What a long, strange trip it’s been. Forty years ago I was a bright-eyed high-school science student learning about greenhouse gases and the atmosphere and how that related to this incredibly fruitful climate our society has been enjoying, especially compared to all other planets, or even previous periods during our own Earth’s evolution. It was fascinating stuff, and the science lessons soaked in.
In the decades since, climatologists have made astonishing strides with ever-improving instruments/tools, satellites, computers and graduating classes of skilled dedicated scientists. A large portion of the serious scientific findings they have produced has been collected and organized at SkepticalScience. com for those who care to learn.
Thirty-five years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created as an organizing agent for the massive amounts of data from incoming climate studies. And, although the IPCC suffers vitriolic attacks, it continues to function much better than its political opponents dare admit. Recently, a new website, Zvon.org, has made the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report’s data base easily accessible.
Where the trip got strange is that instead of learning to understand and grasp the significance of this incoming climate information, Republicans have resorted to a different tactic – denial. Corporate-funded “think tanks” such as Marshall Institute, SPPI, and Heartland have been busily producing “skeptical” talking points that use emotion and PR tactics to confuse the public and detract from actual climate science. Under serious scrutiny their arguments fall, one after the other. Problem is, they use really loud megaphones to discred the messengers in order to counter the message.
For example, the right honorable Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) demonstrated his disdain for serious climate science with a concocted list of “Prominent Scientists Disputing Man-Made Global Warming Claims.” Trouble is, Inhofe’s list consists of non-climate scientists, engineers, TV weathercasters and even folks on ExxonMobil’s payroll. “Obscure scientists” would have been more accurate than “prominent.” Why such desperate attempts to malign the mainstream scientific community?
Why did Inhofe resort to using an enterprising fiction writer (Michael Crichton) as an “expert” witness before his Environment and Public Works Committee? Why use a discredited political performer and propagandist, one Lord Viscount Monckton of Benchley, as a climate science adviser and “expert” witness? Could it be because the Senator is a Creationist and therefore resents science on an emotional, religious level to begin with? What use is Inhofe’s attitude when preparing for the future?
In addition to ignoring science, the anticlimate- change media-manipulation machine has manufactured an image of a greedy scientific community, eager to tamper with evidence and peddle gloom and doom for cash. Do the deniers offer any proof? Of course not – just putting the lies out there and repeating them is enough.
It’s disgraceful how Republicans such as Inhofe have managed to vilify and discredit scientists. I think it’s worth stopping and catching our collective breath for a moment. Why not consider the type of person who becomes a scientist? Remember those guys and gals in high school? The thoughtful ones, who stood back and focused more on learning than taking part in all the fun action. Not that scientists are flawless, but a person who chooses to become a scientist generally sees knowledge and facts as core values. Such a belief is worthy of our respect.
The strangest, most self-destructive part of deniers’ distortions is their glib refusal to appreciate how massive global climate processes are. A supertanker coming into port plans and makes its speed and course adjustments well ahead of time, with care and respect for the shoals. Why are we allowing the Republican “masters of the universe” to tell us to disregard the shoals and run our megatanker at full throttle?
Back in high school we had a saying, more a joke than anything we actually believed: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” It’s strange to think that some day today’s kids, reflecting on their elders’ track record of arrogant disregard for Earth’s processes, will realize our leaders didn’t have a clue. Maybe this time around the saying is right – better not trust anyone over 30, since we seem incapable of looking beyond the rear-view mirror.
For more detailed information regarding climate change, see http://citizenschallenge. blogspot.com. More than 30 hot links embedded within the text of this essay provide information sources offering background.
Peter Miesler writes from Durango, Colo.