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Understanding the Climate Denier Campaign
“Climate change is intangible and complicated, which makes it an easy target for our era of fake news.”
– Amy Harder, Axios
Science Fact v. Science Fiction
It has become popular to confound science fact with science fiction. This maelstrom of propaganda fabricated from half truths littered with ambiguous data, now referred to as fake news, is showing up everywhere. If you follow climate news, you would have likely heard the stunningly opposing assertions about it. It has some asking is it a “hoax created by the Chinese” and others asking is it “the most urgent issue confronting the world” today? How is it possible for such contradictory claims to coexist? How do we uncover the truth?
In the following video Stuart Scott and Dhar Jamail introduce these and related topics further.
Unfortunately, research shows that most people lack the skills for differentiating predatory misinformation from factual information. This has real-world consequences. For example, U.S. adults believed 75 percent of fake news stories. The more often someone sees a piece of misinformation, the more likely they are to believe it.
To make matters worse, we all suffer from thinking errors (video) that result in confirmation bias. That is, we tend to seek out sources of information that confirm our own (often flawed) belief systems. Subsequently, the Internet has become an ideal resource for this, because it allows us to insulate our own views and ignore contrary facts. Many Internet sources are neither critically examined, nor reviewed by accepted experts. So, it’s not surprising that we are seeing large, troubling gaps between what scientists and the public believe about issues like climate change, evolution, genetically modified organisms, vaccination, and so on.
Another significant factor contributing to this state of denial and confusion, is the mendacity and subterfuge that mass media, publishers, governments, political leaders, think-tanks, NGO’s and even sell-out science are capable of. In this seminal work, Manufacturing Consent (video), Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky expose these age-old tactics.
These authors show how the credibility and motives of our most trusted information sources become highly suspect when combined with power structures, market demands, and other social pressures. In this way they are driven to defend and represent powerful interests. Through subtle psychological manipulation, they influence people to adopt these duplicitous interests as their own. This is is how the big business of war and limitless growth economy profit despite omnidirectionally harmful intentions. Another good example of this is what Slavoj Žižek (video) calls the paradox of coke.
Therefore, it’s only to be expected that the perennially revolving complexities of socioeconomic political agendas continue to shape truth to their own ends. For many, climate change is and always will be an unacceptable conclusion and inconvenient truth that must be denied at all costs. Even the planet upon which we live is considered an externality in this milieu.
Becoming Discerning Researchers, Investigators, & Whistle Blowers
As a society, we must learn to quickly identify these experts at creating a mirage of knowledge. We need to be able to constantly separate science from opinion and propaganda. In addition, researchers must become tenacious investigators, infinitely quizzical, and even whistle blowers at times. They must constantly work to uncover the hidden agendas and paid relationships of representatives and institutions presenting content for public consumption.
When incorrectly interpreted or manipulated data skew facts enough to inform bad policies and worse decisions, it can be a matter of life and death. Science must be constantly separated from sociopolitical and economic agendas as well as popular beliefs. Therefore, a high level of objectivity is required by science workers.
Science requires us to refrain from drawing quick conclusions about things that only become apparent upon deep, methodical and lengthy inquiries. This is why scientists participate in rigorous empirical study and data collection. They must ultimately provide reports with reproducible results. Real science also requires peer review at the highest level by recognized scholars.
In short, science cannot be a matter of subjective pondering. If we are to be an informed society, or just informed individuals, we must be very dedicated to the constant pursuit of objectivity and rational thinking. Further we must seek to become thoroughly educated on the scientific consensus regarding important matters. This is crucial for wise decision-making. We must consult with multiple experts, revisit our sources and confirm the facts at hand to avoid being misinformed and confused.
DIY Research Tools & Resources for Skeptics
Everyone should be a skeptic. Here is a list of tools and resources, used at Scientists’ Warning, which you can also use to do your own debunking, data analysis, trends watching and more. These are just some of the publicly available tools that the scientists themselves are using to do this much needed research and analysis. See especially Skeptical Science Resources & Debunking Handbook to get started. Please leave your comment below if you’ve got anything to add to this list!
- Earth’s CO2 & Keeling Curve Watch
- Google Climate Change Charts & Graphs
- NASA Worldview
- NOAA Climate Data
- NOAA Arctic Report Card
- NOAA Space Weather DashBoard
- Skeptical Science Resources
- YouTube Public Science Education with Paul Beckwith (see also Robert Fanney, and many others…)
Climate change denial remains a serious detractor for educators, scientists, and humanity. It continues to persist with strong influence. It spurs inaction, dissent, controversy, and doubt. Climate change denial does an extreme disservice to our ability to act on what we are facing in the coming extinction. Additionally, this denial is causing significant cognitive dissonance at sociopolitical levels that have left us unable to respond to it as a global security threat.
The gaming of science we are seeing in these denier campaigns is wreaking havoc on our crucial understanding of these issues. Political science and climate science are clashing in a war of words. The overwhelming desire to jump to simple conclusions, defend positions, and provide quick answers to complex issues is a crucible for our times.
Human societies across the globe are failing to come to terms with the science of climate change. In fact, most have no idea how bad it is (video). Moreover, we aren’t listening to the scholars and scientists we employ to instruct and advise us on these matters, even though they are often working for the good of all. In many cases, these scientists don’t even get paid (video) for this work despite the contrarian claim that they are in it for the profit. It’s as if we have plunged into a new dark age of irrational and magical thinking. It is quite simply depraved at this point.
We are losing 200 species a day. The oceans are acidifying. The insects are disappearing. Radiation is leaking from melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic. Air pollution is causing numerous deaths annually. Millions more are becoming climate refugees daily. Drought and wildfires have become common headlines. This is an emergency and nothing less. Anyone denying this now is committing a crime against humanity and all life on the planet.
Further, we have lost sight of the big picture. We have become entangled in linear, overly simplistic thought processes based on outdated ideas and politics. We are increasingly unable to grasp the exponential challenges of a world moving faster than we can adapt. The only solution to this predicament is to arm ourselves with credible, independent sources (video). It will also be necessary to better comprehend the complexities of objective science, to begin to deconstruct (video) these false narratives and finally, to take action.
“No matter how high the mountains of the great dharma are, no matter how deep the sea of ignorance is, they will be as nothing before a boundless spirit of determination.” – Koun Yamada, “Great Faith, Great Doubt, Great Determination”
Note: This page, as with many wiki pages, is a work in progress and is far from complete. It aims to introduce the reader to the challenges facing climate science in the modern milieu of propaganda and manufactured consent.