Congratulations to the people of the USA, who turned out in record numbers and finally got rid of Donald Trump, his family and the various remaining hangers on who've occupied the White House for the last (almost) four years.
There has been much celebration in the media, dancing in the streets, hope on Twitter and mockery on SNL. It seems surreal to celebrate a return to sanity. What this to-ing and fro-ing shows is both the fragility and the strength of democracy.
March toward reality or away from it?
Now I hate to be a wet blanket but I have to say while this was a terrific result, the march away from reality isn't over. There are populists rearing their heads all over the world, some of whom, like Trump, express views reminiscent of the worst leaders of the twentieth century.
We've seen how easy it is for a wannabe dictator to be elected leader and wreak havoc, including in what is arguably still the most powerful nation in the world today. This week's drawn out US elections demonstrated the fragility. Can you imagine any other country where a person like Donald Trump had 71 million people voting for him as President? If the answer is "yes", you see what I mean. Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison might not behave quite as badly as Donald Trump; however, if the UK and Australian governments were not parliamentary systems and were structured in the same way as the US, perhaps they would be every bit as bad. (Scott Morrison is an evangelical tongue-talker and has fairly close links to Qanon. His government is as inept and corrupt as we've seen for a while. I'll leave it to UK readers to comment on Boris' shortcomings.)
What I fear is similar to the concerns I have in Australia when it comes to COVID19. If you let your guard down you may end up with the world dropping into the agnotological abyss. Not just Dunning Kruger land but deep conspiracy nuttery. More on that in a minute.
So many pandemic experts, and boomer bashers
Here in Australia after a scary community outbreak and too many deaths, we've all but got rid of the corona virus - COVID-19. About the only place it's still showing up is in people arriving here from other countries. Those people are already in quarantine and will remain isolated until they get a clean bill of health. Yet as we've seen here in my home state of Victoria, it takes but one transmission beyond quarantine and the virus can run rampant in the community. The more doughnut days we have, the greater the risk we'll become complacent. (A doughnut day is a day with no new cases. A double doughnut day is a day with no deaths and no new cases.)
On the topic of COVID-19, I've been surprised at the number of people who accept (and research or write about) climate science who have bought into epidemiology and public health discussions. I should be more specific. Naturally COVID19 is on everyone's mind so of course it's normal to talk about it. No, what I really mean is how quite a number of people appear to be putting themselves forward as experts and analysts, jumping from climate science to epidemiology and virology. The temptation to do so is undeniable. The risk is that one ends up taking a position without being privy to sufficient facts, without having the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience.
The hottest arguments are around models and lockdowns. Models, well that's understandable. Pretty well all sciences use models. Lockdowns not so much. That's getting into a complicated mix of virology, epidemiology, public health, behavioural science, other social sciences, history, economics and ideology.
Some people have very strong views about what they're prepared to do to stop the virus spreading. I've come across a few people on the internet who would readily trade all boomers, in fact anyone older than 50, for their daily latte, mocha, espresso or flat white from their favourite barista. They'd rather see their parents dead than wear a mask.
I was a bit dismayed to be blackballed by a popular cartoonist, First Dog on the Moon, for a response I made to a Covidiot the other day (shades of Scott Adams). The person I was replying to (not the cartoonist) was of the view they'd rather risk another outbreak of the virus than wait just one more day to hear about loosening of our four months of restrictions. The cartoonist, who up till then followed me and whose cartoons are often terrific (if condescending), jumped into the exchange and told me not to be so patronising to the covidiot, then promptly blocked me for my surprised but restrained reply. It reminded me that one must be cautious about applying the halo effect. Just because someone agrees with climate scientists it doesn't mean they will agree with experts in other fields such as virology, epidemiology, public health, disease control, behavioural science or economics.
Our civilisation is fragile
Lots of little signs such as the Trump phenomenon and unexpected reactions to the pandemic, have made me more acutely aware of how fragile is civilisation. It's dawned on me that when it comes to the sort of changes we'll need to make to cope with climate change, we'll not just have to deal with normal deniers, we'll have to deal with people who might accept the science but who who cannot tolerate any constraints, however short-lived and temporary, on their individual freedoms. This will include not only libertarians, it will also include some progressives. It's one thing to talk the talk, we must be aware that not everyone can walk the walk.
Election denial is the same as climate science denial
While rational people can argue the best response to a pandemic (live with it, eradicate it, try to control it, have lockdowns in fits and starts, let the oldies die, wait for a vaccine, let everyone get it and the fittest survive, hope for eventual and magical herd immunity etc), there will probably always be deniers around. I haven't been to deniersville much this year. I did pop over before writing this article. What I found was election denial is as rampant and idiotic as climate science denial. The little conspiracy theorists at WUWT are convinced the US election results will be overturned as soon as the fraud is discovered. It reminds me how global warming will stop as soon as someone discovers how everyone around the world who recorded weather for the past 150 years or so managed to fiddle the numbers.
Well, that was a bit of a ramble, wasn't it. If it's disjointed that's because I'm out of practice, or that's my excuse for now. If it sounds like a whinge, then parts of it are and it feels good to get things off my chest. If you're keen for me to get back to climate science, I plan to. So much has happened this past year with ENSO, the Arctic and Antarctica, coral reefs, record-breaking temperatures, hurricanes and typhoons, wildfires and floods, and so much more, including deniers being paid far too much for jobs they can't do at NOAA.
Watch this space!
From the thoughts at WUWT
Before you go, do you want to see what's up at WUWT? Nothing much has changed. Charles Rotter, who I think has taken over from Anthony Watts (I could be wrong), is one of the election deniers and has opened an open thread on the US elections with these words:
Most of our readers realize that today’s media pronouncements are meaningless and we are in for a month or more of lawfare.
His invitation to conspiracy nutters was quite fruitful, yielding comments such as:
Mario Lento November 7, 2020 at 2:36 pm
Well a recount of fraudulent ballots might not be enough. We need to also figure out which ballots are bogus, and that will be more difficult.
John Galt III November 7, 2020 at 6:36 pm
I’m a chief election judge and Joe’s Party committed fraud on a pre-planned, systematic and industrial scale.
Timothy R Robinson November 7, 2020 at 3:49 pm
With Biden’s declining health, we don’t need to worry about him reaching the white house. Kamala will be sure he isn’t sworn in.
Many other things I could say, but the electorate will have final say in December.
Curious George November 7, 2020 at 3:16 pm
Biden decided to take an initiative and declared himself President without waiting for courts. Welcome to Banana Republic USA.
Why are you so desperate to push Biden into the White House right this minute?
Is it because you know that there’s no way to hold the fraud together until January?
All it takes is for a few fraudsters to get arrested, and the others will start turning each other in to avoid jail time.