Have you ever found yourself arguing, perhaps on Facebook, with somebody who won’t accept that climate change is a real problem and that it’s caused by humans, primarily by us burning fossil fuels?
I’ve been in many exchanges with the mostly white, age 50+ men who cite their own alt-facts to dispute the fundamentals of climate science. Their interpretation of data shows that the earth’s climate isn’t in fact warming, but is instead cooling. Or if there’s any warming, it’s temporary and it’s not that bad. In climate skeptic world, any warming is caused by sunspots or natural climate cycles on earth. If human activity plays a role, it’s a small one.
In such exchanges, I’ve let myself get sucked into debate. If only I could share more facts, dispute their interpretation of this chart or that graph, if only I can drown them in numbers.
Data, data, data…give me better data!
With better data and facts, those pesky science deniers would finally get it. They’d have to accept the facts, right?
Wrong, of course. Super wrong. Uber wrong.
“Your facts are better than my facts. And that chart with the data points going up and to the right really clinched it. I have to admit that all these years, I was wrong. Climate change really is a big deal,” said NO climate science denier anywhere, EVER.
Why are science deniers impossible to convince? Because they’re not arguing about science really. According to the Climate Advocacy Lab, Skeptics’ adherence to conservative values about the “free market” trumps their commitment to the scientific method:
Really, what conservatives object to is not the science but the solutions. If they acknowledge the need to place limits on industry, then they must also acknowledge the failure of the free market to ensure a just and orderly world. Accepting this fact may invite the scorn of their peers (Kahan, 2010). Thus, reluctant to support more regulation and more government spending, they dismiss the facts of climate change (Campbell & Kay, 2014).
Fortunately, not all conservatives deny climate science. Some conservatives even envision market-friendly climate solutions like carbon-fee-and-dividend.
I interviewed several of these pro-climate conservatives in The Solar Patriot, including former South Carolina Republican Congressman Bob Inglis and the Christian Coalition’s Ash Mason.
But for a handful of scientists whose careers sprouted during America’s standoff with the Soviet Union, climate activists just seemed like more Commies out to destroy the American Way of Life.
When You’re an Old Cold Warrior, Green Can Look Like Red
What better example of people who deny climate science and yet clearly know better than the handful of famous physicists who have led the “Skeptic” camp, attacking such climate scientists as “hockey-stick” author Michael Mann and NASA’s James Hansen.
Obviously smart guys, some of the Skeptics such as Frederick Seitz and Fred Singer even helped develop America’s nuclear weapons program. Other Skeptics were leaders in fields from astrophysics to oceanography.
The book Merchants of Doubt makes a convincing case that these men opposed climate science not because climatologists like Mann and Hansen couldn’t provide enough good data in enough good charts.
Instead, Seitz, Singer and their denier friends attacked climate science for the same reason that these exact same men earlier attacked the science on acid rain, DDT and nuclear winter: because they wanted to protect the “free market” from socialist plots like environmentalism.
As Czech President Vaclav Klaus put it, “The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.”
Believing that the battle against climate chaos was just another Communist plot, great physicists like Seitz and Singer were were willing to compromise their scientific integrity to promote their ideology of Ayn Rand-style freedom for corporations to pollute.
Fortunately, as of December, 2018, only a small percentage of Americans (9%) were climate science deniers, or “Dismissive,” as this graph from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows:
So, the next time you encounter a climate science denier on Facebook, perhaps it’s best to ignore him. Or, you can post a link to my book review of Merchants of Doubt.
— Erik Curren