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Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, climate change deniers continue to deny the fact of climate change as some kind of cooky global conspiracy hatched by mad, evil scientists, to scare us into believing our collective lives are in danger. Explaining why scientists the world over would gang up to perpetuate the exact same narrative is unclear. The following AP report explains the persistence of climate change deniers, and how denying climate change has more to do with cultural conviction than an honest disagreement based on facts and science.
“Ninety-eight percent of the world’s climate scientists say it’s for real, and yet you still have deniers,” observed former U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican who chaired the House’s science committee.
Christiana Figueres, Costa Rican head of the U.N.’s post-Kyoto climate negotiations, finds it “very, very perplexing, this apparent allergy that there is in the United States. Why?”
The Australian scholar Hamilton sought to explain why in his 2010 book, “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change.”
In an interview, he said he found a “transformation” from the 1990s and its industry-financed campaign, to an America where climate denial “has now become a marker of cultural identity in the ‘angry’ parts of the United States.”
“Climate denial has been incorporated in the broader movement of right-wing populism,” he said, a movement that has “a visceral loathing of environmentalism.”
An in-depth study of a decade of Gallup polling finds statistical backing for that analysis.
On the question of whether they believed the effects of global warming were already happening, the percentage of self-identified Republicans or conservatives answering “yes” plummeted from almost 50 percent in 2007-2008 to 30 percent or less in 2010, while liberals and Democrats remained at 70 percent or more, according to the study in this spring’s Sociological Quarterly.
A Pew Research Center poll last October found a similar left-right gap.
Boehlert, the veteran Republican congressman, noted that “high-profile people with an ‘R’ after their name, like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, are saying it’s all fiction. Pooh-poohing the science of climate change feeds into their basic narrative that all government is bad.”
The quarterly study’s authors, Aaron M. McCright of Michigan State University and Riley E. Dunlap of Oklahoma State, suggested climate had joined abortion and other explosive, intractable issues as a mainstay of America’s hardening left-right gap.
“The culture wars have thus taken on a new dimension,” they wrote.
Al Gore, for one, remains upbeat. The former vice president and Nobel Prize-winning climate campaigner says “ferocity” in defense of false beliefs often increases “as the evidence proving them false builds.”
In an AP interview, he pointed to tipping points in recent history — the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the dismantling of U.S. racial segregation — when the potential for change built slowly in the background, until a critical mass was reached.
“This is building toward a point where the falsehoods of climate denial will be unacceptable as a basis for policy much longer,” Gore said. “As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘How long? Not long.’”
Even Wally Broecker’s jest — that deniers could blame God — may not be an option for long.
Last May the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, arm of an institution that once persecuted Galileo for his scientific findings, pronounced on manmade global warming: It’s happening.
Said the pope’s scientific advisers, “We must protect the habitat that sustains us.”