Climate of Doubt | Reflections

Posted on May 13, 2014


As a climate scientist, I think a lot about the future. It goes with the job. And I want to make sure that in 50 years or 100 years or 200 years, nobody can ever say we didn’t warn them. – Andrew Dessler


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Almost two years after this program originally aired, we continue to see the politics of conspiratorial buttressing embolden the deniers. While it is easy to be somewhat dumbfounded at the “professional contrarians,” (a descriptor used in this film) an issue of this kind is too weighty to be paralyzed by other people’s delusions. Thus, Frontline does — as they always do — a fantastic job helping the viewer understand one of the main arenas in which denial has fertile soil; politics.

However, “politics” is not just the problem but it is also a symptom. Politics is iterative, feeding that which it feeds upon, the provisions in this case being the skeptical memes of science denial. We see that clearly throughout the program. Understanding the political climate (pun intended) is important, but we have to look deeper.

Thus, I would suggest that the opinions and beliefs of “science deniers” are guided by a variety of influences including, but not limited to, a fearful psychosis (albeit, a moderate impairment), egotistical self-aggrandizement, and of course, greed.

A FEARFUL PSYCHOSIS | The shadow side of freedom is the fear that your liberties will be taken from you. In this vein, freedom is actually imprisoning. To embrace fear is to defend, almost at all costs, a ruthlessly sovereign independence, and to attack and destroy any perceived threat to that liberty. The platform for many climate science deniers is not that the science is bad, but that they’re afraid the implications will strip them of their freedoms, of which carbon based fossil fuel consumption is one. This is not just false view of freedom, but a perverted one.

EGOTISTICAL SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT | It appears that some are deeply satisfied with “standing up” against the “climate conspiracy.” Somehow this grandstanding provides for them a sense of accomplishment. Being the “underdog” can feel empowering, especially when you embolden a large swath of a society.

GREED | The number of times “the economy” was invoked was quite astounding. The prosperity of wealth, (resultant from a rugged capitalism, a protestant work ethic, an attitude of entitlement fed by American individualism) is a power who’s stature can only be confronted through war. There can be no compromise.

All of this, with the tag, “climate science be damned.” Oh how we long for the day when the conspiratorial deniers would simply accept and admit that intelligent science is not their priority.

While much more could be said, if we accept that these forces are at work, then the way through this critical issue is not with more science. We must address why people are fearful. We must believe and empower a more ethical humanity. And, we must envision a different politic in our nation, one that is not governed by economic interest groups.

The tragic irony is that to do so most effectively, we begin with the rearing of our children. By the time our children are of age, however, the delinquency and irresponsibility of their forefathers will have already taken their toll.

We do not inherit the future from our parents, we borrow it from our children. – Native American saying