Year 4, Month 9, Day 15: I Need A Cigarette

David Suzuki takes apart the conspiracy theorists, in the Timmins Press (Ontario):

TIMMINS – I recently wrote about geoengineering as a strategy to deal with climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.

That drew comments from people who confuse this scientific process with the unscientific theory of “chemtrails.”

Some also claimed the column supported geoengineering, which it didn’t.

The reaction got me wondering why some people believe in phenomena rejected by science, like chemtrails, but deny real problems demonstrated by massive amounts of scientific evidence, like climate change.

Chemtrails believers claim governments around the world are in cahoots with secret organizations to seed the atmosphere with chemicals and materials — aluminum salts, barium crystals, biological agents, polymer fibres, etc. — for a range of nefarious purposes.

These include controlling weather for military purposes, poisoning people for population or mind control and supporting secret weapons programs based on the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP.

Scientists have tested and used cloud and atmospheric seeding for weather modification and considered them as ways to slow global warming.

With so many unknowns and possible unintended consequences, these practices have the potential to cause harm.

But the chemtrails conspiracy theory is much broader, positing that military and commercial airlines are involved in constant massive daily spraying that is harming the physical and mental health of citizens worldwide.

I don’t have space to get into the absurdities of belief in a plot that would require worldwide collusion between governments, scientists and airline company executives and pilots to amass and spray unimaginable amounts of chemicals from altitudes of 10,000 metres or more.

Well, that was fun. September 8:

Even as the factual evidence for catastrophic climate change piles higher and higher, conservative zealots continue to reject its existence, severity, and causes. This dismissal of expertise, insight, facts and physical reality is a long-standing feature of the kind of paranoia which flourishes at the intersection of religious fundamentalism and scientific illiteracy. Those asserting the literal truth of ancient scriptures are trapped at the outset in a web of contradictions, gaining lots of practice in the White Queen’s ability to believe six impossible things before breakfast — while those who reject scientific method are ready to embrace superficially plausible notions at the expense of logic and data.

In the paranoid’s world, the more complex an explanation, the better: climate change is not a result of the greenhouse effect, a physical phenomenon first documented over a century ago, but the fabrication of an international cabal of scientists secretly in league with either the Lizard People or the Illuminati. The fact that there is no evidence for such bizarre assertions is proof that “the conspiracy goes all the way to the top.”

In any other context such delusional thinking would be the stuff of comedy. When the long-term future of Earthly life is at stake, however, it’s no longer a laughing matter.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 28: Greedy Old Plutocrats

The Tulsa World’s Associate Editor, Mike Jones, is a tad shrill, in an article titled, “Can’t We Agree To Do Something About Climate Change?”:

In Virginia, it can’t even be referred to as “climate change.” It is now “recurrent flooding.” That is the term the Virginia Legislature came upon in order to agree to even discuss the problems plaguing that state.

In the last 100 years, the Virginia coast has seen a 14-inch rise in sea level. That, combined with some wicked rain, has caused the flooding. Whether the Virginians eventually settle their squabble and attempt to solve their problems remains to be seen. It does, however, illustrate the problem the entire country has when it comes to “global warming,” “climate change” or “recurrent flooding.” We can’t even decide what we want to call it.

There are two very stubborn sides in this debate. There is the great majority of scientists, including those with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who believe that the Earth is changing, getting warmer, and believe that humans have something to do with it.

While the phrase “climate change” is very much present in the article, the word “Republican” is not. Funny how that should happen, no? Sent June 17:

Many of the obstacles to “doing something about climate change” are beyond our control: we cannot alter the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere, the amount of heat our oceans have absorbed, or the laws of physics and chemistry. Other aspects of the problem are solvable — in theory.

In theory, the people who’ve promulgated conspiracies about SUV-confiscating environmentalists could wake up one morning and realize they’ve been duped. In theory, conservative politicians who’ve embraced climate-change denial could recognize that their human (as opposed to corporate) constituents are suffering — and decide to do something about it.

But as Yogi Berra famously said, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re not.” As long as half of America’s political system is controlled by authoritarians who cannot admit error, the reason for our inability to act on climate change can be summed up in three letters: G.O.P.

Warren Senders