Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Denial is not a river in Egypt

As we head towards probable stalemate at Copenhagen next month, it seems important to ask ourselves why we can't find the political will to save ourselves. One of the reasons, it seems to me, is that those countries which are hindering progress - chiefly Canada and the USA, where Republicans are acting disgracefully as usual - have the lowest levels of public understanding of the climate crisis. In the States especially, a recent opinion poll showed a steep decline in the number of people who believe that human behaviour is causing abrupt climate change.

This confusion about the science has been created, as a matter of policy, by vested interests in Big Carbon that want to stall all efforts to change course. They have been ably abetted by ideologues on the hard right (Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and in the UK such scientific luminaries as Melanie Phillips, Nigel and Dominic Lawson, the repulsive Christopher Monckton and any number of half mad bloggers for the Daily Telegraph), who are in turn given a wealthy and pervasive media platform to spread their disinformation and pseudoscience. In the USA, I'm thinking especially of Fox News as well as the Wall Street Journal and countless radio stations. In the UK, nearly all the rightwing newspapers and tabloids take editorially 'sceptical' lines: not surprising when you consider that Paul Dacre, editor of The Daily Mail, the Barclay brothers who own The Telegraph, Rupert Murdoch who owns The Sun and the pornographer Richard Desmond who owns The Express, are all of them ideologues with a reactionary agenda. One has only to google the words 'global warming' to find a vast array of websites intent on denying reality, or bamboozling readers with scientific research that curiously lacks any of the peer-reviewing that is a basic prerequisite of responsible scientific research. Well you might say, gadflies and contrarians have always been with us. Alas, the denialists matter because they are most effective at muddying the waters on the greatest threat facing humanity - and the consequence is that politicians, never the most courageous lot, are thoroughly lacking the moral courage to act in our children's interests.

All of which is by way of a preambling plug for my article on the website of Prospect Magazine. In March I found myself in St Andrews debating three of the more vicious climate change denialists in the UK. It wasn't an edifying experience; but it's necessary work, and you can read more about it here. Or even join in with a comment: I will attempt to respond to all serious posts on this most vital of topics.


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