Climate Change Skepticism

As we talked about earlier, climate change is a real and present danger but a frightening new social trend has revealed that not everyone believes this. According to a Harris poll taken in 2011, the percentage of people who believe that climate change is human-caused has dropped from 71% in 2007 to 44% in 2011. Despite the overwhelming movement in the early 2000’s to combat the issue of climate change that former vice-president Al Gore addressed in his movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” the facts have been corrupted in the minds of the public by climate change Denialists. There are serious ethical, political and social issues with why climate change needs to be addressed, and soon, but this counter-movement is stopping progress. Addressing the claims that they make head-on is a good start as well as providing a clear outline to proposed solutions to this crisis.

Al Gore presented a ground-breaking slideshow that began  the sustainability movement

Al Gore presented a ground-breaking slideshow that got people worried about climate change

This counter-movement did not rise organically from obvious problems with the scientific community’s conclusions, but was actually forced upon a public already yearning for proof that they wouldn’t have to change their lifestyles. A cohort of conservatives believe that climate change is a myth and maintain that, even if it is true, there are a plethora of reasons why it actually occurs naturally, or that its predicted effects will not be as bad as many “alarmists” claim. This culture-war is proving harmful to the campaign for finding viable solutions to combat climate change and is a basic affront to the scientists’ credibility. The movement uses tactics such as threatening climate scientists, claiming it was “bad science,” manufacturing bogus science and focusing on issues unrelated to the topic.

Michele Bachmann, who was a Republican candidate for the Presidential nomination in 2012 believes that combating the "harmless gas" of CO2 would reduce the American standard of living

Michele Bachmann, who was a Republican candidate for the Presidential nomination in 2012, believes that combating the “harmless gas” of CO2 would reduce the American standard of living unjustifiably

Radically changing our fate when it comes to climate change is something that requires more than free trade solutions that even the more moderate Republicans vie for. Instead many of the more effective solutions will boil down to fundamentally changing the structure of our economy, subsidizing the responsible corporations, reviving public programs and increasing planning, localizing production, ending overconsumption, and taxing the extremely rich more fairly. Obviously these solutions anger the counter groups the most, which is why the lash-out began.

Organizations such as the Cato Institute, which has openly admitted that it receives funding from oil and coal companies, deny that there needs to be such fundamental change happen and host conferences decrying the “socialism” that is looming on the forefronts of the American political stage.

The Cato Institute, with participants such as Patrick Michaels (above) has openly admitted that it receives funding from oil and coal companies and also, conveniently,  denies climate change

The funding that climate change Denialists receive, as mentioned before, is often from the very groups that are most threatened by the revelation that there is climate change-the fossil fuel industry. As oil and gas companies are the ones who most radically need to be reformed it follows that they would pull out all of the stops to prevent their position from being threatened. Frequently, companies such as BP or Exxon-Mobil will cite their adherence to green practices but then also stand firmly that there is still no conclusive evidence to climate change. Those who adhere to that school of thought are probably most detrimental to the climate change movement as they do admit that there are consequences to the carbon emissions we have been creating but antagonize the scientists and label them as alarmists or think that they are a part of a greater government socialist conspiracy.

The cross country Keystone Pipeline, as proposed by TransCanada, is one controversial issue that is being claimed as neutral by oil companies

The cross country Keystone Pipeline, as proposed by TransCanada, is one controversial environmental issue  that is being claimed as neutral by oil company sponsored research and studies

To get back to basics, much of what the Denialists believe is that any intervention in the pure sphere of capitalism is too much intervention. The Ayn Rand Institute is one prime example of an advocacy group that has not looked at the inherent flaws with pure capitalism historically. Capitalism has never been purely unregulated as the free market believers have been accustomed to believe. In fact this goes back to the roots of capitalism in mercantilism. The breaking up of the system of serf-lord relations was far from freely done as many history books would have many believe. Wealthy leaders of the time felt that it was in the best interest of the nation-state to enforce new policies of enclosure in which the common areas that were once shared by all were put into the hands of the lords, essentially kicking out the serfs and creating a system of land privatization. This land-grabbing technique continues to happen today in African states where previously public land in which peasant farmers could live freely is being bought up by large agricultural companies that recognize the growing need for food into the future.

The African land grab involves a few corporations who buy off previously public land from hundreds of peasant farmers

The African land grab involves a few corporations who buy off previously public land from hundreds of peasant farmers

When free-market adherents feel threatened by the change that occurs with public planning, taxation or economic regulation they attack what they feel is the root of the cause, and in this case it is the scientific community’s “liberal conspiracy” of global climate change. If they could look at the same issue historically they would understand  that capitalism has never always been inevitable. In fact it has needed regulation for hundreds of years in order for it to work. It comes as no surprise then, that without that perspective they feel personally attacked by the federal government.

Unfortunately, in this regard there are problems on both sides. Many believe that, ethically, the government has looked at the problems with climate change the wrong way. Instead of thinking about the global consequences of climate change they make excuses and cite that it is too costly to undertake. So both sides have marginalized global climate change and say that it should be addressed merely because it is going to have dire consequences to the American lifestyle when they ignore the fact that it will radically change the world.

Energy use per capita for the United States is much higher than other countries. Many say we must reduce consumption in order to preserve the environment but this will be hard for many to swallow

Energy use per capita for the United States is much higher than other countries. Many say we must reduce consumption in order to preserve the environment but this will be hard for many to swallow

What is truly laudable is the attitude that climate change Denialists take on their responsibility towards countries who  will suffer immeasurably from the effects of global climate change. Many denialists blame the countries’ faulty governments for the problems that they experience now, such as drought and disease, that are the beginning effects of global climate change. A free-market approach, according to them, should be the way that they deal with their problems. Unfortunately for that argument, there is no real reason why free-markets there would suddenly change the predicament they are in. There is simply too much injustice. Those arguments turn hypocritical quickly as the progress of Third-world countries in Africa is blamed for their inability to deal with global climate change and they are told to deal with their own problems when post-industrial countries such as the United States have disproportionately contributed to the climate problems that they are facing.

This chart shows the truth-that countries that contribute the most to global warming will be least affected

This chart shows the truth-that countries that contribute the most to global warming will be least affected

The scientific community has overwhelmingly agreed, through peer-reviewed studies and not through the cherry-picking of minor faults, that climate change is human-caused. NASA, among 18 other scientific associations including the American Chemical Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the IPCC and many more have declared that skepticism is unfounded. 97% of scientists agree on this theory and actively agree that something needs to be done.

Scientists and climate change activists have grown tired of the barrage of attacks on the basic theory of global climate change and have addressed it in as public ways as possible. Due to the possibility of the Keystone pipeline being built, student groups have taken to the capital to protest the possibility that even more oil will be burned, and this has given new life to the movement. In a way the Denialist movement motivated the global community to become more active in their protest and strive to create real change in the way that they organize. There is a definite flaw in the system of creating green solutions when they continue to utilize fossil fuels and do not give the real change that the world needs-a complete overhaul of the system.

The Keystone Pipeline protests are exemplary of the feelings that students have towards sourcing our energy towards tar sands

The Keystone Pipeline protests are exemplary of the feelings that students have towards sourcing our energy towards tar sands

As Naomi Klein, a climate change writer, admits: there are serious flaws with the way that big, green groups have handled the situation. In our time more efficient lightbulbs and “green”products are not going to stop climate change but a system may. The roots of the climate change epidemic are endemic to unregulated growth and economies. What the most basic idea that the green movements must grasp is that the kind of growth that economies need is unlimited, and we live in a world with finite resources. Thus, an adaptation to our finite world is not only suggested but necessary. Movements like the Degrowth movement need to happen or the water, food and soil crises as well as the effects of global climate change will not only alter our lifestyle but also destroy the lives of many others who don’t live in a privileged industrial nation.

Naomi Klein believes that green groups have taken the wrong solutions and advocates for a more comprehensive overhaul of the economy

Naomi Klein believes that green groups have taken the wrong solutions and advocates for a more comprehensive overhaul of the economy

The Land Institute advocates for perennial wheatgrass which would be less harmful to the soil and CO2 emissions than conventional crops

The Land Institute advocates for perennial wheatgrass which would be less harmful to the soil and CO2 emissions than conventional crops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite this propaganda war, there is still hope for a fundamental shift in the nation’s mentality towards the environment. What lies ahead is an upward climb to continue to legitimate the basic scientific theories that are widely accepted, and provide more comprehensive solutions for them than following free-market principles. Hopefully, change won’t come at a time when we are in too deep and our world has already passed the tipping point. With a global effort towards change, we may still avoid a grim future.

 

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