04/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why to Deny on Climate Change

A dozen reasons why climate change deniers are the way they are:

No, there aren't only a dozen reasons, but some are bigger than others. Scientists and climate change advocates are constantly amazed and appalled at how durable the climate change denial machine is. Here are some of the varied reasons.

1) Compassion fatigue: No one really denies world hunger, but we sure are good at turning away from it. People have been hearing about climate for two decades now, and they'd really not think any more about it.

2) Stigma: Pick one guy and stick with him as the personification of evil. That would be Al Gore, who plays the same role for climate that Jane Fonda did, and still does nearly 40 years later, for Vietnam. Jane has admitted that she made a huge mistake by posing with the North Vietnamese, and neither her multiple apologies, the fact that she was right about the war, nor the otherwise-accepted concept of Christian Forgiveness will ever let her off the hook for millions of Americans.

3) Dogma: Those who talk about climate change are the same ones who occupy the tenth circle of Hell for many Americans: Politicians, the Media, Scientists, Educators, Hippies, and Showbiz types. So it's a moral imperative to be agin what they're for.

4) Fear Factor: Losing your SUV, or ATV, is more of a fright than phenology (the effect of climatic changes on the seasons), or melting permafrost, or polar bears.

5) Manufactured denial: Marc Morano is a Senate staffer for James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who's said that climate change is a "hoax." In that role, Morano's been the Drum Major of the denial parade. The Marc Moranos of the world function for climate the way that Johnnie Cochran functioned for OJ Simpson: Raise enough shreds of doubt, even if you do it in reckless and theatrical ways, and climate change can win an acquittal, or at least a mistrial no matter how strong the rest of the evidence is. (It was reported last week that Morano's career as a public servant will soon end, and he'll take the denial machine to the private sector).

6) Devotion: The corollary to not believing anything Al Gore and his ilk say is that you must believe everything that a crackpot like Glenn Beck says.
(Blogger's Note: The word "ilk" is a very special one. A nonscientific Googling of the terms "Al Gore" and "Ilk" yielded 705 results. "Al Gore" and "Antichrist" got 693 hits, but that's misleading, since the "Antichrist" in question in many of those hits was either Hillary or Obama, and Gore was just mentioned as a henchman.)

7) Lack of backbone in Senior Editorial Management: A long-gone CNN boss of mine once told me that he hesitated about climate change stories. If he had his doubts about a diplomacy story, he said, he could get Henry Kissinger or Madeleine Albright on the phone to explain it to him. But for climate, he said he was "stuck" with only me.

8) Current events: The Gallup poll just released that shows an increase in the number of Americans who think that climate fears are "exaggerated" also points out that this always happens with many secondary issues when the merde hits the fan -- 9/11 or Depression tend to make issues like climate seem less important. They also get covered less.

9) Credentials: Peer review means nothing to the general public. And it's unreasonable to expect a casual reader to make a huge distinction between a respected and peer-reviewed climate scientist like Steve Schneider, and the "coal monkeys" (Schneider's term) who staff the Denial Labs.

10) Frank Luntz: Go to and read the 2003 memo from the peerless Republican consultant. It counsels that manufacturing doubt is the only way to avoid losing the battle. In an interview at last year's Heartland Institute's Deny-a-Palooza, Morano claims he's never read the Luntz memo. Which, if true, means that a superstar political consultant wrote a memo for his party on the environment, and the party's most prominent environmental spokesman has managed to ignore it for six years?

11) Ideology: Environmentalists often make the mistake of tarring all skeptics with the same brush. Not everyone's on the take from Exxon and Peabody Coal. Not by a long shot. But policy fixes to climate change are absolutely toxic to many freemarketers and libertarians.

12) Ossified science: William Gray, the hurricane guy, is the best example of an old-line scientist who has complete contempt for any science that's not generated in a lab or on a chalkboard. He'll go to his grave not believing in any global warming, nor anything else that relies on computer models for its science. Chris Mooney's book "Storm World" tells this story very well.

So there's a dozen reasons for denying climate change, and I didn't even mention Creationists.