Rampaging Climate Deniers' Losing Battle
By Lorna Salzman
08 December, 2009
The recent tempest in a teapot over leaked emails in the UK that purportedly proposed silencing climate deniers has succeeded admirably in advancing the agenda of the deniers, who, absent any substantial credible evidence for their viewpoint, have moved into the realm of personal slander.
On the face of it, their argument appears to rely on their claims that research with findings that dismiss climate change has been suppressed by the wicked science establishment. The reality is quite different, but people and media, being naturally paranoid and quick to indict the "elitist" scientific experts, have apparently bought into the deniers' claims.
What most of the public and mass media do not understand, or choose to ignore in the interest of producing a "shock" story that will get attention regardless of its reliability or content, is what they also have not understood regarding the debate between evolutionists and creationists. Because of the flimsy comprehension of science and evolution of most writers in the mass media, those who venture to write about evolution feel constrained to present "alternative" views.
But "alternative" views are not necessarily credible or true. In the case of evolution, creationist belief in a deity is an article of faith reached by individuals outside the scientific process that involves peer review and rigorous independent impartial testing before any claim of "truth" or verification can be reached.
Anti-evolution forces refuse - because they are unable - to allow their views to be tested, because no such tests are available, or at least tests that do not threaten their belief system. Evolutionists have always asked creationists to submit criteria and protocols for their belief that a higher deity exists, but of course these do not exist. Yet this in no way stops creationists from continuing to assert that such a deity exists.
We now are seeing a similar backlash by climate change deniers. But the deniers' arguments are no less articles of faith than those of the creationists. In the case of the former, the faith is not in a god but in the free market and capitalism. Almost without exception, those who are in staunch denial are those connected to, involved in or supportive of the traditional capitalist model of economic growth, and by implication opposed to anything that might constrain this model.
While we expect corporate flaks and biostitutes who are often hired consultants to corporations and industry to hew to the corporate party line (after all their livelihood and status depend on it), in the case of climate change deniers we have devotees of the economic growth model and fiery opponents of environmental laws and regulation. If they work at universities, it is likely that some if not most of their research funding comes from the private sector, usually corporations connected to energy, chemicals, and agriculture. They know on which side their bread is buttered. It was ever thus.
The climate science on which the vast majority of credible scientists rely for their uniform agreement that we are approaching the point of no return with climate change is impeccable and clear. Despite a few cranks and contrarians here and there - and let's be clear that the science establishment needs and tolerates these because they are vital to the honesty of scientific process - the data are quite clear and unmistakable. They are not fuzzy or contradictory or fudged.
There are always disagreements among scientists as to the significance, extent and time line for the consequences of actions, in this case the act of continuing to release greenhouse gases. For example, some scientists believe the tipping point for irreversible climate change and widespread ecological damage is four or five years off. Others believe that we might have 20 years or more to cut back to the 350 ppm CO2 level that most scientists says is imperative to save civilization and prevent global chaos. The first IPCC report, and even other studies today, say that the 75 foot sea level rise that will accompany a loss of the west Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets won't occur (or be finalized) by the year 2100.
But all of these rely on the same data; in fact every day new studies appear confirming the certainty and speed of climate change. What remains uncertain, as all scientists will admit, is how fast and where ocean- and land-based systems and species will react (and thus contribute additionally to climate change) to the already occurring impacts : worldwide melting of glaciers, release of permafrost from boreal bogs and underwater founts, severe weather events, droughts, floods, and wildfires, as well as the migration of tropical species northward, including insect disease vectors.
Despite uninformed gossip on the internet about how some parts of the world have experienced cold spells, (revealing the public's mistaken belief that weather and climate are the same),the increased average global temperature studies lead to no conclusion but that global warming began decades ago, continues unabated, and shows a steepening upward curve on all charts, in particular since the mid-20th century. No data exist whatsoever that change this upward curve. NONE WHATSOEVER.
The whining of climate deniers and free marketeers about whether the scientific community has excluded them from publishing is nothing but noise. Serious scientific researchers with transparent protocol and clear data that can be analyzed and verified have never been excluded or suppressed. However, as with all scientific peer review processes, nothing requires a science journal to print everything about climate change that arrives on its desk any more than a biology journal is required to print something that purports to prove the existence of a god as the alternative explanation to evolution of life on earth.
But climate change deniers are counting on public and media ignorance and demand for "objectivity" to get a sympathetic ear for their case. In effect they are demanding that any and all studies they submit for peer review and publication in professional journals be published regardless of the accuracy or integrity of their data. In effect they are demanding that their POLITICAL VIEWS be allowed free rein, whether or not their science supports them.
So the next time you see some apparently legitimate scientist griping that his work has been rejected by scientific journals, it behooves you to look behind the scenes at who he is, who funds him, and towards what ends, especially when the debate turns into ad hominem attacks on the scientists who, fed up with the mendacity and distortions of the climate change deniers, don't want serious work and debate polluted by the propaganda of corporations and their paid lackies.
Lorna Salzman was a candidate for the USGP presidential nomination in 2004 and a Suffolk County Green Party candidate for congress in 2002. Long active in the ecology movement, she has taught energy and environmental courses at Rutgers University Human Ecology Program, served as Mid-Atlantic Representative of Friends of the Earth and was wetalnds/natural resources planner at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.