A Twitter Conversation Between a Climate Capitalist and a “Conservative, Gun Owning Scientist”

By Boyd Cohen, CO2 IMPACT

Recently I’ve been impressed with the uses of Twitter as a medium for dialog amongst geographically disperesed people with similar (or perhaps very different-see below) interests. Just last week, I was an observer of a scheduled Twitter conversation amongst people engaged in the biofuels sector. They call them biochats (#biochat) and I believe are run by Scott Miller, AKA @BIOblogger.

Just a few days I found myself in a 2 way debate with someone with a significantly different perspective than I have regarding climate change. As I am a relatively active Twitterer on the subject of climate change and climate capitalism I sometimes receive messages from climate skeptics.

While in the past I used to avoid debates with people who wanted to debate the science of climate change as I see that as a no-win battle because no matter how much grounded science you present them with, if they are convinced climate change is a hoax you are not going to change their mind. However recently I have become more interested in seeing if we can change the dialog. Rather than debate the merits of the science, why not make the argument that even if you don’t “believe in climate change” (not sure why it is belief anyway, it is not a religion), why not embrace all the other reason shifting to a low-carbon economy is a good idea such as avoiding dependence on foreign oil, less taxpayer spent on war, financial savings from efficiency or profitable opportunities to transition to a low carbon economy?

So @mathis12 whose Twitter description is “A conservative, gun owning scientist with a Ph.D. in Physics who doesn’t believe in the hoax of man made global warming.” launched a Tweet my way (and of @co2nation, the new documentary that is a “climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change. This time I couldn’t resist trying my new approach on him:

@boydcohen @co2nation Explain this graph http://twitpic.com/3qqj0f #tcot #p2 #agw

Here was my first attempt:
Hi Gary @mathis12 The beauty of @co2nation movie and my book Climate Capitalism is even if you don’t care/believe there is $ in low carbon

Keep in mind it is not easy engaging in this kind of debate in 140 characters and I am just learning how to succinctly pull this off.

@mathis 12 Responded:
@boydcohen @co2nation Sorry not interested in solving a non problem

I thought I might get him with this:
@mathis12 Point is there are many “co-benefits” with transition to low-carbon such as less dependence on oil from mid east, save$, make $

I guess I was wrong:
@boydcohen Content to let the free market do its job

All of us fans of Triple Pundit are well aware of the failings of the free market to solve all kinds of issues like pollution, deforestation, child labor, the hole in the ozone, climate change, etc. but of course not all “conservative, gun owning” citizens appreciate these examples:

@mathis12 Free market has failed to help us with our dependence on foreign oil, or to avoid billions $ in gov’t spending on wars, deforestat

So of course the answer to our oil dependence and free market failings is to just hand out drilling permits for offshore drilling and the Alaskan Arctic Refuge…

@boydcohen That’s because of govt interference Drill baby drill

OK, let’s try a new line of thinking:

@mathis12 Drilling doesn’t solve every problem. How about the $ that can be saved from energy efficiency? It is not only a climate/oil thing

Nope that didn’t work either:

@boydcohen Free market is best when it comes to saving $ If ur system is free market based then OK

@boydcohen Free market encourages efficiency to maximize profits

OK, how about one last try to use logic to explain that even if we did drill everywhere in order to avoid the conflicts associated with foreign oil.

@mathis12 How about the fact that only 22b tons of oil reserves in US http://bit.ly/cUPyYT and 7bn/yr in consumption http://bit.ly/dY0fc5 ?

If known reserves are equal to roughly 3 years worth of consumption in the U.S. it becomes obvious that within even new discoveries and blasting the Arctic Refuge we can’t survive forever with our own reserves. At the time I wrote this I had not received a response to my last point but I highly doubt he is going to give up that easily. As a former professor I am accustomed to giving out grades so it is time to grade myself in my experiment engaging in a Twitter debate with a skeptic: C+

I have some work to do.

Boyd Cohen is the CEO of CO2 IMPACT, a carbon origination company based in Vancouver, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. Boyd is also the co-author of the forthcoming book, Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.

Twitter: boydcohen

This series will use the hashtag #climatcaptlsm

Boyd Cohen is the CEO of CO2 IMPACT, a carbon origination company based in Vancouver, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. Boyd is also the co-author of Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.Twitter: boydcohen

6 responses

  1. Boyd – I’m intrigued to know if a conversation like this is easier on Twitter than it would be face to face at a party or a convention for example -I’m sure you encounter those sorts of conversations everywhere. The phrase “brick wall” springs to mind and I am impressed with your calm & dignified responses, as well as your efforts to try and get your point over using a different tack, one which may engage your partner in this conversation on his level. Patently it failed, but top marks for the approach. Are you less or more frustrated using the Twitter channel??

  2. Tracy and Jay, thank you for your feedback to this post. I agree with both of you that most skeptics are pretty difficult to debate with because their attitudes are frequently radical and not based purely on reason or sound science, but rather driven by political affiliations. While Al Gore appropriately pointed out in Inconvenient Truth that climate change is not a political issue, the problem is Al Gore was a VP for the Democratic Party and many conservatives view this issue as a liberal democratic agenda. I feel however, that those of us who realize climate change is a serious issue, must find ways to reach out to conservatives and even skeptics. The reason Hunter Lovins and I wrote the book Climate Capitalism and the reason Peter Byck produced Carbon Nation was to find a way to engage the masses, not just preach to the converted. If we are to succeed in shifting to a low-carbon future, we have to show that even if you don’t “believe” in climate change, there are other really good reasons to make the shift such as cost savings or profits, avoided conflict, taxpayer savings. We have an uphill battle but we have to find a way. I will surely keep trying:)

  3. There are a couple of reasons that I think commenting to blogs is better than tweeting for conducting dialogs.

    1 – The ability to write paragraphs as opposed to sound bites means not having to compromise a point to the mechanics of the medium. Tweets are good for directing and linking attention, but not for providing content.

    2 – The comments are threaded from the origin of discussion and are circulated with other comments. That exposes the comments to a new audience that may elect to follow you in the future.

    I recommend that other followers of #biochat submit comments to articles to help correct misinformation in the media. BTW, @Sean_OHanlon is the organizer behind #biochat, not me.

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