Changing the scene of climate change denial

On February 6, 2014

Winston Churchill said over half a century ago that “the era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients and delays is soon coming to a close.”

He was correct that our tendency to kick the proverbial can down the road had ushered in an era of stark consequences.

However, his hope that these consequences would be met with a newfound sense of responsibility and a commitment to collective solutions seems, in hindsight, to be hopelessly optimistic.

Meaningful policy on a myriad of issues has been stalled by partisan bickering and corporate intervention but none are as consequential, or as “heated,” as the global warming debate.

Surveys measuring attitudes toward climate science show that climate change denial hit a six-year high after the cold snap in January.

Confidence in those anti-scientific views will most likely be reinforced by the winter weather mother nature graced us with this week.

This kind of motivated reasoning seems to me to be embarrassingly transparent.

Using what one climate researcher has referred to as a “climate denial machine,” big business has shifted public opinion on climate science, and science in general, to favor policy that shifts the burden of pollution and environmental degradation from the corporate sector to the general public.

Upton Sinclair said it’s difficult to help someone to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.

That principle, he said, has great explanatory power when analyzing the so called “controversy” amongst scientists regarding anthropogenic climate change.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States note that while 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree with the notion that human activity is changing global temperatures. Fifty-three percent of commercial geologists disagree.

But it’s not hard to imagine why organizations like the American Association of Petroleum Geologists would take issue with the idea that using petroleum as our primary energy source is both dangerous and unsustainable.

Similar numbers arise when comparing the number of academic articles published that question anthropogenic climate change against the number of unqualified journalists publishing critiques of climate science or climate scientists.

The academic community is overwhelmingly aligned on the issue, but the media, and as a result the public, remain split.

The solution to the problem is simple and accessible, but sometimes hard to initiate: it’s conversation.

Conversations about topics like climate change are uncomfortable for a reason.

They involve us changing not only our everyday behavior but also reexamining our presumptions about our relationship to the planet, but that isn’t a bad thing.

Our “dominate and exploit” mentality in regard to the planet infects everything we do and changes the way we interact with each other.

The best path towards a more peaceful, egalitarian world is to see ourselves as living in a cooperative enterprise not only with each other, but with the planet.

Our interests are clearly represented by keeping the planet in a condition that’s favorable to sustaining the lives of our grandchildren.


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