Why do so many Americans deny global warming/climate change? Is it because they’re idiots who don’t understand science? Is it because they believe in faith over reason? Or is there something else going on, a little more nuanced?
It’s not just born-again Christians who deny climate change. There are some (a few) scientists who deny it, people trained in the scientific method. There are people who do not overtly claim to put faith before reason who think there is a great “globalist” conspiracy to force clean energy policies on the world as part of… well, you get the idea. I myself know multiple smart people who claim to have looked at the evidence and do not see anything convincing about the claim that the climate is changing and will pose a threat to our species. They are not “born again.” How can smart people look at the same evidence we do and see the opposite? Or, worse, how can smart people look at the same evidence we do and believe that this evidence has been jigged, manufactured by a cabal? (The most impressive conspiracy in history, perhaps, given the number of scientists it controls.)
A Reasonable Objection to Climate Change Predictions
Before I examine the reasons why many smart people believe that the climate is changing, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I want to acknowledge one reasonable objection to the study of climate change in the here and now: prediction is not observation. Predictive science is not as strong as science based on observations of the past and present. It inherently involves a lot of guesswork. It is, therefore, open to criticism and is probably deserving of at least some of that criticism, particularly the further in the past the science was done. The older the study, the worse the tools, basically.
But we have better tools than we used to. And those tools are getting better all the time, which is part of the wonder of science itself, that our knowledge is constantly improving. To decide that we shouldn’t try to at least attempt to predict the future of the planet because our tools are imperfect is stupid for two reasons:
- the first is because we will never have perfect tools so we shouldn’t wait until we have perfect tools
- but, more importantly, to decide we shouldn’t try to predict the future because our tools are still imperfect is merely an argument in favour of willful ignorance, which is antithetical to science.
And, more to the point, it doesn’t make sense to not try to predict the future of the planet or its climate. Why not try to understand the world, even our possible futures? Why just throw up our hands and say “There’s nothing we can do either way!”? What exactly is the argument behind that kind of nihilism, beyond laziness or a sense of “My intuition is better than yours”? As our tools get better, it makes more and more sense to try to predict what will happen with the non-human world.1
Yes, predictive science is flawed, more flawed than observatory science, but it’s still science, provided it is conducted rigorously. So any objection to the predictive nature of climatology has to be about methodology. More often than not, criticisms leveled against climatology are more akin to “You can’t predict the future” than “You’re not using the right tools.” There’s a reason for that.
All Scientists Are Not Equal
One other thing I would like to mention before I get to the reasons why smart people reject the scientific consensus is that just because someone has a Ph.D or two in a scientific field does not make them a climatologist. We wouldn’t trust a cardiologist’s opinion on the nature of a nebula just because she made a lot of noise about it, would we? When astronomers explain the nature of the universe – and the likelihood of heat death – we don’t run to some biologist somewhere to see what they think. Why do we do this with climatology? There is a reason for this too.
We object to all predictive science, regardless of rigour, and we take the opinions of non-climatologists over climatologists because we secretly believe the world is fair.
A Fair World Wouldn’t Punish Us
Though we are told from a young age that “life isn’t fair” we are also told in many ways that the world is a fair place:
- we are told that if we work hard we will be rewarded, with the implication that the reward is proportional to the effort
- we are told that if we behave well (follow the rules, play by the rules) we will be rewarded, both in this world, by following the laws, and in the next, by being moral/ethical – and the reward will be unimaginably wonderful (eternal life and who knows what else)
- we are told that people get what they deserve.
And we are told all of these things all the time when we are kids and pretty constantly as adults, even though none of it is true.
- We do not earn money (or other benefits) directly in proportion to our efforts
- We do not necessarily get rewarded for playing by the rules when others do not
- We are not going to heaven (sorry)
- We do not get what we deserve.
But that doesn’t matter, as we, human beings, have a strong desire – perhaps a need – to believe in the fairness of the world. And this impacts our thinking about the future as much as any other cognitive bias: we do not believe that god/the universe/what have you will punish us for being human because the world is fair.
It doesn’t matter that predictive science shows that it is extremely likely we are causing the earth to change temperature, which will result in not only a change in our living conditions but, likely, in the deaths of millions of people, which could have been avoided.
It doesn’t matter that multiple human societies have gone extinct by using up their limited resources and, moreover, we have knowledge of these collapses.
It doesn’t matter that parts of the world are already experiencing the predicted effects of climate change.
What matters is that the faith we have that the world is fair tells us that there is no way that the earth could change as a whole to be less habitable for human beings because we get what deserve and we personally haven’t done anything to deserve this. God wouldn’t punish us for the faults of other people. The Universe wants what’s best for us. Climate change is a conspiracy by the globalists because I can only rely on myself and my weather is getting colder, not warmer.
This is literally the crux of the denial: We believe everything in our life is earned… by us, personally. When bad things happen to other people, we come up with reasons why they deserved it. (“He brought it on himself.”) Victim blaming is the most pervasive effect of the belief in a Just World. But the second most pervasive aspect is that the world is currently a fair and just place. If I do not believe that I have personally contributed to climate change, how can I believe the world is punishing me for no reason?
Unless you are already inclined to accept the evidence for whatever reason, the idea that the world’s climate is going to get substantially worse is ludicrous. We’ve experienced hundreds of years of material progress and we now live longer lives than ever. We have been rewarded for our excellence so far. Why would that change?
Yeah, but why a Conspiracy?
Let’s say you accept that someone who believes in God denies climate change because they think they’re moral and god wouldn’t punish them for other people’s sins. (No matter how unlike the Old Testament that view is…) Let’s say you accept that some Eckhart Tolle-worshiping mother fucker can’t believe The Universe would punish him because he’s really into spirituality. But why would someone invent a conspiracy in order to deny scientific facts?
When I speak to the Climate Change deniers that I know, it’s hard to figure out exactly what the motive is. I get vague responses that never really answer my question, and it usually comes down to one thing: the Globalists. I once asked someone who is responsible for this plot and was told: “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” (Other days, the response is more definitive: George Soros, or someone like that.) Any combination of believable motive and actual, living people is never provided, it’s usually one or the other. Sometimes someone like Soros will somehow get richer off of a one-world government. Sometimes there’s something nefarious about the secret people faking the data. (Because the people behind the scientists really are secret.)
I suspect that, long after I’m dead, there will be one government for the entire planet. I suspect this because there really is only one relatively insurmountable barrier on the earth right now, the atmosphere. (Yes, we’ve been to space. What I mean is that it’s easy to fly to another country, or drive, or take the train or ferry, but it’s a lot harder to get to space.) At some point, the impracticality of international borders is going to be too much for them to last. And that’s not something I want.
I like where I live. A lot. The idea of my values and the values of my community being drowned out by the larger populations in the United States or, worse, Russia, India, or China, is scary. If I believed this international government was coming in my lifetime, or in my child’s lifetime, I might actually be afraid. But what does this have to do with the Just World Fallacy?
I deserve myself, the person who I am. I earned it. I deserved to be born in Canada. I don’t know how I earned it, as I wasn’t alive, but I know I did. (Maybe my parents earned it by being so damn smart.) I have earned all the things I have, including my money, and especially the money I have managed to hide from The Man. Everything I have I have earned with effort. Other people don’t work as hard as I do which is why they’re less well off. If I could work harder, and get better at certain things, I would be as rich as the richest people in my country.
But more international governance threatens to take this away, the things that I have earned in the fair world I live in. If borders are relaxed, if there is some kind of global tax agreement, if there is international cooperation on limits to fossil fuel production, my world is threatened.
So pro-immigration policies do not exist because of the declining birth rates in the West but rather because of a secret desire to destroy borders to create a master race of semi-brown people. So there are international tax evasion efforts because the Globalists want to make us poor so they can become secretly rich. So their climate accords to weaken productive independent businesses and to weaken the power of the nation-state.
The Globalists are trying to undermine the just world and their previous efforts haven’t been as successful as they needed them to be. So they have created a fake global warming scenario to fool the sheeple into weakening the nation state and productive industries, so they can finish their takeover.
I am in the midst of writing another piece about why we reject the principle behind Occam’s razor despite how it underlies human knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge. This leads me to ask a question: Which is more likely?
- Humans have changed the ecology of a closed system by increasing the amounts of certain elements in that closed system
- Step 1: Pay/convince 99% of the climatologists in the world to invent a climate change hoax to destroy national boundaries and cripple traditionally coal- and gas-reliant industries
- Step 2: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Step 3: Profit
The only reason lots of people choose the second, utterly absurd belief is because they believe the world is fair and the changing climate, which will imperil most if not all of us, threatens this belief at a subconscious level. Climate change denial is not about the science; it is about cognitive dissonance and fear.
- The human world is obviously far harder to predict as we can see by the general failures of economics to actually predict much of anything below the very, very general. ↩