A deeply disturbing report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change released this week has sent shockwaves around the world. The report warns of chronic food shortages, uncontrollable wildfires, and the mass extinction of coral reefs within the next two decades.
The UN report also describes consequences that are considerably worse than previously thought, and puts the blame squarely on our carbon based economy. The report states that the damage is so dire that reversing it in time requires transforming the world economy at a speed with “no documented historic precedent.”
Outside of the US, the report is being taken extremely seriously for obvious reasons. Many countries are already behind efforts to tax carbon, and the Paris Climate Agreement provides a good basis for coordinating cooperation and building a framework for transforming the global economy. While the agreement is not by itself anywhere near radical enough, it is unprecedented in its scope and scale and is at least a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, under president Trump's leadership, the United States will not be a part of the Paris Climate Accord, and the country is instead creating an energy policy that will increase carbon pollution. Trump believes climate change is a "Chinese hoax", has pledged to support the coal industry, relax fuel efficiency standards for the car industry, and has reworked international trade deals to overwhelmingly benefit the oil and gas industry.
America's refusal to participate in reversing climate change is a product of right wing propaganda that is presented as fact by conservative media outlets and right wing think tanks. Over the years, extremists have managed to make climate change denial mainstream, claiming there are "two sides" to the debate and that the science is "not settled" (there are not two sides to the debate, and the science is most certainly settled). The denial has its roots in a conservative love affair with free market capitalism and the belief that Americans have a right to acquire as many material possessions as they want. The "greed is good" mantra is an immutable law that cannot be questioned, and to question capitalism is to question God Himself (not Her, obviously). Here for example, was Ben Shapiro's response to the UN report:
(I have asked Ben to provide a credible scientific paper that agrees with this statement. I have yet to hear back from him).
As the scientific consensus has solidified, American conservatives (at least some of them) have had to change their arguments over the years to reflect the undeniable truth that the planet is heating up. There is an unofficial guide to climate change denial that lays out a series of arguments to befuddle the general population and leave them thinking that global warming really could be a liberal conspiracy theory. Here's how it works:
1. Outright denial. Donald Trump's supporters for example, can be distracted by simply say that the climate is not warming, and scientists are making it up to get grant money etc, etc.
2. If it is winter and snowing, claim that global warming couldn't possibly be happening if it is cold outside.
3. Talk about Al Gore making money from his documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' and use the fact that some of his predictions were partially wrong to prove global warming is a lie.
4. Acknowledge that the planet is warming, but say that it is a natural part of the earth's cycle and that there is no evidence humans have anything to do with it.
5. Talk about China or another major economy and claim they are not taking global warming seriously. Argue that America must ignore the issue to avoid being put at an economic disadvantage.
6. Acknowledge global warming is real and that humans are responsible, but free market capitalism and America's energy consumption requirements are too important. The belief that the earth's eco systems function like a free market is crucial here so you can claim the earth will regenerate much like the stock market does when it crashes and we can start all over again.
How can this be challenged? Firstly, by continuing to cite the science and refusing to listen to anyone who doesn't. As NASA asserts, "97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities."
Second, vote for candidates who believe in climate change in November and render this right wing propaganda useless. America needs to move on, and if that means sidelining the views of most conservatives in the country, then so be it.