It’s not unusual to be reading a book quite unrelated to weather, climate, politics or anything to do with to global warming, when a little light goes on in the back of your brain and you think ‘oh – that’s relevant to the CAGW debate’.
It happened again today. This time the book in question is Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I’m reading “Chapter 7. Why did Wall Street crash and Warren Buffet prosper?” which talks about extroverts and how their reward-system fuels risk-taking. In the run up to the 2008 Wall Street crash, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) were considered undesirable and kicked into touch.
“Each time someone pressed for more leverage and more risk, the next few years proved them ‘right’. These people were emboldened, they were promoted and they gained control over ever more capital. Meanwhile, anyone in power who hesitated, who argued for caution, was proved ‘wrong’. The cautious types were increasingly intimidated, passed over for promotion. They lost their hold on capital. This happened every day in almost every financial institution, over and over, until we ended up with a very specific kind of person running things.
And here’s the quote that lit that bulb (bold mine):
“People with certain personality types got control of capital and institutions and power, and people who are congenitally more cautious and introverted and statistical in their thinking became discredited and pushed aside.”
At same time, we have the rise of CAGW, The Consensus, The Science is Settled; a call for decisive action, committing billions to CO2 reduction to ‘save the world’. Western nations are exhorted to act ‘to save poorer nations’ who will suffer the most.
Incidentally, apparently Al Gore is an introvert, one of many listed as achieving what they did ‘not in spite of but because of their introversion’. I’m promised more details later in the book, but skipping ahead a bit shows discussion that Gore couldn’t seem to get his message across until he teamed up with “whiz-bang Hollywood types who could package his warning into the special-effects-laden show that became An Inconvenient Truth.”
Without reading the book, you might wonder what introversion has to do with this. Well the book’s argument is that introverts tend to analyse quietly, to be certain before speaking up, and find that even then their reasoned analysis is overlooked in favour of more ebullient strategies. Does this not seem to parallel the fate of scepticism in the climate debate, even without the denigration and name-calling? Cautious, quiet, statistical – I’m thinking of Steve McIntyre.
Wall Street’s had its crash (although some say there may be worse ahead), but with the climate debate we’re in the midst of a long slow a course correction that is like turning the Seawise Giant (tanker) at sea. Just like Wall Street we need FUD.