David Suzuki: Climate change deniers are getting desperate

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      The Heartland Institute's recent International Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas illustrates climate change deniers' desperate confusion. As Bloomberg News noted, "Heartland's strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck."

      A who's who of fossil fuel industry supporters and anti-science shills variously argued that global warming is a myth; that it's happening but natural—a result of the sun or "Pacific Decadal Oscillation"; that it's happening but we shouldn't worry about it; or that global cooling is the real problem.

      The only common thread, Bloomberg reported, was the preponderance of attacks on and jokes about Al Gore: "It rarely took more than a minute or two before one punctuated the swirl of opaque and occasionally conflicting scientific theories."  

      Personal attacks are common among deniers. Their lies are continually debunked, leaving them with no rational challenge to overwhelming scientific evidence that the world is warming and that humans are largely responsible. Comments under my columns about global warming include endless repetition of falsehoods like "there's been no warming for 18 years", "it's the sun", and references to "communist misanthropes", "libtard warmers", alarmists, and worse…

      Far worse. Katharine Hayhoe, director of Texas Tech's Climate Science Center and an evangelical Christian, had her email inbox flooded with hate mail and threats after conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh denounced her, and right-wing blogger Mark Morano published her email address.

      "I got an email the other day so obscene I had to file a police report," Hayhoe said in an interview on the Responding to Climate Change website. "They mentioned my child. It had all kinds of sexual perversions in it—it just makes your skin crawl."

      One email chastised her for taking "a man's job" and called for her public execution, finishing with, "If you have a child, then women in the future will be even more leery of lying to get ahead, when they see your baby crying next to the basket next to the guillotine."

      Many attacks came from fellow Christians unable to accept that humans can affect "God's creation". That's a belief held even by a few well-known scientists and others held up as climate experts, including Roy Spencer, David Legates and Canadian economist Ross McKitrick. They've signed the Cornwall Alliance's Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which says, "We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God's intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence—are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth's climate system is no exception." This worldview predetermines their approach to the science.

      Lest you think nasty, irrational comments are exclusively from fringe elements, remember the gathering place for most deniers, the Heartland Institute, has compared those who accept the evidence for human-caused climate change to terrorists. Similar language was used to describe the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a full-page ad in USA Today and Politico from the Environmental Policy Alliance, a front group set up by PR firm Berman and Company, which has attacked environmentalists, labour-rights advocates, health organizations—even Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Humane Society—on behalf of funders and clients including Monsanto, Wendy's and tobacco giant Phillip Morris. The terrorism meme was later picked up by Pennsylvania Republican congressman Mike Kelly.

      Fortunately, most people don't buy irrational attempts to disavow science. A Forum Research poll found 81 percent of Canadians accept the reality of global warming, and 58 percent agree it's mostly human-caused. An Ipsos MORI poll found that, although the U.S. has a higher number of climate change deniers than 20 countries surveyed, 54 percent of Americans believe in human-caused climate change.

      (Research also shows climate change denial is most prevalent in English-speaking countries, especially in areas "served" by media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, who rejects climate science.)

      It's time to shift attention from those who sow doubt and confusion, either out of ignorance or misanthropic greed, to those who want to address a real, serious problem. The BBC has the right idea, instructing its reporters to improve accuracy by giving less air time to people with anti-science views, including climate change deniers.

      Solutions exist, but every delay makes them more difficult and costly.

      Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.



      Tony Duncan

      Aug 5, 2014 at 5:00pm

      There is no shortage of name calling on either side in highly polarized political issues. It does little to inform anyone. I do call people deniers when they fit my criteria of only accepting views and information that is critical of ACC, and ignoring or asserting conspiracy for any information that supports the view.

      Deny This

      Aug 5, 2014 at 6:23pm

      Tony, do even know that the consensus is "could be"?


      Aug 5, 2014 at 6:32pm

      To think that humans do not affect the climate is plain stupidity. There are so many humans on earth that their activities must affect the climate as any over-population of a single species in a global ecosystem must do. To think otherwise is the mark of a moron.

      Whether this is "good" or "bad" depends on perspective. There are many species on earth now and perhaps more to come that will thrive in an altered environment, even (especially) if humans were to disappear (or at least be reduced) by their stupidity. Nature doesn't care whether we survive, only that there is enough left to restart. Given the 5 global extinction events that the earth has already experienced, I'm guessing that the earth will recover just fine from the next, at least until the sun goes nova in a few billion years. Humans may not be so happy in the short run though. But who cares about humans, except humans that is. Such a narrow view.


      Aug 5, 2014 at 8:13pm

      What a hack. So his solution is to "deny" opposing opinion when he doesn't even know what the climate data sets are and even stoops to all time low targeting children at Christmas in the name of climate change. What a fool


      Aug 5, 2014 at 8:14pm

      Pot calling the kettle black. Suzuki does not hesitate to use the odious term deniers, or to call respected scientist who have far more knowledge than he can ever hope to understand, anti-science shills. Who does he think he's kidding? He's the desperate, ridiculous one.


      Aug 5, 2014 at 8:28pm

      For some reason the first time I submitted this post it wasn't approved by the moderator. Not sure why.

      As I said in my original post, as per Suzuki 58% of Canadians believe global warming is happening and humans are the cause. Once you take into account the margin of error it's almost a 50/50 split.

      Despite the incredible barrage of messages daily telling us that "the science is settled", and that an overwhelming amount of evidence clearly shows that man is causing global warming, and the oft-repeated statistic that 97% of scientists agree that man is the cause of global warming, sill after all of that half of Canadians aren't buying it.

      A quick Google news search for the term "climate change" shows dozens and dozens of newpaper articles published daily with new and alarming news about climate change, but less than 1 in 100 are published with opposing - so called "denier" - views.

      Icons such as Suzuki and many other environmentalists are continually pushing out doom and gloom scenarios, doing their best to scare the bejezus out of the public.

      And yet after all of that only about half of Canadians believe it to be true. Why is that? I can only assume that it's because so much of the rhetoric simply doesn't ring true. So many doom and gloom scenarios haven't proven to be true. So many times the climate models have been wrong. So many people are making so much money off the climate change fear mongering. So many reasons for Canadians to doubt the message...

      Leslie Graham

      Aug 5, 2014 at 8:31pm

      That the 40% rise in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is causing the rise in gobal temperature is NOT 'a political issue'.
      It's basic schoolboy physics that has been broadly understood for well over a century.
      What to do about it might be a political issue but the laws of physics don't give a damn who you vote for.
      CO2 level rises - the global temperature rises.
      Always has - always will.

      Mark Willis

      Aug 5, 2014 at 8:41pm

      So that Cornwall Alliance evangelical declaration implies that we can do anything we want to any ecosystem, and it won't make any difference. A farmer's field is an ecosystem. Does anyone ever ask them if farmland is "resilient and self-regulating", such that one could dump truckloads of road salt and other toxic waste onto them and spread it around month after month, and it would still bear the most bountiful, wonderful foodstuffs for us. These people are certifiable.


      Aug 6, 2014 at 12:02am

      Politics are decided by consensus not science. That tells you this is a political issue not an environmental issue. #Climategate taught us that.

      Jethro Bodine

      Aug 6, 2014 at 1:00am

      So if I just focus hard on climate change, I won't see massive environmental problems elsewhere like worldwide deforestation and loss of habitat, for both human and nonhuman species, pollution of the oceans and loss of coral reefs, marine species, fracking for natural gas which pollutes the water table and a nuclear reactor in Japan called Fukushima that is in permanent meltdown, just to name a few. Let these disastrous things be safely ignored. How convenient.

      Gosh those darn climate deniers, they really do live in a desperate fantasy. They probably deny there is even a climate period.