This week in climate science denial mockery:
“I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change. But I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.” —Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (fact-check: the average temperature on Mars is -81 degrees). — Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute (!) scholar, on “Mainstream Extremism”
“I accept that changes in climate are causing ocean updrafts that draw killer sharks into the atmosphere and then drop them on populated areas, but I don’t believe human activity is the cause.” — One of the “Deniers” quoted in a New Yorker humor piece.
WASHINGTON—In a worrying development that could have dire implications for the health of the planet, a report published Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that the number of climate change skeptics could reach catastrophic levels by the year 2020. — The Onion
So I was on “Now” on MSNBC Wednesday night — with Luke Russert filling in for Alex Wagner. Russert asked me if we had reached a tipping point in climate awareness.
I answered that there was a “quantum change” because human-fueled warming was now causing off-the-charts extreme weather events almost everywhere, so people were getting more of a personal experience of what climate change will be. That’s certainly what the polling suggests.
But tipping points manifest themselves in many ways. With the evidence for dangerous human-caused climate change growing stronger and more obvious each passing month, science denial inevitably becomes viewed as extremism. And so it becomes the target of ridicule by satirists — and centrists.
Ornstein is somewhere between moderate and center-right, which isn’t even represented in the Republican Party that he writes about in his National Journal piece: “The most interesting, and important, dynamic in American politics today is the existential struggle going on in the Republican Party between the establishment and the insurgents—or to be more accurate, between the hard-line bedrock conservatives (there are only trace elements of the old-line center-right bloc, much less moderates) and the radicals.”
The result is that extremism becomes the norm, as Ornstein explains, “It is a measure of the nature of this intra-party struggle that the mainstream is now on the hard right, and that it is close to apostasy to say that Obama is legitimate, that climate change is real….”
And what is the best response to this extremism? Climate scientists and climate hawks must redouble our efforts. As must centrists. And satirists, too. As The Onion — America’s finest news source — puts it:
“The profusion of these skeptics was something that we as a nation should have made a better effort to get a handle on in the past,” said report co-author Gena Orlofsky, noting that the increase in private sector groups actively seeking to cast doubt on the reality of declining biodiversity and the melting of the polar ice caps was observable as early as the 1990s. “At this point, so much pseudoscience and misinformation have been released into the world that we simply have to accept that those who refuse to ‘believe’ in objective scientific fact aren’t going away. All we can do is attempt to minimize their impact on our planet.”