The Rise of Climate Denial

Reader Jay asks for my response here:

I’m curious on your take on what seems like an increase in anti climate change events like the one you reference in your post (“Are Environmental Protectors “Alarmists?”).  That video has probably a very small influence, compared to, for example, the terrible “Planet of the Humans” by Michael Moore, of which I saw numerous interviews with (director) Gibb and Moore.

Of all that I heard, not a single one pushed back with any fact-checking. The easiest fact that would completely nullify the movie is that solar has an energy payback in 2-4 years, not never as is stated in the documentary.

So again, how is it that the number of climate change deniers is increasing vs. decreasing?

Well, let me start by saying that Gibb and Moore received an enormous amount of pushback (putting it politely) from the environmentalist community, precisely because that had deliberately presented data points that were either completely incorrect, or were 10 – 15 years out of date.

I’m sure part of the answer to your question is the same now as it was before Trump took office, i.e., the fossil fuel industry continues to pump out disinformation campaigns.  This sector, and especially the most strident organizations within it, e.g., Koch Industries, along with libertarian think tanks like the Heartland Institute, invest fortunes in sewing seeds of doubt into our society about climate change.

But now that we have Trump, there are two additional vectors that support climate change denial.  One is that, where the loudmouth-in-chief consumes all the oxygen in our news cycles and the national attention, libertarians (like the Kochs) are working feverishly behind the scenes, taking control over the inner workings of our federal government, rewording websites, and dismantling agencies like the EPA and the hundreds of other smaller governmental offices that formerly protected us from the greed of Big Oil and other corrupt entities.

Another vector is the mysterious cult of irrationality in general that has somehow gotten a death-grip on American society.  Now we have 42% of voters supporting an obvious conman, rising beliefs in QAnon, white supremacy and the neo-Nazis, fanatical right wing Christianity, anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and the other COVID-conspiracy theorists, and dozens of other examples of stupidity that aren’t coming to mind right now.  Until very recently, stupid people were ridiculed and ostracized; now they’re welcomed and celebrated.

Also, as suggested on the smash documentary “The Social Dilemma,” social media has had a distinctly net negative impact on our world, especially insofar as it makes possible the dissemination of complete garbage with a verisimilitude so extraordinary that it’s become hard for some people to distinguish it from the truth, especially those looking to confirm what they already believe.  That dopamine rush that we all get when our belief network is validated has, to a shocking degree, gotten an upper hand on our desire to learn the truth.

If you watch a little Fox News you’ll see exactly what I mean.  Scribble down a few of the points they’re making in glorifying Trump and the Republicans or demonizing Biden and the Democrats.  Then, spend a few minutes learning about these subjects from reputable sources.  Prepare to be amazed.  These people live in a universe that has very little resemblance to the real world.

I would summarize my response like this: there is no reason that climate denial should be any different from all the dozens of other points of insanity that define the United States at this terrible moment in its history.