A Response To the Skeptics
The ballyhoo against global warming is growing.
Around the world, politicians, lobbyists, businesses, the media, and every day people are insisting that
the Earth’s climate is not changing, that we are in no danger, and therefore we don’t have to alter how we live or conduct our businesses.
The climate change debunkers—who call global warming a “swindle,” and an “urban legend,” and a “m
yth”—are outraged that newspapers, magazines, television, books, websites, documentaries, governments, and everyone from farmers to CEOs talk about global climate change as if it was real. As if this scientific fantasy was somehow a threat to our future.
Worst of all, the global warming “hysterics” all blame human beings, particularly businesses, for causing this thing that doesn’t exist in the first place.
Why are the global warming debunkers so upset and so vitriolic towards anyone who does believe in climate change?
It’s a Question of Belief
Many debunkers don’t believe in climate change, because they don’t like being told that they’re wrong: Wrong to value their incomes more than the environment, wrong to put their business interests ahead of the interests of humanity, wrong to believe they are above government regulations, wrong to think they need an eight-cylinder sports utility vehicle to drive from their suburban home to their downtown workplace.
For some, it’s all about bipartisan politics. If my political opponent says something, it must be a lie. In the United States, Republicans are creating a political party of climate change denial, because the Democrats and their more outspoken leaders like Al Gore and Bill Clinton and even President Obama not only publicly state that climate change is real, they keep trying to pass laws to do something about it.
Far worse, believing in climate change means believing that our species could become extinct in the near future and most human beings can’t cope with that. We need a sense of permanence. We need to believe in the continuation of our species for many generations to come.For some conservative religious denominations, the possibility of global climate change is an affront to God. If human beings are a perfect reflection of God’s work, we couldn’t possibly destroy a divine creation, like the planet. Besides, God wouldn’t let us.
To accept the reality of climate change means that we lose something very vital to our well-being: Trust in the future.
It’s a Psychological Problem
For many skeptics and debunkers, the problem is psychological denial.
When faced with something disturbing or frightening, human beings often try to protect themselves by distancing themselves from that reality, usually denying that it even exists. They need time to process the disturbing or frightening thing and figure out how to cope with it.
When you add in the fact that we—every person on the planet—bear some responsibility for climate change, then the need to deny the guilt and the pain of that truth grows. We hide even more, filtering the massive amount of information out there, so that we only see and hear that which reassures us and supports our own beliefs.
Compounding denial is powerlessness. When people realize how complex the problem of climate change is, and how equally complex and long-term the solutions are, they feel hopeless and powerless, because they don’t know what to do about it, they don’t believe there is something that they and their friends can do right now to make a tangible impact on climate change, and they can’t see immediate improvement in the situation from the actions that are taken.
We have become a species of instant gratification and easy solutions. We tune out anything that doesn’t support either of those things. So, we deny that global warming is real.
It’s the Money
For most of the loudest debunkers, putting the lie to global climate change is all about protecting the status quo of thought, belief,physical comforts, and money.
Money most of all.
As far as the debunkers are concerned, the problem with global climate change adherents is that they all insist that we have to spend money to change things—how we get our energy to power our TVs, how we run our businesses, how we commute to work. No one likes change, and the debunkers particularly don’t like spending their own money to create change that they don’t like in the first place.
Standing in the vanguard of climate change denial are businesses that are leading contributors to climate change, particularly oil companies, companies that own power plants, and manufacturers like cement companies that emit vast amounts of greenhouse gases. Their profits and continued existence in their current forms are directly threatened by calls for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. If global warming laws get passed, those companies would have to change how they do business.
It might impact their profits.
So, they fight back, in the media, on the Internet, in front of any microphone they can find. They fight back by publicly distorting science to fit their beliefs and needs.
A Confederacy of Debunkers
Many of the debunkers are part of a carefully planned, well-oiled machine. Their message of doubt, disbelief, and denial is being crafted and spread throughout the media by those same nice public relations firms that helped tobacco companies convince the public for decades that cigarette-smoking doesn’t cause cancer.
The debunkers and their public relations firms are being funded by major corporations, like Koch Industries, a private oil company that has given $55 million to climate change denial groups.
One of the greatest supporters of global warming debunkers is Exxon Mobil Corporation. Behind its earnest commercials, the company has funded an aggressive multi-million-dollar campaign to fight climate change adherents tooth and nail. It has given millions to a wide variety of debunking organizations, like the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, and The Heartland Institute, whose website proclaims “Scores of peer-reviewed studies contradict global warming alarmism” and whose full-page ads in the Washington Post have lambasted the media for spreading “false claims of impending planetary emergencies.”
The effect of what is now a 20-year-long campaign by well-funded debunkers to spread doubt and denial has been disastrous in the United States. In 2007, 71 percent of Americans believed that human generated climate change was real. In September 2011, a Harris poll found that just 44 percent of the country believed in anthropogenic climate change.
Facing the Consequences of Inaction Against Global Warming
Saying the same doubts and denials over and over again very very loudly has clearly had a devastating impact.
But just because the debunkers say something loudly and with great authority doesn’t mean they’re right.
Unfortunately, the rest of the seven billion people on this planet are about to face all of the consequences of the doubts and delays in taking concrete action that the debunkers have spread.
According to a November 2011 report issued by the International Energy Agency, we have only five more years to keep global warming from going 2°C/3.6°F above pre-industrial levels and avoiding “irreversible climate change” that will trigger “catastrophic changes” around the world.
Author: Frank Liz is a futurist, an entrepreneur, and the author of Saving A Planet At Risk: How Climate Change and Global Food Shortages Could End Civilization . . . and What We Can Do to Save the World.
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