by nathan thanki
Climate deniers are everywhere. If we didn't already know that they were funded by Big Oil, Big Coal, and Big Right Wing Billionaires (the Kochtopus has many tentacles) it would surely be a mystery as to how on earth they managed to make a living. At every level – town hall meeting, local paper, climate blog – these people pop up, often repeatedly, to cut and paste absolute lies about climate change. They do not care how stupid they sound, how many times they are proven to be liars, or indeed what damage said lies might do to the planet and humanity in the long run. They cannot be convinced either.
But they must be challenged. As must the people who give equal weight and space to their views. Without opening a can of worms RE free spech (which is a very misunderstood notion) I should just say that I think it bad journalism to publish their dangerous lies. It skews the debate to make it seem like there is legitimacy in climate denialism – there isn't.
So you can imagine my reaction when the local paper — the Islander — printed a letter to the editor entitled "What warming?" The denier in question wrote the following:
"I don’t think that anyone, at least since Noah anyway, really denies the existence of climate change. But as far as global warming is concerned, the alarmists have had to change what they are calling it, because the globe hasn’t warmed in over 15 years, and that’s now being predicted to last as long as 20.Those who continue to be convinced of ongoing global warming or climate change need to rethink who or what to blame for what they think was happening, because it cannot be manmade carbon dioxide that caused it.CO2 concentrations have been rising steadily since the beginning of the industrial age, but no warming has occurred over the last 15 year period. That means CO2 emissions cannot be the cause. I’m not too concerned that the sea will put my shoreside cottage in Somesville under water, at least anytime soon, like in the next 500 years."
A person of the same name also wrote a similar (Ctrl+C, remember) letter to the editor to a paper in Cincinatti (claiming to be from Wyoming for some reason) which was of course slammed. It is just speculation, but that did make me wonder…
Anyway, I wrote the following letter to the editor and hope to see it printed come next week. I don't normally engage with such people, because like I say they can't be convinced by facts or appeals to their morality, but this time I felt the need. As follows:
To the editor:
There is near total consensus among climate scientists that climate change is real, more serious than previously estimated, and most definitely anthropogenic. The small number of deniers are provenly funded by Exxon Mobil, Koch Foundations, and Donors Trust – to the tune of $120 million over the past decade (see the Guardian’s February 14 “Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks”). Giving column space to such denialism is not balanced reporting. Were I to write a letter denying the Holocaust or diverting blame away from the perpetrators it would rightly be ridiculed and vilified as untrue and immoral, yet Tom Rolfes February 14 letter to the editor (“What warming?”) is equally misleading and morally reprehensible. Publishing it is journalistically irresponsible.
The real debate is around how to respond to the challenges posed by climate change, such as sea level rise, increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events, droughts, floods. How will the world food system cope with massive drops in crop yields? How will extreme poverty and inequity be eradicated with the additional burden of a 2 degree celsius warmer world?
We urgently need to begin answering those questions rather than indulging the fantasies of deniers who have no intention of rational debate.