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Neil Wagner

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The Reason for Climate Denialism -- Is it Reasonable?

Posted: 03/30/2012 3:39 pm

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United States Senator James Mountain "Jim" Inhofe has long been a vocal denier of climate change. He has compared concern about climate change to the Third Reich's Big Lie, and the EPA to the Gestapo. He has called global warming, "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." He has misrepresented facts about climate change. And, as What on Earth has previously discussed, he is, ironically, a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. Also ironically, Oklahoma has been at the front lines of climate-induced weather extremes.

But Inhofe's recent interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has put the Senator's climate change denial in a whole new light. Of global warming, he told Maddow, "I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost."

Too expensive to be true! Exactly what I said about that parking ticket last week just before they towed my car away.

The scientific method asks that ideas be challenged and tested. But the challenges should meet a minimum level of common sense. As Bebbo expresses in today's cartoon, price tags are irrelevant to the authenticity of global warming.

Let's look at some other popular rationales for climate change denial and see how they hold up when applied to scenarios we can all relate to more easily...

"There is no scientific consensus on climate change."
If 98 out of 100 orthodontists said you needed braces, would you ignore them because your allergist felt braces weren't needed? Study after study shows that a near unanimity of climate scientists (who are actively studying climate change) believe in anthropogenic global warming.

"We had a cold, snowy winter. That means the climate isn't warming."
I visited Florida one time and experienced chilly rain all week. Does that mean Florida is not a warm, sunny state?

"God would not give mankind the power to change the environment."
Evangelical environmentalists would disagree, saying God wants us to be proper stewards of His creation. Plus He gave us free will, right?

"I just don't believe it."
You may not believe in Santa, but that doesn't mean... OK, forget that one.

"Scientists don't know what they're talking about -- they were the ones that used to say an ice age is coming."
My third grade teacher didn't assign homework, so I knew I was justified in protesting my college professors' expectations I work outside of the classroom. "What is this?!! Aren't you teachers the ones who don't believe in homework?! MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!!!"
Forty years ago, the small percentage of scientists discussing an ice age was still far outweighed by talk of global warming.

"Climate change is natural."
So are head injuries. That doesn't mean we can't make a reasonable effort to protect ourselves; It's in our survival's best interest.
And like head trauma, climate change is not cyclical -- something happens to trigger it.

Let's face it: The choice to believe global warming is too costly to be real is the costliest choice of all.

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