The survey that forms the heart of the paper was conducted upon experts from or associated with the petro-chemical industry (in Alberta, Canada), showing that within this sector frames largely supporting the ‘C’ in CAGW add up to 41% of respondents, and frames that are largely unsupportive add to 51%. These findings and others lead the authors to a large discussion and conclusion section that includes for instance this bold assertion: ‘it seems unlikely that the defensive institutional work by those in powerful positions within fossil fuel-related firms and industry associations can be breached in the near future without global enforcement mechanisms.’ While other conclusions are not so audacious and there is a reference to ‘scientific disagreement’, readers would be correct in assuming a similar flavor. The rather strident tone of this quote leads one to suspect a fatal flaw within the whole analysis, namely that the authors have failed to recognize their own framing, and hence have done nothing to prevent this framing from biasing the whole analysis. A search for such bias and inherent framing is all too easily rewarded.
For instance there is more than a nod to the ‘storyline’ that older males in senior positions ‘are more defensive’ to climate regulation. This invokes what is effectively a cultural cliché now, therefore alerting us regarding potential misuse to aid a particular framing. Of course within the context of the sector the authors are analyzing, whose interests lie largely in the petro-chemical industry and wider economy of Alberta, it is true; their survey is no doubt correct. But having read many of the Climategate emails, it is clear for instance that the core of defensiveness from the ‘Hockey Team’ (as they once called themselves) against making climate science more open, sharing data, and embracing rather than suppressing scientific uncertainties, also comes from older males in senior (academic) positions. Another similar scenario is that the core of defensiveness against toning down alarmism inside environmental NGOs, comes from older males in senior (administrative) positions. Regarding the latter, see the article about male domination within the leaderships of the WWF and Greenpeace, at No Frakking Consensus here: http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2013/05/09/the-male-dominated-green-landscape/.
So, by isolating a narrow (climate-change ‘resistive’) sector completely from the context of the wider narrative competition, the authors have thus succeeded in morphing a relatively firm metric that surely we all knew about anyhow (i.e. older males dominate org leaderships), and one that is neutral with respect to climate narratives, into a storyline that is not neutral with respect to climate narratives, and is subtly deployed within their CAGW supportive frame to try and morally undermine those who are leaders in the petro-chemical sector. The implied storyline is: ‘those bad old dudes are harming the climate for self-interest; dudettes and younger dudes are way cooler than those stuffy old types anyway’. This storyline is a recurrent meme within the social phenomenon of CAGW and indeed within other cultural movements that foster radicalism and seek a change to the current regime, sometimes attempting to frame that regime in terms of an ‘Ancien Régime’. Yet a universal truth regarding the statistically dominant position of older males in society (which recent changes addressing gender bias have not yet balanced out), lends no legitimacy whatever to subcultures like CAGW that attempt to leverage this fact for demonization of opposing leaderships; let CAGW adherents look to their own frame-related leaderships, most of which will have the same male over-weightings.
The ‘older male’ storyline within LM2013 is only a minor contributor to the total narrative of the paper. But it exposes the fact that the authors have failed to recognize the full scope of the narrative competition and hence their own place within this contest, and thus are working within their own inherent framing. At the heart of this blindness is a critical and fatal error; the assumption that framings are to a large extent consciously constructed, deliberate if you will. This error occurs despite the authors having recognized a link to identity (and so potentially to subconscious behavior).
Hence I speculate that the authors’ reasoning regarding personal bias would run somewhat like this: “we are not consciously or deliberately constructing any frame, we are merely ‘seeking the truth’, hence we must be impartial.” But this is not so. They have not grasped that their own identities are linked to a very powerful framing (i.e. *C*AGW) within the wider contest, and so they’re unknowingly engaged upon promoting the storylines within that framing as though these were unbiased ‘truths’. This error is in turn based upon the lack of recognition that CAGW, with an emphasis on the ‘C’, is simply another framing in itself, i.e. another (and aggressively infectious) culture if you like. They have mistaken this framing for ‘scientific facts’ or ‘environmental reality’, and then identified with it.
This all too common mistake is revealed by the opening of the ‘Discussion and Conclusion’ section: ‘Climate change could irreversibly affect future generations and, as such, is one of the most urgent issues facing organizations’. While the authors mitigate slightly with the word ‘could’, the level of impact and urgency (if any!) is precisely one of the relative truths that is being fought over in the narrative contest of storylines and their alliances within frames. Above a certain level of scientific uncertainty about climate behavior and interactions, there is no absolute truth regarding the major issues of impact and urgency. Despite (at one time) a successful narrative about ‘settled science’, it transpires that there is and always was a wide enough uncertainty to allow a blossoming of arbitrary narrative competition (in essence, no scenario could be completely ruled out). Hence every position, including of course that of the IPCC itself, is just an interpreted package (frame) filled with storylines that promote this position. This does not mean that all frames are completely devoid of facts, just that the ability to compete in a narrative war is rewarded more than the level of verifiability, a situation which typically results over the long-term in factual content being skewed or drowned out. (Skeptic and Luke-warmer narratives have tended to compete poorly, in my opinion partly because they rely more heavily on unadorned facts, including the realities about uncertainty, which thus seed much less sensational storylines).
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