Sunday, April 22, 2007

Profiles in Climate Change Denial

For years global warming was something discussed and debated between experts, but little known by your average Joe. Now it's common knowledge that there is universal agreement among climatologists that humans are causing climate change.

But there is still a significant minority of the public who vehemently disagree with the scientific consensus. Some of that disagreement you can chalk up to a misinformation campaign by the oil companies, but that doesn't explain the vehemence, the sound and fury of many of the climate change deniers.

The question is, why is it so important for some to deny that global warming is happening or that it's caused by humans? Just who are these people anyways? The important thing is to look at what global warming means. That will give us clues as to what would motivate people to react so strongly against the idea.

First of all its a global problem, which means that the various nation states must cooperate with each other to solve the problem. And it actually gives an important role for international institutions like the United Nations. That's one reason why global warming is not popular with the “New American Century” crowd, i.e., the Bush administration and their camp followers who believe that America can “go it alone”.

We know that the problem of climate change cannot be solved by the free market alone. Barring a major economic depression, unrestricted markets always lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions over time. Only government intervention in the form of regulations, tax policy and long term planning will lead to energy conservation and significant shifts in energy use from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. This flies in the face of everything that libertarians and other free market conservatives stand for. To accept the truth of human caused global warming would mean that they would have to accept the idea that government regulation of the free market is necessary.

It ain't gonna happen. People in the U.S. Republican party who've spent their lives, arguing for “free enterprise” and “laissez faire” are never going to admit they were wrong. Hence they and their minions will haunt Fox news, shock jock radio, and internet blogs with rabid climate change denial until their dying days.

Finally, global warming implies that humans have fooled with nature's thermostat and, as a result, nature is turning up the heat in a big way. This means that we humans, in trying to dominate and subdue the Earth are about to be dominated and subdued by the Earth instead. And this reversal of hierarchies is unacceptable to Christian Fundamentalists because that would mean that God's commandment to subdue the Earth was wrong, and that the Bible is a misleading guide for contemporary living. Note that global warming is not one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The Bible doesn't mention global warming because it was written thousands of years ago.

Hence leading Fundamentalists like Falwell, Dobson, and Colson are doing everything they can to excommunicate Christians who dare to see global warming as more of a priority than preventing homosexuals from marrying each other. Heaven forbid.

So the next time you hear somebody doggedly insisting that global warming is a “hoax” or insisting that humans aren't the cause - “It's the sun”, chances are they are either Republican, libertarian, a Christian Fundamentalist or they're shills for an oil company.


  1. Strikes me you are fishing for rabid responses, although the likelyhood of any of your declared "foes" to global warming reading this seem slim. Being provacative has it's place, as long as you can back up your information with quality references. The possible acceleration of this event due to major interuptions in the gulf stream and the rise of the ocean may challenge their realities enough for anyone with entrenched doubts to reconsider. One of the cliche'd statements I use when working with folks in relationship wanting to work it out is: "Do you want to be right, or in relationship?" Melting permafrost, soil erosion, and the disappearance of aquifers could be cyclical effects or blatant examples of how our messing around and not respecting the earth has it's consequences.

  2. Thanks for the comment. This piece was not aimed at the climate change deniers. Nothing will persuade them to change their minds. They are essentially a rear guard action now.

    They are like the Fundamentalists who reject Darwin. They disagree loudly, but it has nothing to do with science. They are afraid and defensive.

    It's important for people who accept climate change to realize that the climate change deniers are reacting so strongly because they're losing.