The science is clear about the reality of global warming and the fact that humans are the dominant cause. But, sadly, that isn’t clear to most Republicans.
Anybody who thinks the public debate is over — anybody who thinks the Big Lie doesn’t work — should look at the latest poll results from the Pew Research Center:
The proportion of Americans who say that the earth is getting warmer has decreased modestly since January 2007, mostly because of a decline among Republicans.
Even more worrisome is just how many people don’t believe humans are the cause of warming:
Roughly half of Americans (47 percent) say the earth is warming because of human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels [and only 27 percent of Republicans]. But nearly as many people (45 percent) say that rising global temperatures are either mostly caused by natural environmental patterns (18 percent), say they do not know the cause of warming (6 percent), or say that no solid evidence of warming exists (21 percent).
I’d like to thank the media, especially NBC news, for contributing to this core talking point of the disinformers.
According to the United States Office of Strategic Services, Hitler’s strategy was based on the view:
… people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.
In fact, in his autobiography, Hitler himself defined the term “Big Lie” as …
a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
I don’t think this useful term should be a banned from public use just because Hitler defined it first. I certainly apologize to anybody who is upset by the analogy — I’m not trying to compare deniers with Nazis; there is no such comparison possible, nor does it apply to all of the people who advocate one of the five myths below. No, the “Big Lie” refers mostly to the strategy of the professional class of those who spread disinformation for a living.
I do think the term gets to a fundamental reason why global warming denial is so effective. The science makes unequivocally clear that the health and well-being of billions of people (and most species) are at grave risk from continued unrestricted human emissions of greenhouse gases.
But who could possibly believe that so many credible-sounding people, including major public leaders in the conservative movement, would so strongly argue at least one of the following:
- The earth is not warming.
- Humans are not a major cause of whatever warming is occurring.
- The problem is not an urgent one because the impacts are distant and tolerable.
- The solution is painful if not impossible with existing technologies anyway.
- Adaptation is a better strategy than mitigation.
It is hard to believe — indeed, it is almost impossible to believe. And it has proven almost impossible for the traditional media to deal with.
I don’t have any easy answers to offer in this post. Shaming the traditional media doesn’t seem to work because they are mostly shameless — indeed, the vast majority of journalists wear it as a badge of honor that they are criticized equally by “both sides.”
I suppose the only answer is vigilance. The cost of losing is simply too high.