Like many people, I have a hard time understanding why opposition to climate change still exists and why the proponents of the notion that climate change is a farce are so adamant and tenacious about their position. After all, the evidence that climate change is happening and that it is being impacted by human existence is overwhelming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the “leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.” It publishes assessment reports on climate change for national policy makers around the world. In the most recent 2014 edition it found that:
Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere…
Additionally, the group determined that the cause of this change was almost certainly due to human intervention:
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years… The evidence for human influence on the climate system has grown since the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.
The summary of this report is based on the voluntary contributions of thousands of scientists who are not paid by the IPCC for their work. On the other hand, it seems that at at least one “respected” scientist who has published papers denying human involvement in climate change may have done so because he was paid by the petroleum industry. In fact, there is a lot of money that has been paid to support the denial of climate change. An article published by Greenpeace states that the infamous Koch brothers of Koch Industries have paid over $67 million dollars to climate denial groups.
I’ve written about the Koch Brothers before and how they like to invest in securing political influence. And they aren’t the only ones investing in the denial machine. The Guardian estimates that nearly $1 billion dollars a year is spent trying to stamp out climate change activists and manipulate government policy on industry as it relates to the climate. And what is being done with this money? Well, according to Mediamatters.org, organizations like the Libertarian “think tank” Heartland Group are launching smear campaigns against global warming with media like this billboard (which was later removed due to pressure from both the public and internal staff).
But why spend so much on trying to suppress what would appear to be a dangerous truth? A recent study from Drexel University by Dr. Robert Brulle sheds some light on this. According to the article:
The climate change countermovement is a well-funded and organized effort to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions. This countermovement involves a large number of organizations, including conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians.
The funding is coming from sources that have an economic incentive to deny climate change. If the public were to overwhelmingly accept that human action such as the burning of fossil fuels was endangering our planet by (among other things) causing global warming which would lead to polar ice cap melting, rising ocean levels, increased ocean acidification, changes in agriculture and food production as well as leading to devastating economic upheavals, then there would be tremendous public pressure put on law and policy makers to seriously alter industries such as Big Oil and automakers. These changes could have a negative impact on the massive profits these industries have realized over the past several decades. There would also be a bigger push to divert current tax breaks away from the petroleum industry and towards clean energy such as wind, solar, ocean wave, geothermal and hydro-electric.
Sadly, it would seem that the denial machine is working. And it’s not just the public that is buying this drivel. Our lawmakers in Washington, at least most of the Republicans, seem to deny the science of global warming as well.
…68 percent of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate deny human-caused climate change. On the committee level, 13 out of 21 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, or 62 percent, reject the science behind human-caused global warming, joined by 67 percent, or 21 out of 31 Republican members, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee…
In addition, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has even written a book titled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future“. This translates into action that not only impacts laws regarding emissions, but even funding for organizations like NASA. It seems that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is the chair of the Senate subcomittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness is reluctant to give NASA their funding because the agency conducts terrestrial research and much of their findings have supported climate change. It seems odd that someone in charge of determining policy for science expenditures is a noted climate change denialist.
So I return to my original question. Why would so many deny the overwhelming evidence that shows that human caused global warming is occurring? According to author Chris Mooney, it’s not because people are stupid. Rather, it has to do with a person’s ideology. He’s coined the term “smart idiot” to describe a trend he noticed when presented with information from a 2008 Pew Report that showed correlations to the belief in the data supporting global warming to a persons political affiliation and education levels. His conclusions from that report are:
- That if you’re a Republican, then the higher your level of education, the less likely you are to accept scientific reality — which is, that global warming is human caused.
- If you’re a Democrat or Independent, precisely the opposite is the case.
This seems to be backed up by research done by Yale law professor Dan Kahan in his paper titled “How politics makes us stupid“. He writes:
Whether people ‘believe in’ climate change, like whether they ‘believe in’ evolution, expresses who they are.
So in other words, identifying with the perceived beliefs of an ideology such as conservatism will determine how one will interpret information. And since one of the driving forces behind modern conservative politics is the denial of human caused global warming, which in turn is motivated and financially sponsored by those who are heavily invested in business that would be hurt by this conclusion, it’s normal for those who identify as “Republican” or “Conservative” to accept and believe the false rhetoric that is spewed forth from sources like Fox News who have become one of the loudest propaganda machines for the Right Wing. Even other media outlets have given a disproportionate amount of coverage to climate change denial.
Worse still is that Republican Governor Rick Scott (Florida) is using a Big Brother tactic by banning the use of the term “climate change” by any state government agency. This is, in my opinion, flagrant abuse of power for the sole purpose of furthering the agenda of the rich and powerful to the detriment of the human race. Until the American public stops voting into office politicians that are clearly aligned with special interests like climate change denial, our country will continue to limp along without the political and legal support it needs to rapidly advance progress in alternative energy.
However, if what both professor Kahan and Mr. Mooney have concluded is true, then no amount of data will convince the denialists to change their perspectives. So where does that leave us? It would appear that the gridlock on human influenced climate change will remain until the ideology of the Right can no longer deny the need for change. I have to wonder what could possibly bring about a paradigm shift so great? The only thing that powerful would be…
Pictures of the cutest polar bears the world has ever seen!
Ok, maybe it will take more than that but I wanted to lighten the mood for a moment. I guess I have no positive way to conclude this article. So let me leave you with a cool video on ocean wave technology.
Let’s all look to a cleaner and brighter future.