Year 3, Month 2, Day 9: There Is No Word For That In Our Language

John Monahan writes a nice piece in Modern Times Magazine (AZ) addressing climate change denial, with specific reference to the WSJ flap. The whole piece is well worth your attention.

Feb. 3, 2012 — What a crazy seven days it has been for the climate change debate. Scientists from both sides of the issue took to the Wall Street Journal late last week and early this week to opine on the merits of the issue and what should be done about it.

But that’s just putting it nicely. What really happened is one side said the other was wrong — knowingly in an attempt to hide the truth — in pursuit of riches.

To say it even more bluntly, each said the other was the ‘real’ greedy liar.

The most important bit is the part where he quotes James Hansen, who is, as usual, right:

“Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage,” Hansen said. “The scientific method requires objective analysis of all data, stating evidence pro and con, before reaching conclusions. This works well, indeed is necessary, for achieving success in science. But science is now pitted in public debate against the talk-show method, which consists of selective citation of anecdotal bits that support a predetermined position.”

Simply, Hansen is saying corporations are using the scientific method to bolster an argument that has little merit only because it serves their bottom line. He also places blame upon the mainstream media, calling their need for “balance” a means to validate bad science and support corporate positions.

“Today most media, even publicly-supported media, are pressured to balance every climate story with opinions of contrarians, climate change deniers, as if they had equal scientific credibility. Media are dependent on advertising revenue of the fossil fuel industry, and in some cases are owned by people with an interest in continuing business as usual. Fossil fuel profiteers can readily find a few percent of the scientific community to serve as mouthpieces — all scientists practice skepticism, and it is not hard to find some who are out of their area of expertise, who may enjoy being in the public eye, and who are limited in scientific insight and analytic ability,” Hansen wrote.

They have a 500-word limit; I took about 225 to try and tie all these phenomena together. Sent Feb 3:

Climate-change denial is part of a larger problem, one exemplified by the anonymous Bush official who told journalist Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire; we create our own reality,” and ridiculed those who lived in the “reality-based community.” Conservative politicians and electoral strategists appear to believe in a post-modern universe where measurable reality is just another kind of fiction. Examples of this are easy to spot.

The anti-evolution politicians whose claim that “science is just another religion” serves as a rationale for their attempts to introduce creationism into public school science curricula; the runup to the war in Iraq, in which facts were manipulated and cherry-picked to support President Bush’s martial agenda; the legislators in some Southern states who seek to have any mention of slavery simply removed from history books — the list goes on and on.

Climate change denial is by far the most damaging of these delusions. Human science has discovered and illuminated the laws of physics and chemistry, but that doesn’t mean that the “we make our own reality” crowd can apply wishful thinking to the greenhouse effect. Given enough time, American culture could recover from forced creationism, historical revisionism, and clueless warmongering — but if we fail to recognize the imperative need to address climate change, we’re not going to have the chance.

Warren Senders

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *