Can the Left adapt to the Trump era? Watch their climate activists for clues.

Summary: Much depends on the Left’s ability to resist Trump, making arguments that mobilize public opinion. Their actions since the election suggest that will not happen soon. Climate change is both the Left’s signature initiative and its greatest failure (failing to change the US public’s policy priorities). How (or if) the Left changes their climate advocacy will show if they can adapt to the Trump era.

Climate change activist
London, 6 December 2009. Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA.

Astronomer Phil Plait writes at Slate, one of the Left’s better-known climate propagandists. His recent columns at Slate show why the Left has failed to mobilize public opinion — and that they have learned nothing from the election.

There were no questions about climate change in the presidential debates. Clinton said little about climate change during the entire campaign. Accordingly, Gallup found that environmental issues were not in the top 12 issues people associate with Clinton. There are good reasons for this. Climate change has consistently ranked near the bottom of the US public’s major policy concerns. Gallup asks people “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” In October only 3% listed an environmental or pollution-related issues (including climate); economic issues were #1, totaling 17%.

His November 28 column at Slate, Plait discussed Trump’s plan to get NASA out of climate change research. He played the same song climate activists have sung for a decade. He began by invoking the consensus of climate scientists, which he should state (but doesn’t). As expressed by the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”

This is important. But the relevant public policy question concerns future warming: what are the odds of various amounts of warming during different time horizons of the 21st century? There is no easy answer to this, let alone a consensus of climate scientists about it. So climate activists either ignore the research (such as the 4 scenarios described in AR5) or focus on the worst of these (the truly horrific RCP8.5), ignoring its unlikely assumptions.

Climate nightmares

Plait skips all these vital complexities, going from the consensus about past warming to boldly assert that “Climate change is already one of if not the biggest threat our species has faced.” He gives no evidence for this because there is so little. There is little evidence of a consensus of climate scientists about future warming. More broadly, has any scientist compared the various future warming scenarios to past threats, such as the Toba supereruption 75,000 years ago that might have almost exterminated humanity or WWIII starting during the Cold War?

Such a speculative assertion is an absurdly weak basis to justify spending trillions and imposing far-reaching regulations — let alone restructure our economic and political systems (as proposed by Naomi Klein and Pope Francis).

Plait often pulls this bait-and-switch. In his May 30 column about Trump’s ignorant statements denying California’s drought, Plait slides from discussion of the drought to implying it results from climate change. But centuries-long droughts are a natural part of the southwestern US climate. NOAA reported that “The current drought is not part of a long-term change in California precipitation, which exhibits no appreciable trend since 1895.” Many other peer-reviewed papers came to similar conclusions. See the research here.

Even more outrageous is Plait’s multi-year crusade to conceal from the public climate scientists’ research about the pause, the debate about its causes, and predictions of its duration — research that continues today. Plait ignores these scientists work, insisting that the “pause” (aka “hiatus”) is a lie by denialists.


The vast investment by the Left in its 28 year-long climate change campaign has had a trivial impact on the public policy priorities of the US public. It is one of the largest public relations failures in US history.  See why the climate change debate broke and its lessons for the future. Plait’s behavior is typical of activists, and has helped poison the public debate. Trump’s denialism is just one of the sad results.

They earned their failure. Depending on how the climate changes, we might all pay for it. It might be difficult to restart the debate if evidence appears suggesting the worst-case scenarios are happening.

Looking ahead, will climate activists learn from their mistakes? Will they abandon their reliance on doomster forecasts, and again build on the work of climate science and the IPCC (once the “gold standard” of climate science, now “too conservative” for them)?  If they cannot adapt, can the Left as a movement adapt to the Trump era?

The road back to reality  will be long for climate activists

“You and your friends will die of old age and I’m going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy.”
— Part of a tirade by “Zach” to Donna Brazile, interim leader of the Democratic National Committee, at a staff meeting. Reported by the HuffPo.

“I can’t see humans existing within 10 years. We can do nothing to stop the planet becoming too hot to grow food and support life. It is already happening and we have less than a decade left.”
— Guy McPherson (Prof of Biology, U AZ, retired). Reported by the New Zealand Herald. His website is “Nature Bats Last – Our Days Are Numbered“.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about the politics of climate change…

  1. Important: climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.
  3. A story of the climate change debate. How it ran; why it failed.
  4. Science into agitprop: “Climate Change Is Strangling Our Oceans”.
  5. Ignoring science to convince the public that we’re doomed by climate change.
  6. A leaked memo about climate change explains why we’re unprepared.
  7. The 5 stages of grief for the failure of the climate change campaign.

To learn more about the state of climate change…

…see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr. (Prof of Environmental Studies at U of CO-Boulder, and Director of their Center for Science and Technology Policy Research).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

9 thoughts on “Can the Left adapt to the Trump era? Watch their climate activists for clues.”

  1. Pingback: Thursday Link Encyclopedia  | Clarissa's Blog

  2. Klein, pope Francis and their fellow travellers are using the climate to try and force through a series of political changes that they think (hope?) will lead to a world in which they’d prefer to live. Climate change is their wedge issue. Which is why they’re unable to stop pushing so hard on all those buttons that clearly aren’t working.

    If climate change *isn’t* an imminent disaster, what else have they got in a world where people are getting wealthier faster than at any other time in human history? I don’t see how they can tone down the rhetoric, because now, it’ll taken as an admission they were wrong and didn’t know what they were talking about.

    1. Steve,

      I believe that even now there are methods of making their case that would be more effective. But you make an important point (one I overlooked)! Alarmists have crawled out on a high limb before the crowd. Crawling back will be less fun. They might just decide to hold on and wait to get lucky.

      After all, these political swings in the climate policy debate are noise. The Climate is trump (please excuse the bad pun). Some big bad weather — blamed on CO2 — and the alarmists might stampede strong measures through Congress. Think of a 9/11 event, but about weather. More long-term, we might accelerated warming, powerful fodder for alarmists.

      On the other hand, as some peer-reviewed research predicts, we might get continued slow or no warming. The consequences might be severe for the alarmists, the news media, and climate scientists.

      For more about this see Imagine the horrific fate of the losers after the climate policy debate ends.

  3. “There is no reality based community in America….”
    Things really are like that. Is it screens, tv, gamers, mass propagandizing (advertising/ branding), post modern relativism….what?
    Once was a demarcation. Slowly it has become obscured.
    Suspend reserved wisdom and judgments so easily?


  4. Pingback: Can the Left adapt to the Trump era? Watch their climate activists for clues. | Watts Up With That?

  5. I wish the incoming cabinet would read more Hayek and less bloggerel for a change. In The Constitution of Liberty , he wrote:

    “Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it – or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs.”

    1. Russell,

      Can you explain that? First, what major politicians pay much attention to Hayek? Serious attention, not just in rhetoric to keep libertarians happy?

      Second, what makes you believe these CEOs, billionaires, senior representatives, and senior gov’t officials read any blogs? Let alone “bloggeral”?

  6. Pingback: Climate activists’ final act, as they move into the last stage of grief | Watts Up With That?

  7. Pingback: Environmental Activists Celebrate NY's Divestment From Fossil Fuels

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