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Christina Robert Headshot

Who Would Be a Climate Skeptic?

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Back in the days when going to college meant listening to the Grateful Dead, I once had to drive a car with a bumper sticker on the back that read, "Young Republicans, The Life Of The Party." I spent two hours on the Long Island Expressway, praying to God that no one would rear-end me. At the time I didn't know any Republicans under the age of thirty. It seemed acceptable to worry about taxes when you actually had an income, but to be a college-aged Republican in the North East of America at that time was akin to declaring to the world that you were selfish and mean (or let your parents make your decisions for you).

Announcing you are a climate skeptic in 2012 gives off the same vibe. Which is why companies like GM, Microsoft, Glaxo Smith Kline and others were so quick to issue press releases repudiating any association with climate change denial, following the leaking of documents from the Heartland Institute this week. Apparently the Heartland Institute is a libertarian think tank which is hard at work coming up with a plan to introduce climate change skepticism into the American public school system. Eeeeeow. Nasty. I mean even if we wake up one day and discover that global warming is primarily due to some kind of solar shower or something, do you really want to be on the team that is encouraging young children not to believe in science or looking after their environment? Lets be honest, science is not on the skeptics' side (unless, of course they pay big money for it to be).

Now I may have listened to the Grateful Dead way back in the early eighties, but I now know plenty of Republicans and it wasn't long ago that my own pater called himself a libertarian. I have known captains of industry. I have dined with many of the elite, white men who run the show and for many of them (especially the ones aged 60 and above) it is hard to accept that fossil fuels, which have made so much possible in their lifetime could be bringing about the planet's demise. Remember the "plastics" advice in The Graduate? These guys still believe it.

In fact, I sat next to one of these chaps recently at a dinner before the British Academy Awards. He could not have been more charming: tall, handsome. His family even owned a village somewhere in the North of England. My hostess was also keen to tell me that he had his own church. Yes, he had gone to Eton. When he found out I was interested in green issues, he asked me the same question I have been asked several times by men of his generation and situation, "Don't you think the new fanaticism for the environment is a kind of religion?" The first time I heard this question, I took a long time to consider it. Now, however, I understand it for what it is. In psychological terms it would be called projection.

I bring this up because the people funding the agents of anti-science propaganda, like the Heartland Institute are mostly top dog, white males. I don't blame them for finding climate change a difficult concept to take on. Climate change challenges every tenet of big business down to the necessity of growth itself. But it is time for them to stop being 'selfish and mean' and it is time for them to recognize who has the problem here.

To be concerned about the environment is a reality of our time. It is not a religion. It is not alarmist. If you can't deal with the reality of climate change then it is time to pipe down. There is work to be done.

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