warming	
  trend	
  and	
  the	
  agreement	
  that	
  anthropogenic	
  Greenhouse-­‐Gas	
  (GHG)	
  emissions	
  at	
  least	
  a	
  major	
  cause	
  of	
  said	
  warming.	
  Furthermore,	
  the	
  continued	
  warming	
  of	
  the	
  atmosphere	
  is	
  predicted	
  to	
  have	
  catastrophic	
  effects	
  worldwide.	
  Thus,	
  in	
  1997,	
  the	
  Kyoto	
  Protocol,	
  an	
  international	
  agreement	
  linked	
  to	
  United	
  Nations	
  Framework	
  Convention	
  on	
  Climate	
  Change	
  [UNFCCC],	
  was	
  adopted.	
  “The	
  major	
  feature	
  of	
  the	
  Kyoto	
  Protocol	
  is	
  that	
  it	
  sets	
  binding	
  targets	
  for	
  37	
   industrialized	
  countries	
  and	
  the	
  European	
  community	
  for	
  reducing	
  greenhouse	
  gas	
  (GHG)	
  emissions.	
  These	
  amount	
  to	
  an	
  average	
  of	
  five	
  per	
  cent	
  against	
  1990	
  levels	
  over	
  the	
  five-­‐year	
  period	
  2008-­‐2012”2	
  Then,	
  most	
  recently	
  in	
  2009,	
  the	
  international	
  community	
  met	
  in	
  Copenhagen	
  again	
  with	
  the	
  hopes	
  of	
  improving	
  on	
  Kyoto	
  in	
  light	
  of	
  updated	
  scientific	
  data.	
  This	
  time	
  41	
  industrialized	
  countries	
  formally	
  communicated	
  their	
  economy-­‐wide	
  targets	
  to	
  the	
  UNFCCC;	
  however,	
  in	
  a	
  press	
  release	
  UNFCCC	
  Executive	
  Secretary	
  Yvo	
  de	
  Boer	
  had	
  this	
  to	
  say:	
  	
  	
   It	
  is	
  clear	
  that	
  while	
  the	
  pledges	
  on	
  the	
  table	
  are	
  an	
  important	
  step	
  towards	
  the	
  objective	
  of	
  limiting	
  growth	
  of	
  emissions,	
  they	
  will	
  not	
  in	
  themselves	
  suffice	
  to	
  limit	
  warming	
  2	
  degrees	
  Celsius3.	
  	
  	
  The	
  mention	
  of	
  two	
  degrees	
  Celsius	
  is	
  in	
  reference	
  to	
  the	
  recommendations	
  of	
  the	
  Intergovernmental	
  Panel	
  on	
  Climate	
  Change	
  (IPCC),	
  “…the	
  leading	
  body	
  for	
  the	
  assessment	
  of	
  climate	
  change,	
  established	
  by	
  the	
  United	
  Nations	
  Environment	
  Programme	
  (UNEP)	
  and	
  the	
  World	
  Meteorological	
  Organization	
  (WMO)	
  to	
  provide	
  the	
  world	
  with	
  a	
  clear	
  scientific	
  view	
  on	
  the	
  current	
  state	
  of	
  climate	
  change	
  and	
  its	
  potential	
  environmental	
  and	
  socio-­‐economic	
  consequences”4.	
  Put	
  quite	
  simply,	
  an	
  international	
  body	
  of	
  respected	
  peer-­‐reviewed	
  scientists	
  believes	
  that	
  to	
  avoid	
  a	
  global	
  crisis	
  of	
  unprecedented	
  scope,	
  we	
  have	
  to	
  keep	
  the	
  average	
  global	
  temperature	
  from	
  rising	
  more	
  than	
  two	
  degrees	
  Celsius,	
  and	
  as	
  of	
  now,	
  the	
  international	
  treaties	
  intended	
  to	
  achieve	
  this	
  goal	
  are	
  failing.	
  	
   ‘Appropriate’	
  Levels	
  of	
  Knowledge:	
  To	
  begin	
  our	
  discussion	
  of	
  why	
  we	
  are	
  supposedly	
  failing	
  the	
  earth,	
  it	
  is	
  useful	
  to	
  ask	
  ourselves	
  whether	
  anyone	
  on	
  earth	
  is	
  truly	
  ‘informed’	
  to	
  an	
  acceptable	
  level	
  on	
  matters	
  of	
  climate	
  science,	
  to	
  the	
  point	
  that	
  we	
  would	
  trust	
  them	
  with	
  the	
  fate	
  of	
  our	
  planet.	
  Despite	
  the	
  cautionary	
  merits	
  of	
  this	
  question,	
  the	
  answer	
  is	
  irrelevant;	
  we	
  can	
  either	
  act	
  with	
  the	
  evidence	
  available	
  or	
  not.	
  Further,	
  it	
  is	
  not	
  the	
  nature	
  of	
  our	
  political	
  organizations	
  that	
  the	
  decision-­‐making	
  power	
  falls	
  to	
  the	
  persons	
  most	
  ‘informed’	
  on	
  the	
  subject.	
  On	
  the	
  contrary,	
  in	
  Canada’s	
  contemporary	
  political	
  landscape,	
  power	
  is	
  more	
  and	
  more	
  concentrated	
  in	
  the	
  offices	
  of	
  Prime	
  Ministers	
  and	
  Premiers	
  and	
  as	
  a	
  result	
  the	
  major	
  decisions	
  regarding	
  environmental	
  policy	
  fall	
  to	
  them.	
  In	
  light	
  of	
  this,	
  I	
  sense	
  it	
  is	
  not	
  unreasonable	
  to	
  expect	
  that	
  citizens	
  maintain	
  a	
  certain	
  level	
  of	
  knowledge	
  regarding	
  environmental	
  issues	
  so	
  that	
  they	
  can	
  then	
  elect	
  representatives	
  that	
  reflect	
  their	
  opinions.	
  	
  	
  As	
  is	
  fundamental	
  to	
  democratic	
  theory,	
  the	
  citizens	
  of	
  a	
  nation	
  must	
  be	
  sufficiently	
  ‘informed’	
  on	
  matters	
  of	
  climate	
  and	
  environmental	
  science	
  in	
  order	
  to	
  hold	
  any	
  power	
  over	
  the	
  outcome	
  of	
  policy.	
  Yet	
  if	
  we	
  accept	
  the	
  previous	
  statement,	
  new	
  problems	
  emerge.	
  Firstly,	
  as	
  was	
  suggested	
  by	
  Virilio,	
  modern	
  science	
  has	
  become	
  perverted	
  by	
  nationalistic,	
  economic,	
  and	
  militaristic	
  influences	
  among	
  others	
  and	
  thus	
  our	
  analysis	
  cannot	
  treat	
  science	
  as	
  objective	
  or	
  free	
  from	
  bias.	
  Secondly,	
  as	
  we	
  accept	
  that	
  a	
  certain	
  level	
  of	
  knowledge	
  is	
  required	
  of	
  each	
  citizen	
  in	
  order	
  to	
  make	
  an	
  informed	
  political	
  decision,	
  we	
  also	
  must	
  decide	
  how	
  much	
   knowledge	
  is	
  enough.	
  And	
  finally,	
  we	
  must	
  analyze	
  the	
  accountability	
  and	
  effectiveness	
  of	
  the	
  institutions	
  that	
  package	
  and	
  distribute	
  scientific	
  information.	
  	
  	
  	
   How	
  much	
  science	
  should	
  Canadian	
  citizens	
  understand	
  before	
  they	
  are	
  sufficiently	
  ‘informed’?	
  Are	
  peer-­‐review	
  scientific	
  articles	
  about	
  the	
  oil	
  sands	
  important	
  to	
  a	
  citizen	
  before	
  they	
  ultimately	
  support	
  or	
  oppose	
  them	
  with	
  their	
  vote?	
  Is	
  it	
  even	
  possible	
  to	
  predict	
  the	
  aggregate	
  environmental	
  effects	
  of	
  the	
  oil	
  sands	
  project?	
  Can	
  we	
  say	
  with	
  any	
  certainty	
  that	
  the	
  oil	
  sands’	
  environmental	
  destruction	
  is	
  not	
  worth	
  its	
  economic	
  benefits	
  if	
  that	
  wealth	
  leads	
  to	
  innovation	
  for	
  the	
  future?	
  My	
  initial	
  answer	
  to	
  these	
  questions	
  is	
  no;	
  uncertainty	
  abounds.	
  And	
  as	
  a	
  result,	
  any	
  organization	
  or	
  individual	
  who	
  is	
  completely	
  convinced	
  of	
  the	
  correct	
  course	
  of	
  action	
  should	
  be	
  met	
  with	
  severe	
  suspicion.	
  	
  	
   So	
  again	
  we	
  return	
  to	
  the	
  question	
  of	
  how	
  citizens	
  should	
  approach	
  the	
  situation.	
  “Look	
  at	
  the	
  science!”	
  is	
  the	
  rallying	
  cry	
  of	
  environmentalists	
  who	
  plead	
  with	
  us	
  to	
  consider	
  their	
  ‘objective’	
  reality.	
  Ironically,	
  there	
  exists	
  more	
  potential	
  in	
  the	
  rhetoric	
  of	
  the	
  economists	
  and	
  skeptics	
  who	
  manufacture	
  doubt	
  and	
  point	
  to	
  the	
  economic	
  and	
  human	
  costs	
  of	
  ‘sustainability’.	
  In	
  his	
  book	
  The	
  Archaeology	
  of	
   Knowledge,	
  Michel	
  Foucault,	
  writes:	
  “we	
  must	
  also	
  question	
  those	
  divisions	
  or	
  groupings	
  with	
  which	
  we	
  have	
  become	
  so	
  familiar.	
  Can	
  one	
  accept,	
  as	
  such,	
  the	
  distinction	
  between	
  the	
  major	
  types	
  of	
  discourse,	
  or	
  that	
  between	
  such	
  forms	
  or	
  genres	
  as	
  science,	
  literature,	
  philosophy,	
  religion,	
  history,	
  fiction,	
  etc.,	
  and	
  which	
  tend	
  to	
  create	
  certain	
  great	
  historical	
  individualities?”6	
  Thus	
  we	
  must	
  heed	
  both	
   Foucault	
  and	
  the	
  skeptics	
  by	
  questioning	
  scientific	
  information	
  as	
  a	
  separate	
  category	
  free	
  from	
  the	
  bias,	
  advocacy,	
  and	
  self-­‐interest	
  that	
  we	
  deal	
  with	
  in	
  the	
  fields	
  of	
  political	
  science	
  and	
  sociology.	
  	
  	
  Ultimately,	
  as	
  has	
  been	
  argued	
  by	
  postmodernist	
  theory,	
  context	
  and	
  intention	
  influence	
  all	
  knowledge-­‐producing	
  individuals	
  and	
  apparatuses.	
  Foucault	
  provides	
  just	
  such	
  an	
  argument	
  that	
  I	
  contend	
  is	
  an	
  excellent	
  template	
  for	
  analyzing	
  climate	
  science	
  issues:	
  	
  “…these	
  divisions”	
  he	
  writes,	
  “whether	
  our	
  own,	
  or	
  those	
  contemporary	
  with	
  the	
  discourse	
  under	
  examination	
  -­‐	
  are	
  always	
  themselves	
  reflexive	
  categories,	
  principles	
  of	
  classification,	
  normative	
  rules,	
  institutionalized	
  types:	
  they,	
  in	
  turn,	
  are	
  facts	
  of	
  discourse	
  that	
  deserve	
  to	
  be	
  analyzed	
  beside	
  others;	
  of	
  course,	
  they	
  also	
  have	
  complex	
  relations	
  with	
  each	
  other,	
  but	
  they	
  are	
  not	
  intrinsic,	
  autochthonous,	
  and	
  universally	
  recognizable	
  characteristics”7.	
  So	
  to	
  heed	
  Foucault’s	
  advice,	
  I	
  contend	
  that	
  analyzing	
  the	
  relationship	
  between	
  the	
  disciplines	
  that	
  surround	
  Canadian	
  and	
  international	
  climate	
  science	
  is	
  crucial	
  to	
  unearthing	
  some	
  form	
  of	
  predictive	
  ‘truth’.	
  	
  Using	
  Foucault’s	
  framework,	
  we	
  can	
  work	
  towards	
  a	
  transparency	
  of	
  influence	
  in	
  the	
  realm	
  of	
  climate	
  debate,	
  allowing	
  us	
  to	
  deconstruct	
  some	
  the	
  arbitrary	
  classifications,	
  normative	
  rules,	
  and	
  perversions.	
  In	
  so	
  doing,	
  gain	
  a	
  better	
  understanding	
  of	
  the	
  impediments	
  to	
  climate	
  policy	
  and	
  ‘informed’	
  citizens.	
  Two	
  such	
  impediments	
  that	
  I	
  see	
  as	
  critical,	
  ability	
  and	
  motivation,	
  will	
  be	
  the	
  topic	
  of	
  my	
  next	
  section.	
  	
   	
   The	
  Interplay	
  of	
  Ability	
  and	
  Motivation:	
   	
  Perhaps	
  the	
  most	
  compelling	
  theory	
  explaining	
  the	
  modern	
  citizen’s	
  inability	
  to	
  formulate	
  ‘informed’	
  opinions	
  regarding	
  climate	
  change	
  policy	
  is	
  simply	
  the	
  availability	
  of	
  practically	
  limitless	
  information.	
  As	
  Virilio	
  writes	
  in	
  The	
  Information	
   Bomb,	
  “…the	
  information	
  revolution	
  shows	
  itself	
  to	
  be	
  also	
  a	
  systematic	
  snooping	
   operation,	
  which	
  triggers	
  a	
  panic	
  phenomenon	
  of	
  rumour	
  and	
  suspicion,	
  and	
  which	
  is	
  set	
  to	
  ruin	
  the	
  foundations	
  of	
  ‘truth’	
  in	
  professional	
  ethics	
  and	
  hence	
  the	
  freedom	
  of	
  the	
  press”8.	
  In	
  essence,	
  Virilio	
  is	
  suggesting	
  that	
  the	
  availability	
  of	
  information	
  on	
  the	
  Internet	
  or	
  otherwise	
  has	
  led	
  to	
  our	
  current	
  state	
  where	
  decades	
  of	
  scientific	
  research	
  can	
  be	
  called	
  into	
  question	
  through	
  a	
  simple	
  newspaper	
  article,	
  an	
  idea	
  that	
  was	
  validated	
  just	
  this	
  year	
  in	
  Canada’s	
  national	
  newspaper.	
  	
  	
   During	
  the	
  UN	
  Climate	
  Conference	
  in	
  February	
  of	
  2009,	
  several	
  scientific	
  scandals	
  involving	
  the	
  IPPC	
  became	
  the	
  subject	
  of	
  media	
  scrutiny.	
  Following	
  this	
  trend,	
  an	
  article	
  was	
  printed	
  in	
  the	
  influential	
  Canadian	
  newspaper	
  The	
  Globe	
  and	
   Mail	
  entitled	
  “The	
  Great	
  Global	
  Warming	
  Collapse”.	
  Its	
  authour,	
  Margaret	
  Wente	
  follows	
  the	
  title	
  with	
  the	
  disclaimer	
  “as	
  the	
  science	
  scandals	
  keep	
  coming,	
  the	
  air	
  has	
  gone	
  out	
  of	
  the	
  climate-­‐change	
  movement”9.	
  Now	
  I	
  refuse	
  to	
  spend	
  any	
  serious	
  time	
  defending	
  the	
  thousands	
  of	
  scientists	
  of	
  the	
  IPCC,	
  but	
  rather	
  wish	
  to	
  focus	
  on	
  the	
  political	
  and	
  epistemological	
  implications	
  of	
  Wente’s	
  article.	
  In	
  addition,	
  I	
  do	
  not	
  propose	
  to	
  refute	
  climate	
  skepticism	
  in	
  this	
  section	
  of	
  my	
  paper,	
  for	
  articles	
  such	
  as	
  Wente’s	
  are	
  not	
  uncommon,	
  climate	
  skeptics	
  of	
  all	
  levels	
  of	
  intensity	
  exists	
  all	
  throughout	
  levels	
  of	
  society.	
  My	
  main	
  intention	
  is	
  to	
  use	
  Wente’s	
  article	
  to	
  analyze	
   the	
  influence	
  of	
  skepticism	
  on	
  the	
  citizens	
  seeking	
  to	
  become	
  ‘informed’.	
  As	
  has	
  been	
  suggested,	
  ‘informed’	
  citizens	
  are	
  positives	
  influences	
  on	
  our	
  political	
  institutions.	
  Thus	
  the	
  question	
  becomes,	
  does	
  Wente’s	
  article	
  facilitate	
  or	
  impede	
  our	
  progress	
  towards	
  an	
  ‘informed’	
  citizenry?	
  	
  	
   In	
  its	
  skepticism	
  I	
  argue	
  that	
  Wente’s	
  article	
  has	
  crossed	
  the	
  line	
  into	
  the	
  territory	
  of	
  advocacy	
  that	
  she	
  so	
  vehemently	
  rejects.	
  To	
  illustrate,	
  near	
  the	
  end	
  of	
  her	
  article	
  Wente	
  writes	
  that	
  none	
  of	
  her	
  previous	
  criticisms	
  of	
  the	
  IPCC	
  are	
  “…to	
  say	
  that	
  global	
  warming	
  isn’t	
  real,	
  or	
  that	
  human	
  activity	
  doesn’t	
  play	
  a	
  role,	
  or	
  that	
  he	
  IPCC	
  is	
  entirely	
  wrong,	
  or	
  that	
  measures	
  to	
  curb	
  greenhouse-­‐gas	
  emission	
  aren’t	
  valid.	
  But	
  [she	
  asserts	
  that]	
  the	
  strategy	
  pursued	
  by	
  activists	
  (including	
  scientists	
  who	
  have	
  crossed	
  the	
  line	
  into	
  advocacy)	
  has	
  turned	
  out	
  to	
  be	
  fatally	
  flawed”10.	
  In	
  response	
  I	
  turn	
  to	
  a	
  titan	
  of	
  modern	
  skepticism,	
  Friedrich	
  Nietzsche	
  who	
  said,	
  we	
  “…are	
  all	
  advocates	
  who	
  do	
  not	
  want	
  to	
  be	
  seen	
  as	
  such;	
  for	
  the	
  most	
  part,	
  in	
  fact,	
  [we]	
  are	
  sly	
  spokesmen	
  for	
  prejudices	
  that	
  [we]	
  christen	
  as	
  ‘truths’”11.	
  Thus	
  inherent	
  in	
  Wente’s	
  argument	
  is	
  the	
  acceptance	
  of	
  the	
  climate	
  ‘scandals’	
  as	
  truth,	
  and	
  by	
  publishing	
  those	
  claims	
  in	
  a	
  nationally-­‐read	
  newspaper	
  her	
  actions	
  absolutely	
  advocate	
  a	
  certain	
  level	
  of	
  climate	
  skepticism	
  that	
  will	
  have	
  measureable	
  consequences.	
  	
  	
  As	
  Foucault,	
  Virilio,	
  and	
  Nietzsche	
  have	
  suggested,	
  science	
  cannot	
  achieve	
  complete	
  objectivity	
  so	
  in	
  this	
  same	
  way	
  I	
  find	
  it	
  ludicrous	
  that	
  Wente	
  scolds	
  a	
  community	
  of	
  scientists	
  for	
  their	
  advocacy	
  without	
  truly	
  considering	
  the	
  meaning	
  of	
   the	
  term,	
  especially	
  without	
  considering	
  its	
  implications	
  in	
  her	
  own	
  work.	
  All	
  that	
  said,	
  the	
  main	
  point	
  I	
  wish	
  to	
  take	
  away	
  from	
  Wente’s	
  article	
  and	
  the	
  IPCC	
  reports	
  is	
  evidence	
  that	
  wildly	
  conflicting	
  scientific	
  viewpoints	
  are	
  presented	
  to	
  the	
  average	
  citizen	
  from	
  supposedly	
  credible	
  sources	
  such	
  as	
  the	
  United	
  Nations	
  and	
  The	
  Globe	
   and	
  Mail.	
  Especially	
  for	
  the	
  majority	
  of	
  Canadian	
  citizens,	
  whose	
  day-­‐to-­‐day	
  contact	
  with	
  the	
  UN	
  is	
  limited,	
  it	
  becomes	
  very	
  difficult	
  to	
  discern	
  whom	
  to	
  trust.	
  	
   In	
  Canada	
  we	
  have	
  no	
  binding	
  legislation	
  that	
  reflects	
  the	
  severity	
  of	
  the	
  climate	
  change	
  issue	
  despite	
  the	
  dire	
  warnings	
  from	
  the	
  IPCC	
  and	
  numerous	
  scientists	
  within	
  our	
  borders.	
  On	
  the	
  contrary,	
  as	
  of	
  2007,	
  our	
  GHG	
  emissions	
  were	
  26.2%	
  above	
  1990	
  levels	
  and	
  33.8%	
  over	
  our	
  Kyoto	
  Protocol	
  targets”12.	
  Thus	
  it	
  would	
  appear	
  that	
  the	
  IPCC,	
  at	
  least	
  in	
  Canada,	
  is	
  doing	
  little	
  to	
  reverse	
  growth	
  or,	
  as	
  mentioned	
  previously,	
  climate	
  skepticism	
  is	
  likely	
  contributing	
  to	
  our	
  lack	
  of	
  respect	
  for	
  the	
  international	
  climate	
  agreements.	
  Nonetheless,	
  I	
  will	
  argue	
  that	
  there	
  is	
  potential	
  in	
  the	
  analysis	
  of	
  another	
  factor	
  presented	
  by	
  anthropologist	
  Joseph	
  Masco	
  at	
  the	
  University	
  of	
  Chicago.	
  Masco’s	
  article	
  Bad	
  Weather:	
  On	
  Planetary	
  Crisis	
  examines	
  the	
  relationship	
  between	
  the	
  imagining	
  of	
  planetary	
  catastrophe	
  in	
  mainstream	
  cinema	
  and	
  the	
  ability	
  of	
  the	
  public	
  to	
  conceptualize	
  a	
  truly	
  planetary	
  crisis.	
  Masco’s	
  focus	
  is	
  “…an	
  alternative	
  history	
  of	
  the	
  nuclear	
  age…	
  consider[ing]	
  the	
  US	
  national	
  security	
  implications	
  of	
  a	
  shift	
  in	
  the	
  definition	
  of	
  planetary	
  crisis	
  from	
  warring	
  states	
  to	
  a	
  warming	
  biosphere”13.	
  Within	
  the	
  article	
  it	
  is	
  interesting	
  to	
  consider	
  Masco’s	
  argument	
  that	
  within	
  the	
  United	
  States,	
  climate	
  change	
  has	
  been	
  treated	
  not	
  as	
  a	
  threat	
  to	
  the	
  earth	
  but	
  rather	
  a	
  threat	
  to	
  American	
  national	
  security.	
   Masco	
  suggests	
  that	
  in	
  the	
  same	
  way	
  that	
  film	
  clips	
  of	
  nuclear	
  detonations	
  changed	
  the	
  way	
  the	
  public	
  perceived	
  issues	
  of	
  nuclear	
  security	
  in	
  the	
  20th	
  century,	
  climate	
  focused	
  apocalypse	
  films	
  like	
  2004’s	
  The	
  Day	
  After	
  Tomorrow	
  and	
  events	
  like	
  hurricane	
  Katrina	
  will	
  change	
  the	
  way	
  climate	
  change	
  conceptualized	
  in	
  the	
  United	
  States.	
  In	
  light	
  of	
  Masco’s	
  arguments,	
  I	
  would	
  argue	
  that	
  an	
  understanding	
  and	
  respect	
  for	
  the	
  possible	
  catastrophic	
  effects	
  of	
  climate	
  change	
  among	
  the	
  general	
  public	
  would	
  definitely	
  provide	
  motivation	
  for	
  citizens	
  to	
  ‘inform’	
  themselves.	
  And	
  in	
  this	
  way,	
  the	
  public’s	
  ability	
  to	
  conceptualize	
  climate	
  change	
  issues	
  is	
  a	
  crucially	
  important	
  factor	
  in	
  their	
  motivation	
  for	
  the	
  development	
  of	
  future	
  climate	
  policy.	
  	
  	
   At	
  this	
  point	
  I	
  wish	
  to	
  unite	
  the	
  previous	
  concepts	
  of	
  ability	
  and	
  motivation	
  in	
  relation	
  to	
  climate	
  change	
  action.	
  Giving	
  the	
  public	
  credit	
  for	
  their	
  powers	
  of	
  reasoning,	
  it	
  is	
  important	
  to	
  recognize	
  that	
  their	
  motivation	
  to	
  inform	
  themselves	
  is	
  dependent	
  on	
  their	
  respect	
  for	
  the	
  institutions	
  that	
  create	
  and	
  distribute	
  information.	
  This	
  notion	
  is	
  related	
  to	
  Virilio’s	
  idea	
  that	
  in	
  some	
  cases	
  the	
  amount	
  of	
  conflicting	
  viewpoints	
  is	
  overwhelming;	
  however,	
  I	
  now	
  intend	
  to	
  focus	
  on	
  the	
  individuals	
  who	
  have	
  decided	
  to	
  sift	
  through	
  various	
  sources	
  while	
  at	
  the	
  same	
  time	
  evaluating	
  their	
  respective	
  credibility.	
  What	
  I	
  truly	
  hope	
  to	
  suggest	
  is	
  that	
  the	
  motivation	
  of	
  individuals	
  to	
  inform	
  themselves	
  is	
  eroding	
  not	
  only	
  due	
  to	
  the	
  explosion	
  of	
  new	
  sources	
  of	
  information,	
  but	
  also	
  to	
  the	
  crumbling	
  credibility	
  of	
  traditional	
  institutions	
  of	
  knowledge.	
  	
  	
   Case	
  in	
  point,	
  recent	
  news	
  reports	
  have	
  detailed	
  a	
  leaked	
  federal	
  document	
  that	
  suggests	
  that	
  federal	
  climate	
  scientists	
  are	
  feeling	
  “muzzled”	
  by	
  the	
  federal	
  government14.	
  The	
  scientists	
  in	
  question	
  take	
  specific	
  issue	
  with	
  new	
  rules	
  restricting	
  their	
  ability	
  to	
  speak	
  to	
  the	
  media	
  without	
  government	
  approval,	
  which	
  they	
  feel	
  is	
  intended	
  to	
  reduce	
  the	
  number	
  of	
  climate	
  change	
  stories	
  in	
  the	
  media.	
  Regardless	
  of	
  the	
  ultimate	
  truth	
  of	
  the	
  news	
  reports,	
  it	
  is	
  stories	
  such	
  as	
  this	
  that	
  can	
  wear	
  away	
  at	
  the	
  credibility	
  of	
  all	
  forms	
  of	
  climate	
  reporting,	
  governmental	
  or	
  otherwise.	
  The	
  motivation	
  of	
  citizens	
  to	
  ‘inform’	
  themselves	
  on	
  any	
  issue	
  is	
  dependent	
  on	
  their	
  feeling	
  of	
  empowerment	
  to	
  seek	
  out	
  credible	
  sources	
  of	
  knowledge,	
  an	
  ability	
  that	
  I	
  argue	
  is	
  hampered	
  not	
  only	
  by	
  an	
  explosion	
  of	
  sources	
  but	
  also	
  the	
  degradation	
  (perceived	
  or	
  not)	
  of	
  traditionally	
  reliable	
  sources.	
   	
   Conclusion:	
  For	
  a	
  citizen	
  seeking	
  to	
  combat	
  the	
  potentially	
  devastating	
  consequences	
  of	
  climate	
  change,	
  knowledge	
  is	
  definitely	
  power.	
  That	
  said	
  I	
  hope	
  this	
  essay	
  has	
  shown	
  that	
  ‘knowledge’	
  is	
  a	
  complex	
  and	
  delicate	
  concept.	
  As	
  we	
  have	
  learned	
  from	
  the	
  postmodern	
  theory,	
  there	
  can	
  be	
  no	
  knowledge	
  of	
  the	
  ‘truth’	
  with	
  our	
  acceptance	
  that	
  no	
  objective	
  knowledge	
  exists.	
  Thus	
  when	
  faced	
  with	
  the	
  issue	
  of	
  climate	
  change,	
  where	
  the	
  prognostic	
  power	
  of	
  our	
  knowledge	
  will	
  eventually	
  determine	
  our	
  fate	
  on	
  earth,	
  the	
  rejection	
  of	
  ultimate	
  truth	
  is	
  troubling	
  to	
  say	
  the	
  least.	
  Yet,	
  I	
  reject	
  the	
  notion	
  that	
  this	
  is	
  cause	
  for	
  inaction,	
  overly	
  cautious	
  deliberation,	
  or	
  apathy.	
  	
  	
   One	
  of	
  the	
  initial	
  uncertainties	
  that	
  this	
  paper	
  sought	
  to	
  investigate	
  was	
  the	
  appropriate	
  level	
  of	
  knowledge	
  required	
  of	
  each	
  citizen	
  in	
  order	
  to	
  make	
  ‘informed’	
  decisions	
  regarding	
  climate	
  change	
  policy;	
  however,	
  in	
  the	
  conclusion	
  the	
  answer	
  is	
  no	
  less	
  tenuous.	
  Perhaps	
  due	
  to	
  the	
  influence	
  of	
  the	
  postmodernists,	
  I	
  now	
  wish	
  to	
  remove	
  the	
  term	
  ‘appropriate’	
  from	
  the	
  discussion.	
  We	
  cannot	
  ask	
  everyone	
  to	
  uphold	
  an	
  ‘appropriate’	
  level	
  of	
  knowledge	
  by	
  the	
  same	
  logic	
  that	
  we	
  cannot	
  ask	
  everyone	
  to	
  agree	
  on	
  the	
  distinction	
  between	
  knowledge	
  and	
  belief.	
  If	
  we	
  accept	
  that	
  knowledge	
  is	
  inextricably	
  qualified	
  by	
  advocacy,	
  bias,	
  and	
  context	
  as	
  has	
  been	
  suggested	
  by	
  to	
  varying	
  degrees	
  by	
  Nietzsche,	
  Foucault,	
  and	
  Virilio,	
  then	
  so	
  too	
  is	
  the	
  ‘appropriate’	
  level	
  of	
  knowledge	
  dependent	
  on	
  context	
  and	
  perspective.	
  That	
  said,	
  acknowledging	
  that	
  there	
  is	
  not	
  singular	
  level	
  of	
  knowledge	
  required	
  of	
  democratic	
  citizens	
  is	
  not	
  an	
  argument	
  against	
  the	
  type	
  of	
  study	
  proposed	
  by	
  Foucault.	
  The	
  facts	
  of	
  discourse	
  undoubtedly	
  deserve	
  to	
  be	
  dissected.	
  Simply	
  because	
  all	
  citizens	
  will	
  never	
  be	
  equally	
  ‘informed’,	
  the	
  thoughtful	
  exposition	
  of	
  the	
  prejudices	
  and	
  biases	
  of	
  our	
  concepts,	
  social	
  structures,	
  and	
  institutions	
  is	
  still	
  invaluable	
  on	
  our	
  search	
  for	
  reliable	
  prognostic	
  knowledge.	
  	
  	
  Overall,	
  in	
  our	
  modern	
  political	
  realm,	
  I	
  feel	
  that	
  dogma	
  is	
  the	
  enemy,	
  especially	
  in	
  reference	
  to	
  climate	
  science.	
  If	
  we	
  truly	
  intend	
  to	
  satisfy	
  needs	
  of	
  the	
  current	
  generation	
  without	
  compromising	
  the	
  ability	
  of	
  future	
  generations	
  to	
  realize	
  their	
  potential,	
  it	
  is	
  absolutely	
  our	
  responsibility	
  to	
  tirelessly	
  endeavor	
  towards	
  the	
  knowledge	
  that	
  will	
  give	
  us	
  the	
  best	
  chance	
  to	
  avoid	
  catastrophe.	
  	
  	
   Notes:	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  1	
  Paul	
  Virilio,	
  “The	
  Information	
  Bomb”,	
  Verso,	
  London	
  and	
  New	
  York,	
  2000:	
  2.	
  	
  2	
  United	
  Nations	
  Framework	
  Convention	
  on	
  Climate	
  Change	
  Website,	
  “Kyoto	
  Protocol”,	
  2010.	
  	
  3	
  UNFCCC	
  Press	
  Release,	
  “UNFCCC	
  publishes	
  reports	
  summing	
  up	
  results	
  of	
  2009	
  UN	
  Climate	
  Change	
  Conference	
  in	
  Copenhagen”,	
  31	
  March	
  2010.	
  	
  4	
  Intergovernmental	
  Panel	
  on	
  Climate	
  Change	
  Website,	
  “Organization”,	
  2010.	
  	
  6	
  Michel	
  Foucault,	
  “The	
  Archaeology	
  of	
  Knowledge”,	
  Routledge,	
  New	
  York,	
  2002:	
  1.	
  	
  7	
  Ibid.	
  	
  8	
  “The	
  Information	
  Bomb”:	
  108.	
  	
  9	
  Margaret	
  Wente,	
  “The	
  Great	
  Global-­‐Warming	
  Collapse”,	
  The	
  Globe	
  and	
  Mail,	
  February	
  5,	
  2010.	
  	
  10	
  Ibid.	
  	
  11	
  Friedrich	
  Nietzsche,	
  “Beyond	
  Good	
  and	
  Evil”,	
  Cambridge	
  University	
  Press,	
  New	
  York,	
  2001:	
  5.	
  	
  12	
  Environment	
  Canada	
  Website,	
  “Canada's	
  2007	
  Greenhouse	
  Gas	
  Inventory”,	
  April	
  7,	
  2010.	
  	
  13	
  Joseph	
  Masco,	
  “Bad	
  Weather:	
  On	
  Planetary	
  Crisis”,	
  Social	
  Studies	
  of	
  Science,	
  2010,	
  40:	
  7.	
  	
  14	
  Mike	
  de	
  Souze,	
  “Climate-­‐change	
  scientists	
  feel	
  ‘muzzled’	
  by	
  Ottawa:	
  documents”,	
   The	
  Montreal	
  Gazette	
  Online,	
  March	
  15,	
  2010.	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
   	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
   Bibliography:	
   	
  •	
  "Canada's	
  2007	
  Greenhouse	
  Gas	
  Inventory	
  -­‐	
  A	
  Summary	
  of	
  Trends."	
   Environnement	
  Canada	
  -­	
  Environment	
  Canada.	
  N.p.,	
  n.d.	
  Web.	
  7	
  Apr.	
  2010.	
  <http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/ghg/inventory_report/2007/som-­‐sum_eng.cfm#s2>.	
  	
  	
  •	
  Foucault,	
  Michel.	
  Archaeology	
  of	
  Knowledge	
  (Routledge	
  Classics).	
  2	
  ed.	
  New	
  York:	
  Routledge,	
  2002.	
  Print.	
  	
  	
  •	
  "Kyoto	
  Protocols."	
  United	
  Nations	
  Framework	
  Convention	
  on	
  Climate	
  Change	
  .	
  U.N.,	
  n.d.	
  Web.	
  7	
  Apr.	
  2010.	
  <http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php>.	
  	
  	
  •	
  Masco,	
  Joseph	
  .	
  "Bad	
  Weather:	
  On	
  Planetary	
  Crisis	
  ."	
  Social	
  Studies	
  of	
  Science	
  40.7	
  (2010):	
  7.	
  Print.	
  	
  	
  •	
  Nietzsche,	
  Friedrich.	
  Nietzsche:	
  Beyond	
  Good	
  and	
  Evil:	
  Prelude	
  to	
  a	
  Philosophy	
  of	
  the	
   Future	
  (Cambridge	
  Texts	
  in	
  the	
  History	
  of	
  Philosophy).	
  1	
  ed.	
  New	
  York:	
  Cambridge	
  University	
  Press,	
  2001.	
  Print.	
  	
  	
  •	
  "Organization."	
  IPCC	
  -­	
  Intergovernmental	
  Panel	
  on	
  Climate	
  Change.	
  Web.	
  7	
  Apr.	
  2010.	
  <http://www.ipcc.ch/organization/organization.htm>.	
  	
  	
  •	
  Souza,	
  Mike	
  De.	
  "Climate-­‐change	
  scientists	
  feel	
  ‘muzzled’	
  by	
  Ottawa:	
  documents."	
   Montreal	
  Gazette.	
  15	
  Mar.	
  2010.	
  Web.	
  7	
  Apr.	
  2010.	
  <http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Climate+change+scientists+feel+muzzled+Ottawa+documents/2684621/story.html>.	
  	
  	
  •	
  "UNFCCC	
  publishes	
  reports	
  summing	
  up	
  results	
  of	
  2009	
  UN	
  Climate	
  Change	
  Conference	
  in	
  Copenhagen."	
  UNFCCC	
  [Copenhagen]	
  31	
  Mar.	
  2010:	
  1.	
  Print.	
  	
  	
  •	
  Virilio,	
  Paul.	
  The	
  Information	
  Bomb	
  (Radical	
  Thinkers).	
  New	
  York:	
  Verso,	
  2006.	
  Print.	
  	
  	
  •	
  Wente,	
  Margaret.	
  "The	
  Great	
  Global	
  Warming	
  Collapse."	
  The	
  Globe	
  and	
  Mail	
  [Toronto]	
  5	
  Feb.	
  2010:	
  1.	
  Print.	
  	
   	
  	
  

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