American climate change deniers’ last gasp

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

November-December, 2015

First, let me say that I’m not going to waste our time debating if climate change is or isn’t real. It is. The science is OVERWHELMING. Case closed.

Let’s move on to what to do about it.

Climate change deniers in the United States, otherwise known as conservative Republicans, have long claimed that crackpot theories and phony scientific data prove their fallacy. Oh, there are climate change deniers in other parts of the world, but they have been melting away even faster than the polar ice shelves. Only in America is the denial of climate change a major political issue.

Even in the Middle East, in countries like Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and even Saudi Arabia, climate change is a real concern. Some of the most oil-rich in the world, these countries have started to prepare for the inevitable negative consequences, with the full support of their governments.

But in the United States, conservative politicians beholden to special interest groups like oil companies, natural gas distributors, and in particular, coal companies, continue to pump out enough false propaganda and sometimes outright lies to keep scientists busy refuting them. They are aided in their subterfuge by a compliant media that insists on covering climate change like a “he said, she said” issue, as if there were just as many scientists doubting the reality of climate change as there are saying it’s a real problem.

The ridiculousness of this position was highlighted by comedian John Oliver when he did his “proportionally representative” climate change debate on his Comedy Channel show. To illustrate the number of scientists who say climate change is real, compared to those who dismiss it, Oliver had 97 people come up on the stage to argue with three deniers. It was a stark view of just how one-sided this debate really is, despite the propaganda pumped out by fossil fuel industries.

I ran across an interesting view of this “climate change denial cottage industry” in an interview with French ambassador Gérard Araud, who has been busy promoting this week’s climate change conference in Paris. Araud offered a most interesting view of the conservatives in Congress who continue to argue this idiocy.

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the start of the climate summit in Paris November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the start of the climate summit in Paris November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“When you see climate deniers, to be frank and with all due respect, it’s a phenomenon which is limited in a sense to the U.S. and in a sense to the U.S. Congress,” Araud told The Huffington Post earlier this month. “I should say, even though it’s not very diplomatic, it’s one more example of where the people, the civil society, are ahead of the politicians.”

When China, one of the other worst polluters in the world, signals that it is ready to take steps to reduce carbon emissions, you know the conservatives in the Congress are fighting a lonely battle. But although these modern day know-nothings may be relatively few, they control the purse strings in the American political system, and are threatening to defund any initiative taken by President Barack. Obama.

The problem we are dealing with here goes deeper than a denial of climate change. Conservatives in the Congress, and their acolytes in the conservative news media, are waging an all-out attack on science in all its forms. Whether it be climate change, vaccination, or evolution, their mostly theological-based arguments hold less water than a thimble.

The left is not completely clear of this anti-science bias. The arguments on the left are about issues like nuclear energy, GMO foods or, somewhat surprisingly, wind farms that “ruin the view” despite producing non-fossil fuel energy. (It has always interested me how progressives will tout scientific data on issues like climate change, but deny it on issues like GMOs.) As writer and well-known skeptic Michael Shermer described it in an article in Scientific American, “The underlying current is ‘everything natural is good’ and ‘everything unnatural is bad.’”

The anti-science gene has run deep through American politics for many, many years. And that’s a problem for the rest of the world.

Many expert observers draw parallels between the tactics of climate skeptics and those of tobacco companies to undermine the science on dangers of smoking. The anti-science war can be traced, most recently, to the neo-liberal agenda that denies a positive role for governance, and has flourished since the reign of Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. and Ronald Reagan in the U.S.

I think the only solution is for the rest of the world to go ahead without the United States. The world should write us off for now, ignore the gobbledygook coming from the American Congress, and the ridiculous party favour tricks (like bringing in a snowball on the floor of the Senate to prove climate change is not real) performed by clown Republican Congressman and Senators.

The trick, however, is to make sure that all American companies operating overseas are forced to observe any advances made on eliminating climate change. Because the reality is, as much as U.S. conservative Republicans try to ignore it, we live in a time of global action. They can try to isolate America, but are just whistling past the graveyard.

And while they might control some purse strings, the majority of Americans are increasingly concerned about the issue, as the Pew Research Center recently reported.

It’s a matter of time, but time is the problem: we don’t have much of it. The reality in the U.S. may be that the conservatives in Congress aren’t willing to do anything substantive about climate change until Florida is under water. Let’s hope they come to their limited senses before that.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.






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