I became outraged earlier when the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology posted the following tweet:
First of all, we’ve mentioned several times how frustrated we are with the people in charge of this committee. Second, it is absolutely inappropriate for a government establishment to spread misinformation in this manner. Third, WHY is the climate change “debate” still happening?
I think we can blame a lot of this on denialism, and I think Wikipedia does the best job explaining it:
In the psychology of human behavior, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality, as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of an historical experience or event, by the person refusing to accept an empirically verifiable reality. In the sciences, denialism is the rejection of basic facts and concepts that are undisputed, well-supported parts of the scientific consensus on a subject, in favor of radical and controversial ideas. The term climate change denialist is applied to people who argue against the scientific consensus that the global warming of planet Earth is a real and occurring event primarily caused by human activity. The forms of denialism present the common feature of the person rejecting overwhelming evidence and the generation of political controversy with attempts to deny the existence of consensus. The motivations and causes of denialism include religion and self-interest (economic, political, financial) and defence mechanisms meant to protect the psyche of the denialist against mentally disturbing facts and ideas.
Denialism occurs as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth, and often out of self-interest. We know the uncomfortable truths that come with accepting climate change: the need to revamp and alter energy production, which inherently leads to the loss of many jobs (coal industry, oil, etc), loss of wealth and income for many, and loss of votes for the members of congress who represent these people. As a result, it’s easy to try to not accept climate change as a way to avoid these truths.
However, I think the largest problem with this issue is that the government is trying to turn the conversation into a scientific debate trying to delegitimize climate change research instead of focusing their energy on the political debate.
Politicians don’t want to lose votes, and americans don’t want to lose jobs. The easiest way to maintain the status quo is to make false claims that climate change doesn’t exist because the “science doesn’t add up”.
There are VERY FEW politicians who are educated in the subject enough to assess for themselves the validity of climate change data. This is why they often will have aides, who are educated in the topic, to help inform their decisions. And, this is why scientists have the process of peer review and data reproduction. Results go through a harsh critique and review process from highly qualified scientists in the field, and then are validated through reproduction from other groups. This way, there are several levels to gauge whether data are legitimate or not. As a result of this process, there is a VERY HIGH CONSENSUS among scientists that man-made climate change is occurring.
I think it is our duty to shift the focus AWAY from this post-truth, false idea that climate change science is a “debate”, and instead focus on the real debate: the policy decisions on how we tackle climate change. There is a clear difference here. The debate is not on the validity of the science (because lets get real here, most politicians are not equipped to comment on that), but what you do with the data that exists (the real job of politicians- take the data, and make informed policy decisions).
If that’s the case, I think it’s fair for conservative politicians to be upfront and honest with what their REAL intentions in this matter: Climate change is real, but tackling that problem from a policy point is a nightmare, so they don’t actually about the future, and will not handle the problem. They’ll be long gone before the full repercussions of climate change affect humanity anyway.