Sunday, January 14, 2007

Global climate change: Hit or Myth?

I firmly believe that the phenomena of global warming and global climate change are real. They are happening in front of our eyes, albeit at a rate that is easy to miss if you aren’t paying close attention. And that leads to the easy denials from the conservative right and fundamentalists who are finding multiple reasons to dismiss out-of-hand the avalanche of evidence to the contrary.

I can’t really understand how blithe these people are in their reasons. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t see a Letter to the Editor of my local papers that blasts away at Democrats, essentially calling us all believers as “Chicken Littles”. Given the magnitude of the problem and the potentially catastrophic consequences, I would think that these people might just want to consider, just for a moment, that everyone else not wearing blinders just MIGHT be right. For instance, if someone that I didn’t really like very well and didn’t see his point of view on some issues came running in to my living room to tell me that my garage was on fire and was about to set my house on fire as well, I truly believe that I would rush out there to find out what exactly was going on. Certainly, I would not dismiss the guy as a nutcase, just because we have different ideas about taxes and abortion.

However, that is exactly what is going on here with the extreme right. There is undisputable evidence that global warning and climatic changes are indeed occurring. What is perhaps open to discussion is exactly how much human activity is contributing. Yes, this may be part of a normal cycle of the earth. However, what is not part of the question is that we are helping it along with the tons and tons of greenhouse gases our world society is pumping into Earth’s atmosphere every single day. As Molly Ivins likes to say, the First Rule of Holes is that, when you find yourself in one, stop digging!

Yet, the extreme right finds all sorts of reason to dismiss this. My belief about this is as follows. The extreme right has been so conditioned by years of right wing talk radio, conservative columnists, the vast and widening blue/red mentality in our country, etc., that they are pre-conditioned to not believe ANYTHING that anyone says outside their own little ideology. If Michael Moore were to come out and say, “The sky is blue”, there would be an immediate backlash discounting this as “ravings of a lunatic”. There would be a vast effort to immediately discredit him. O.K., this is hyperbole, but I still think it is a major reason. The thinking of these types of people are so set in stone that they are not going to believe ANYTHING that doesn’t fit in with their little world view.

This goes along with another phenomena that has surfaced in our society lately; that facts and opinions are essentially the same thing, and if you hold an opinion strongly enough, that is enough to deny any sort of fact that doesn’t fit in with your opinion.

I think Al Gore pegged it exactly. It is an “inconvenient truth”. Catastrophic climate change would upset a lot of things that people believe. So, it is much easier to dismiss it because they don’t want it to be true. Personally, I would prefer that I don’t have to change the oil in my car, ever. However, I know that if I don’t, my engine is going to conk out sooner or later. And then, it will be much harder to fix. So, I tend to believe what people tell me, that I should change the oil in my car. (I just realized that this is a very unfortunate analogy. However, I’m on a roll here, so I’ll stick with it.)

The extreme right-wingers, however, would prefer not to change the oil in their car, so they don’t. It is easier and cheaper to pretend they never have to. But guess what? That engine is getting dirtier all the time, and pretty soon, they are going to need some major engine work.

I saw one Letter to the Editor that said something to the effect, “Global warming isn’t happening. Besides, God won’t let it. Do you think He will just let us all burn up?” What a masterpiece of avoidance and rationalization. God will save us all from our folly.

Of course, these are probably the same people who believe in the Rapture, where Jesus will essentially come down to destroy the Earth. The End of Days. But yet, until that happens, don’t worry, God will save us.

People are willing to deny a lot that is sitting right there in plain sight. I think this tendency will be the ultimate downfall of our race. If not now, sometime in the future.

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