It is difficult to understand how something like global climate change became a political issue – something that divides people along party lines and ideologies rather than a topic that hinges on hard scientific facts.
It is even more difficult to understand how so many people seem to take a gleeful approach in outright denying something that has such a potentially devastating consequence on our very existence. Without any research, facts or even a discernible reason, millions of Americans will proudly proclaim that they know climate change as a result of human activity is a hoax.
Other news organizations have done deep dives into this phenomenon. Most agree climate change denial began in earnest after Al Gore brought the issue to widespread attention in the early 2000s with the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which purposefully utilized the word “truth” to push a message that climate science wasn’t telling us its opinion – it was reporting its overwhelming consensus that we were in for some seriously disastrous times ahead if we continued to be driven down a path of excessive fossil fuel use.
To some degree, climate change denial can be blamed on mankind’s natural tendencies to be a contrarian. We see it with flat Earth conspiracy theorists, moon landing deniers and Holocaust revisionists. Being “against” something that is widely accepted, and accepted for good reason due to the amount of evidence proving its legitimacy, is a surefire way to stand out and receive attention – even if it is negative attention based on a sorely misguided understanding of facts. For some reason, that attention is enough for some people.
Others simply misunderstand or ignore scientific facts. We see this in people who refuse to vaccinate their children out of fear vaccinations cause autism or other developmental disorders. While a simple, surface dive research effort into this hysteria would reveal no credible evidence directly linking vaccinations to such disorders, that doesn’t stop people from digging into the fringe, non-credible sources that do exist in order to justify their fears and rationalize their beliefs.
In the case of climate change denial, the forces of political manipulation, contrarianism and scientific ignorance combine to create an unholy trinity of harm that has global consequences for all of us – whether you believe it or not.
The claim from climate change deniers used to be that scientists were outright wrong, and using junk science to prop up a failed theory that the planet was going through anything more than a normal climate fluctuation, as it has countless times throughout its history. As evidence continues to mount showing polar ice melting at unprecedented levels – and it is only accelerating – and as catastrophic weather incidents continue to occur at unprecedented rates, this hard-line denial has become too absurd even for somebody well versed in denying reality.
So, now, while Yale climate change opinion polls show that 70 percent of the nation does acknowledge that global warming is occurring, we still have a problematic portion of society that refuses to believe this phenomenon is occurring due to humanity’s activities – specifically the widespread burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution that has trapped carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and resulted in global temperature increase.
This stance is, again, completely disingenuous and willingly ignorant of the facts presented by climate scientists – which skeptics are most likely not reading or even trying to understand.
Being a skeptic of climate change today means one of only a few scenarios. One, you do not care enough to look into the matter and are generally apathetic enough that you’d rather avoid the topic entirely. Two, you have propped up bogus scientific studies that, while inherently more problematic than the science you claim is fake, verifies your long-held position or your agenda. Or third, and the most insidious option, is that you’ve fallen victim to overt political manipulation.
To look at things objectively means to assess what various actors stand to gain by promoting a certain belief. Those who spread a message that climate change is fake or that it isn’t caused by human activity are universally those whose fortunes rely on the continuation of the status quo of energy production and consumption – primarily fossil fuel companies and their subsidiaries, lobbyists for those companies and the politicians who earn influence from those entities, often in the form of campaign donations from political action committees in exchange for advocating legislation that is preferable to those corporations’ interests.
What, we ask, do those who implore we take climate change seriously stand to gain through the promotion of green energy, curtailing pollution and the environmentally harmful effects of our industrial activities? Cleaner air? More stable ecosystems? Fewer natural disasters? A Rhode Island that isn’t underwater by the time our grandchildren are ready to inherit it and forge their own lives?
Clearly, in the case of climate change, there is no logical reason to go against the grain of what 99 out of 100 scientists agree on. If you believe that 99 percent of the world’s scientists are part of a grand conspiracy, it may be time to look in the mirror and see if you’re the one who’s actually part of a conspiracy – and reflect on the implications that might have for future generations, including your own.