The conservative right’s alliance with anti-science

I posted the original version of the following as a comment on my “A skeptic responds to a climate sceptic” post, but since most visitors don’t read the comments, I’ve reposted it here with some minor embellishment.

There is an interesting perspective of the Australian political climate-change denialism contrasted against various other western democracies in the UK Guardian here. What resonates is a pattern of conservative, business-motivated, anti-science rhetoric, reminiscent of arguments perpetuated by young-earth creationists who dismiss scientific evidence with a mere shake of the finger and appeal to ignorance.

This alliance of the conservative right with anti-science is pushing my politics to the left. I’ve always been fairly moderate – liberal on some issues and conservative on others – but I just can’t support leaders who clamber over each-other in attempts to proclaim themselves the most ludicrously ignorant, as if not listening to people who’ve spent their lives researching, modelling and making climate science is somehow a badge-of-honour. Just when exactly did the argument “I’m not an expert, so therefore I’m more trustworthy” gain its free-pass against criticism?

Why must these ‘leaders’ outright deny the evidence? Surely there’s enough room for debate about how we should address the issues, rather than having to completely denounce them. I honestly cannot believe this era of political leadership isn’t a huge practical joke perpetrated upon the people of the world for some sick, alien reality TV show;

“This week, watch the whacky humans as their Earth media give air-time to a crack-pot lunatic who manages to convince millions global warming is a giant conspiracy, whilst elsewhere a pacific island nation slowly slips beneath the sea, and another 63 species silently become extinct.”

I don’t have the answers for my children when they ask me why the grown-ups are not fixing global warming. They don’t understand economics, politics and self-interests – they trust us to look after the world for them and we are failing in that duty. We’re wasting our best opportunity to do something about their future, while we argue about whether it’s happening, whether we’re causing it, and whether we can do anything about it. Meanwhile, the scientists long ago reached a consensus – it is, we are, and we can.

Every day I encounter people – good, upstanding people – who have been led to question the ethics and trustworthiness of scientists by a misguided media, a few powerful business “think tanks”, and political leaders who can’t focus upon anything other than the golden chalice that is the right to govern. I ask them, “what motive do you feel the climate scientists, working for different governments and institutions all over the world, have for deceiving us about global warming?” More often than not they tell me it’s a conspiracy to make us pay more taxes.

Why? What would the scientists get out if that? And where would these taxes supposedly go?

One thing is certainly true – this is the greatest conspiracy ever perpetrated upon human-kind, but it’s not at the hands of the scientists – it’s the lead deniers of the world, protecting their profits and shareholders at the eventual expense of all of us. We’ll have to deal with the impacts of climate change sooner or later, and the longer we wait, the greater shall be the cost.

We could start now, by investing in technologies which decrease our reliance on fossil-fuels, by attributing value to the world’s carbon stores to discourage deforestation, and especially by transitioning away from coal-burning energy production. We could use this opportunity to stimulate jobs and economic growth by researching, building and selling clean-energy technologies and energy-efficient cars, buildings and appliances. We could invest in our future, becoming the best we can be – or we can continue arguing whether we should bother, because as I think Steve Novella said on a recent Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe in mock-denialism (and I paraphrase);

“Imagine if it was all a lie, and we made the world a better place for nothing!”


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