The State of Denial

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"The State of Denial"

What to call those who deny that global warming is an urgent problem or who seek to delay strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, people like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) or President George W. Bush or Michael Crichton, author of State of Fear, a deeply flawed novel that attacks climate science and climate scientists? This is a question that everyone who writes on climate change must grapple with.

The most commonly used term is “skeptic.” But that term is misplaced. All scientists are skeptics. Hence the motto of the Royal Society of London, one of the world’s oldest scientific academies (founded in 1660), Nullius in verba: “Take nobody’s word.”

Skeptics can be convinced by the facts, but not the Deniers. Skeptics do not continue repeating arguments that have been discredited. Deniers do.

Some, like climatologist Stephen Schneider, prefer the term “contrarian.” That term is also misplaced. A contrarian is One who takes a contrary view or action, especially an investor who makes decisions that contradict prevailing wisdom.” Contrarians may have a good strategy for making money in the stock market, but how many have a hidden agenda to undermine faith in the stock market itself? Moreover, if the scientific consensus somehow reversed itself, the Deniers wouldn’t suddenly reverse themselves. They aren’t contrarians.

The Deniers and Delayers, as Climate Progress will use the terms, are those who aggressively embrace one or both parts of a two-fold strategy. First, they deny the strong and growing scientific consensus that the climate change we are witnessing is primarily human-caused and likely to have serious negative impacts if we don’t reverse our greenhouse gas emissions trends. Second, they work to delay this country from taking any serious action beyond perhaps investing in new technology.

Their beliefs were well articulated by science-fiction writer Michael Crichton in a 2006 New Republic interview: If you just look at the science, I, at least, am underwhelmed. This may or may not be a problem, but it is far from the most serious problem. If you want to do something, [limiting emissions] is not what to do. We don’t at this moment have good technology to do this, if, in fact, it’s necessary to do it.”

Such is the road to ruin. Those who advance such a view, including President Bush, deserve a strong label. No doubt many Deniers and Delayers are sincere in their beliefs, but many are not. Sincere or insincere, they spread misinformation or disinformation that threatens the well-being of the next fifty generations of Americans. Deniers and Delayers are also not content merely to dispute the work of climate scientists–they are actively engaged in smearing the reputation of those scientists.

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7 Responses to The State of Denial

  1. Stephen King, Ph.D., M.P.H. says:

    Joe:

    I like your informative blog – good work.

    Stephen King

  2. roman eos says:

    Joe,

    tks for this and your contrib. I know this does not answer yr particular point here, but disregard looks a neat word and way of meeting all those dis folks you mentioned.

    of ongoing interest, I hear Ritson(emeritus, Stanford) has a question or two for Joe Barton’s stat guy, Wegman. You can maybe catch it at realclimate. Latest is it has gone to Waxman for assistance..

    best..

  3. […] The failure to take action on global warming really is a “War on White Christmas” — since, on our current path, most of the United States will be 10°F warmer (or more) by century’s end, making late December snowfall a distant memory for most Americans. Global Warming Deniers deserve a lump of coal in their stockings for their ongoing efforts to spread misinformation and delay action. […]

  4. […] Franken posed a challenge to science-fiction author and global warming denyer Michael Crichton: Debate ClimateProgress on climate change. Franken promised to be neutral — and really who is a more neutral commentator than Al Franken? […]

  5. M. Christopher Spencer says:

    While I think global warming is real, I think that Al Gore and all his scientific buddies are off the mark. This is a real natural process. Blaming it all on man and his energy & economic needs is a bunch of crap! What about all the scientists that speak out counter to Al Gore and his buddies? Why are they silenced and not ever mentioned? Are they less educated? I think not! Let’s all calm down and step back…just prepare for the climate changes because no matter what we do now, nature is going to take its course! Think about it.

  6. Brooster says:

    I know politicians have been trying for a long time to come up with a way to make people pay for air but I never thought they would get away with it. Perhaps I gave people more credit than they deserved.

    Do I believe we should take better care of earth? Absolutely. However, the problem with jumping on this global warming bandwagon without all the facts is that we create a self-fullfilling prophesy and it’s already beginning. Rain forests that naturally produce the highest levels of oxygen of anything on earth are being cut down in huge amounts to grow corn for ethanol. Light bulbs containing mercury will end up in our landfills and eventually into our water supplies and no one is saying anything?

    We are simply guests on a living planet that has its own cycles – we do not control it – it controls us. One good eruption from one of the many supervolcanoes on this planet will throw more carbon dioxide into the air than man has done in its entire history. People are falling for fear-tactics being promoted by those who stand to benefit the most and let there be no doubt, this is about money – a lot of it, and political control.

    I think I might believe that man’s role in global warming is real if Nascar racing is outlawed. Why? The drivers are not transporting any goods yet they drive for hours and burn a lot of fuel just to end up where they started. Fans fly or drive from all over the country (many in gas-guzzling RVs) to sit and watch them do it, and the trucks that transport the cars before and after the race are not exactly “green”. Only problem is – there’s a lot of money in Nascar too.

    If you want to believe that man is the root cause of global warming, continue with your current way of thinking and watch where your money goes – higher food prices, higher gas prices, higher automative costs, higher utility bills and yet no beneficial effect on the planet. In fact, I have to assume the effect will be quite the opposite. If so, you can bet the people profiting from this hoax will be glad to say “see, I told you it was warming!”. Many of the scientists involved in the U.N. report have been trying to say they did not agree on the totality of the final report – just certain sections. They are not being given a voice anymore as their usefulness is over. As for Al Gore, I learned a long time ago to never trust a politician and I’m certainly not going to start now.

  7. online game says:

    I believe we should take better care of earth? Absolutely. However, the problem with jumping on this global warming bandwagon without all the facts is that we create a self-fullfilling prophesy and it’s already beginning.

    Rain forests that naturally produce the highest levels of oxygen of anything on earth are being cut down in huge amounts to grow corn for ethanol.