Green Spun: Climate Change Denial vs Scientific Truth

By Dr. Racheal York Bridgers

When we turn on the tap, water comes out. When we get up in the morning, the lights and heat go on. Why should we believe the predictions of catastrophic climate change when things appear so normal? What’s the problem with a few record-breaking summer temperatures? Although climate change occasionally pops up in the media, politics, and record-breaking temperatures, the threat of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is not visible in our daily lives. As a result, some people choose to believe it is not happening. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert says climate change “lives in the future” and that’s why it’s so hard for us to see. It is hard for us to imagine what we can’t see in in the mountains. 

    Jim Hanson, the NASA scientist (also called the Grandfather of climate change) states that people when faced with threats about what they might lose in the future, they make up excuses not to act. We have so many things to worry about – from finances, health, our kids, work and the mortgage payments – climate change is just far too big and horrible even to imagine. In fact, only a small majority - fifty-four percent  - of the US public believes that climate change is the result of human activity. 

    Regardless of what people believe, mounting scientific evidence demonstrates without a doubt that a massive environmental crisis, caused by human industrial activity (namely, fossil fuel emissions) is well underway. Scientists, like Hanson, have suggested that we are entering a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene; this era is distinct in that humans are not only affecting the climate and biological diversity of the planet but the geology of the Earth for millenniums, and that as a result the Earth may not only be inhospitable in the coming years but unbearable for those being born in the future. 

    Where did the argument for climate denial originate? Climate change denial is the dismissal of actual scientific evidence on the connection of human activity and the extent of Co2 emissions. In a recent study Drexel University sociologist, Robert J Brulle, reveals large companies, including ExxonMobil and Koch Brothers, are funding the multi-million dollar counter-movement to create public doubt about the reality of climate change. Why? Their financial interests are tied directly to extraction industries whose profits would begin to dwindle in the face of such facts. 

There is no debate. Climate change is real. It is happening. We can debate philosophical truths but not factual truths.
— Dr. Rachel York Bridgers

    This countermovement has had a significant life-threatening impact on the planet and our collective future as a species. We have failed to act promptly both politically and ecologically because we have been debating the reality of climate change instead of exploring solutions to this massive problem. Extraction industries depend on public denial to keep doing business as usual. There is no debate. Climate change is real. It is happening. We can debate philosophical truths but not factual truths.

The question for us now is what can I do in this place and in my life to curb the growing carbon footprint we have on the “this fragile Earth, our island home”? We are starting to feel the effects of climate change even here in the southern highlands, as summers grow longer and hotter, and bouts of drought remind us that we are not immune. More importantly, there are ways to combat climate change, and we can’t keep letting ourselves be distracted by those who have only their self-interest in mind. 
Taking action is the best way to challenge the deniers, and today, looking over the beautiful blue mountains, I am reminded of all that is at stake and why we care: we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.