I’m steaming. This is not because the temperature is topping 35C (95F), but because a handful of the cleverest people I know are reciting the narrative that climate change is nothing alarming, just part of the normal cycle of Earth’s warming and cooling.
“Climate change is a hoax,” one tells me. “It’s perpetuated to keep climate change activists in jobs.” I am gobsmacked. Did you know, I respond when I find my voice, that the fossil fuel industry is the big sponsor behind the climate change hoax myth? Big jobs and trillions upon trillions of dollars of vested interest there.
Another chips in: “The fires in Australia were started by dry lightning. There are fires every year. It’s got nothing to do with global warming.” Actually, I splutter, the fires themselves cause dry lightning.
But I can see that they are not really hearing me. They are sticking to their story even though our world is igniting and drowning. Head back in sand.
It would be funny if it were not so distressing – and dangerous because that view creates paralysis against action. And that is the intention.
Somehow, climate change denialists – please let’s not call them sceptics (that’s too flattering) – know better than the experts who warn that human activity is causing global warming that will wipe out our species and a lot of others too.
At least 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. If you look at the long list of science organizations in consensus about climate change, you’ll see that these are heavyweights who offer evidence backed by many studies.
The evidence is in our faces, too. Start with this: the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2005. It’s hard not to feel that.
The 3%, mostly in the loony right, have also published articles to shoot down the evidence. I don’t want to bore you, but here is a synopsis of some of the main arguments. There was an article about humans being incapable of comprehending their own extinction – I can’t find it right now, but I suspect that is at play, too.
The stakes are much higher for the Earth than for those who fight dirty for Earth-damaging business as usual.
Global warming causes loss of habitats – for humans too. HuffPost (among others) quotes scientists saying that the Earth is on the brink of the sixth mass extinction, which could see 75% of species disappear. The fifth was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs were wiped out.
In November, 11,000 scientists endorsed research that climate change is a “clear and unequivocal” emergency. Lead author Dr Thomas Newsome (University of Sydney) is quoted: “An emergency means that if we do not act or respond to the impacts of climate change by reducing our carbon emissions, reducing our livestock production, reducing our land clearing and fossil fuel consumption, the impacts will likely be more severe than we’ve experienced to date.”
Culprits and funders of denial
The overriding consensus is that greenhouse gas emissions through human activities – fossil fuels, massive-scale meat farming and agriculture, loss of forests – is the main cause of global warming. This is tied into overpopulation (more people mean more demand on natural resources, like forests and water, and more fuel to the industries at fault). And there is greed.
It’s the fossil fuel lobby that’s been fingered as the big funder of climate change denial. There are others, among them supporters of US President Donald Trump. It appears they will believe anything – there was no moon landing; the world is flat; climate change is a hoax – as long as it’s prettily packaged.
They believe what they are told to believe by those who own the traditional means of communication. Australia again offers an example. Arch-conservative and climate change denier Rupert Murdoch owns titles that make up around 70% of newspaper circulation in the country’s major cities. His columnists call it “hysterical” and “silly” to link the fires to climate change. Confronted by the biggest bushfires anywhere, anytime, people are responding with fury – and hopefully, the demise of his newspapers.
Divide and conquer
Orchestrated denial has the same stink as the Bell Pottinger saga in South Africa. State capturers and Zuma’s friends, the Guptas (together, known as the Zuptas), used taxpayers’ money to pay British PR firm Bell Pottinger to detract attention from their shenanigans by fuelling racial conflict. They sucked on the legacy of apartheid to divide and conquer the citizens being robbed. It was the end of Bell Pottinger.
Wikipedia pulls things together nicely. It describes climate change denial as “Organised campaigning to undermine public trust in climate science … associated with conservative economic policies and backed by industrial interests opposed to the regulation of CO2 emissions. Climate change denial has been associated with the fossil fuels lobby, the Koch brothers, industry advocates and conservative think tanks, often in the United States. More than 90% of papers sceptical on climate change originate from right-wing think tanks.”
I’ve retained Wikipedia’s hyperlinks if you want to check for yourself. And that’s what we should be doing in the information age: doing our own research; getting fully informed before making decisions.
Follow the money. Join the dots.
Otherwise, we are doomed. What are seeing in Australia is what the world could look like in the not-too-distant future. It’s not pretty and there’s no hope of avoiding it if we bow to this orchestrated campaign by unscrupulous people who put profits before anything else.
We can and should make changes in our lives to reduce our impact on the Earth. But we have to work together to put pressure on the companies and politicians intent on glueing us to the path to devastation. To do that, we have to figure things out for ourselves.