First, a couple of caveats:
1) I’m generally not a fan of comedy sketches in which the main gag is that people not commonly associated with rap music attempt to rap. You know the type, with the old lady at the wedding laying down rhymes or a stuffy English gent from central casting bleating out hip-hop slang in the Queen’s plummiest English. Oh, the incongruity! Sorry, but no. I’ve heard rumors this joke was funny once. Once. In like 1987. Andrew “Dice” Clay was considered funny then too. It was a dark time for freedom and good taste and we should leave it all in the dustbin of pop history.
2) If recent talk around here is anything to go by, this is going to strike far too many readers as the gestapo-tactic propaganda of an ignorant profiteering Enviro-Nazi or something (Heil Gore?), but here goes: I’m a journalist, and it’s my job to sort fact from opinion and spin, and I’ve been covering the climate and sustainability beat for about 10 years, and I firmly believe the signal failure of our media and political cultures in those 10 years has been their failure to accurately communicate the reality of how actual working climate scientists do their work and what that work is telling us about the state of our world.
With those points duly noted, let’s get to a very funny, very playful video that’s been making some serious viral waves across the interweb: “I’m a Climate Scientist,” a segment that aired recently on “Hungry Beast,” a hybrid comedy-news program that airs on Australia's ABC TV.
Here’s the video, with a warning that some of the language and subject matter is too raunchy for American primetime and probably offensive to younger viewers, puritans, and people who believe the only things standing between them and dollar-a-gallon oil are a shadowy cabal of self-interested con artists chasing fat climate research money and the unfathomable power that comes from being a high-ranking climate scientist:
Obviously, this is a far cry from the staid language and arcane data you usually find in discussions about climate science. Which is of course why it has attracted more than 100,000 viewers in less than a week. If you’ve spent any time talking with climate scientists about their work and what about it remains “unsettled,” you know that their take on the idea that the “greenhouse effect is just a theory,” translated from the lab to the street, would pretty much amount to “Yeah, so is gravity, so float away.” So it’s sort of refreshing, actually, to watch a bunch of climate scientists respond so bluntly to this old canard.
Now, there is no shortage of more nuanced conversation out there on these subjects, and it’s actually the stuff I’m personally more inclined to be swayed by. If you’re wondering how it is that the real work of climate scientists came to be so distorted in the public discourse, for example, you could certainly do worse than watch some portion of this interview with Erik Conway, co-author of the book "Merchants of Doubt," which documents the actual conspiracy and truly deep-pocketed funding behind the denial side of the climate “debate."
Beyond this, there’s the recent UC-Berkeley study on the oft-derided “hockey stick” temperature graph, a study mounted by an avowed skeptic -- who discovered that the hockey stick is actually pretty much accurate. Or just today I saw an exhaustive multi-link story over at Climate Progress about nefarious plagiarism and insufficient peer review -- by other self-professed skeptics.
All of this stuff is heavily researched and meticulously detailed, thick with facts and graphs and citations. It’s also about as likely to get 100,000 hits on YouTube as a video of me sitting at my desk reading aloud from the dictionary. ("So that's 'disinformation.' Next we have 'disingenuous.' Adjective. 'Insincere, lacking in frankness or honesty . . .'") For 20 years now, this kind of stuff has been readily available but mostly ignored by the mainstream media and the public at large, and climate scientists have been much less visible in the political arena than sci-fi novelists, Danish statisticians and Vegas magicians.
So who knows? Maybe the best way forward for beleaguered climate science is to drop the data and start droppin’ rhymes. Maybe what we need is more young, passionate scientists goofing around on camera, rapping awkwardly as only white-coated, paleskinned lab rats can. Demonstrating, first, that they are real. That they are regular people, capable of humility and humiliation, working hard and hardly working, kickin' it old school, plus any other jus’-folks cliché you’d care to add to this list.
They are regular people, that is, who happen to be climate scientists, yo. And who happen to know, the way your doctor’s pretty sure it’s a chest infection or a biologist is flat-out certain your ancestors were primates, that “there’s no denying this – climate change is REEEEALLLL!”
On the other hand, rumor has it I’m a card-carrying member of the "warmist" cabal. I might just be kicking back here on a big pile of filthy climate hoax lucre, lighting my blunts with all the Benjamins I get by spinning yarns for Big Science. Lord knows there’s no easier way to make money, especially living in a cash-strapped oil town like the one I live in.
To discuss the unreconstructed fascism in my argument 140 characters at a time, follow me on Twitter: @theturner.