Battlepanda: I have seen them with mine own eyes...


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I have seen them with mine own eyes...

I used to think that global warming denialism is a form of mental illness only endemic to in staunchly conservative circles (and those on the payrolls of businesses that emit carbon, of course). But this is unfortunately not so. I know of at least a couple of fairly left-leaning fellow teachers who have read State of Fear and firmly believes that Global Warming is a Myth. One even made an analogy between cracking down on carbon emission and invading Iraq for the non-existent WMDs. I wonder if the recently released report by the NAS that the earth is probably the hottest it has been for 2000 years or the recent finding that the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting far faster than the computer model anticipated will change their minds. I have a feeling the answer is going to be "No."

Talking to the global warming denialists is a frustrating, yet oddly illuminating experience. It demonstrates that if you can constuct a compelling narrative, people will find a way to believe what you're saying no matter how absurd your theories are in the face of the facts. I guess you can call it the Da Vinci Code effect. I haven't read State of Fear, but I gather that it pits a small group of fearless truthtellers fighting to overcome the ossified estabilishment who are out to get them at every turn. This narrative is quite insidious because it takes what looks like scientific near-consensus to most of us and give it a David vs. Goliath spin. I have a feeling that the more you try to snap a GWD (global warming denialist) out of it with facts, reasoning or derision, the more he or she will be convinced that you're part of the matrix or something. The old GWDs thought that people who believed in global warming are just a bunch of damned hippies. I think we've gotten through to most of those folks. Mainstream magazines like Time, The Economist and even the U.S. freaking News have published articles that take global warming seriously. But this means nothing to the new GWD -- they know that they must go against the herd.

It seems to me that we need a way of getting through to those people that involves breaking this compelling narrative as opposed to just more studies, more scientific consensus, more deadly hurricanes. Maybe it will help to point out that the skeptical scientists they admire for bucking conventional thinking are really just industry shrills. Or maybe it is more useful to go back to square one and ask them whether they have any argument with the mechanism involved in global warming, i.e. that the atmosphere traps heat, and that greenhouse gasses trap more heat than other gasses. If they don't have trouble grasping that (and heaven help us if they do), then perhaps they will move onto the next step of considering whether putting billions of metric tonnes of this stuff into the atmosphere might have some effect on the temperature of the earth.