Grist columns have recently seen a new spate of climate obstructionism. Here’s DaveWR responding to a recent post

“I am old enough to firmly believe in climate change. I was born when the planet was just ending several warming decades which had followed several cooling decades, which were imbedded in the general warming which followed the Little Ice Age.”

That comment managed to hijack an interesting back & forth commentary on the merits of comparing Abolition and climate action, leaving one regular Grist poster, “…puzzled by the tolerance shown towards trolls at Grist.”

The old, foaming-at-the-mouth diatribes of climate denialists were unsubtle. This new brand of obfuscatory commentary is coy and smirking, and smarter then old school Dittoheadism.

We’re not overrun with trolls, we’ve got trouble with Tribbles.

Only Trekkies of the first generation will likely recall the over-the-top second season episode of Stare Trek, “The Trouble With Tribbles.” The problem with the cutesy furry Tribbles, which even Dr. Spock found initially nonthreatening, was that they multiplied swiftly, filling every nook and cranny. So to, do the Tribbles of anti-climate action infiltrate cute points into any discussion niche, sidetracking to–the–point conversation, and filling what might otherwise be useful space with blather masquerading as discourse.

But what to do? Should we ignore them? Ridicule them? Ban them?

I was formerly, and firmly, of the kick ‘em out view – see Why do we respond to Bozos? – but find that I’ve changed my mind. It’s increasingly clear that climate discussion, indeed all modern life, exists on a continuum of climate denial. Few of us have the courage to truly come to terms with a world collapsing around our ears; it is most likely impossible to do so without leadership or institutions to validate an unflinching acceptance of reality.

My partner Andrée came home puzzled the other night from a writers’ group meeting where she presented a first cut at turning our JP Green House experience into a book. She’d gotten surprisingly vehement responses from a group of successful, liberal writers who objected, not to our proposal, per se, but to the climate cataclysm premise on which our project, the book and, indeed our lives are based.

“You can’t say that this one problem is more important than other issues,” said one writer, “If you say that, you seem like an extremist.” Another person argued that “of course the problem is being dealt with – how can it not be?  Isn’t climate all over the media?” And there was the dismissive, “Every generation has thought that there was some sort of impending apocalypse that was going to destroy civilization.”

“It’s frustrating to have to counter this sort of objection,”
Andrée said, “I ended up arguing climate science.”

And there’s the nub of the matter. Once an argument has devolved to arguing the fine points of climate science, it’s turned Tribble – filling space and nothing more.

The difference between liberal Tribble complaints and free market Tribble cant is slight, and has far more to do with tone and political party than any fundamental distinction in perception of climate risk. Liberals accept that there is such a thing as climate change, but don’t see it as a significant problem because the risks are downplayed and they have faith that government and civil society will head off the worst case scenario. While some on the right continue to insist that the whole thing is a conspiracy, most accept the phenomenon but downplay the risk, arguing that swings in climate are ordinary, and, in any event, the free market will either solve the problem or demonstrate, by failing to act, that the problem is insignificant.

They even use the same arguments. Free market Tribbles go on and on about how environmentalists are scaremongers who can’t seem to stick with one threat. Here’s Bruce Thompson posting on American Thinker.

“Before there was Global Warming Theory to scare the public into rash action, there was Nuclear Winter Theory. The two theories are contradictory, but both were peddled by the political left, and both used some similar rhetorical and political tactics.”

This standard right wing line boilerplate is surprisingly similar to what Andrée heard from the liberal writer’s group… “Every generation has worriers. How is climate difference than nuclear war? If you say that apocalypse is coming and we have to drop everything, isn’t that like Jim Jones?”

It is all of a piece, and whether one is hanging out with liberal Tribble friends or confronting free market Tribbles in the Grist columns, the challenge is primarily psychological, not political.

A year ago we didn’t have this problem. Right wing Tribbles were quiescent and climate activists were content sharing the common ground of “green jobs” with liberal Tribbles. But now, with collapse of Copenhagen and the Dems climate bill having torn away the veil of liberal accommodation and resurgent climate action obstructionism on the right, we must challenge obstinate denial wherever it rears its head.

So I say, let us support a free range for Tribbles of all stripes! And on those who stray into Grist, upon them let us sharpen our tongues and pens!