I have often been mystified by the conservative position on climate change. The evidence would seem overwhelming, but then I remember who it is that I’m speaking of.
These are people for whom facts, math, science and data have almost no meaning, and what meaning those things have stems from being matters of convenience. If and where the data happen to agree with them, they’ll certainly grab onto those bits and make use of them, then either pretend that all contrary data does not actually exist, or, if they concede that it DOES exist, simply write it off as being manufactured by the “liberal media” and give it no more thought.
Of course, a bit of a cottage industry HAS sprung up on the right…think tanks whose sole job it is to manufacture data that gets to the “right” answer (read: the answer that agrees with current right wing talking points), and THIS data will, of course, be used to try and win converts (see the article on this site re: “tax cuts increase revenues” for some examples of how this data is massaged and manipulated to ensure the “proper” outcome). But as for actual data, mined an acquired via the scientific method?
Only if it happens to agree with their worldview, will they pay it any particular heed, and as such, it should come as no great surprise that they steadfastly ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.
I actually got an earnest answer about that, when I inquired. I was told that
“…intelligent people are not swayed by numbers, they are swayed by the quality of argument.”
Now…to me, this is a MOST interesting statement, for a couple of reasons. First, it acknowledges that the folks on the right believe they are intelligent. It also gives us something tangible to hold onto for why they so ardently reject stuff like math, numbers, and scientific data.
But it’s more than that, and this is what I find interesting. See…the person who answered my question indicates that he’d LIKE TO believe the scientists, but he can’t, because their argument is not of sufficient quality. Instead, he gravitates to an argument of (one has to believe) HIGHER quality…and what might that be?
That the scientists around the globe are lying about global warming, in order to secure funding. That they are, in fact, part of a global liberal science conspiracy, designed to not only enrich themselves, but also to fabricate data so that it supports liberal causes and positions.
This argument is silly on at least three levels.
One, with no links in support of it, I am uncertain how one arrives at the conclusion that it is in any way an argument of equal or higher quality than the (data driven) one that the world’s scientists are putting forth. It DOES sound worthy of a Glenn Beck conspiracy rant, but that’s hardly the same thing, is it?
Two, the funding argument is predicated on the idea that, unless the answer to the global warming question is in the affirmative, there is no reason to study the earth’s climate at all (that is to say, in the absence of the threat of global warming threat, there is ZERO reason to study the earth’s climate at all. So no need to better understand or track hurricanes. No need to understand drought or monsoon patterns. Cloud seeding and (anti?) cloud seeding to better control or understand (or at least predict) rainfall patterns. No need to understand the long term effects of shifts to the gulf streams and what that does (or will do) to climate….all that goes away, in the absence of the global warming threat, right?
Of course not. There are THOUSANDS of reasons to continue studying the earth’s climate, and the overwhelming majority of those remain, even if we determine that there’s no such thing as “global warming” (whether man made or not).
Third, it’s silly even on it’s face. If I am a researcher, and you give me money to answer a question, then (assuming my desire is to continue to take your money), the RIGHT answer to keep your money flowing into my pocket is “I don’t know yet.” It would be silly of me to definitively answer yes OR no….why would I want to do that, if it’s all about the money? I could simply say “dunno yet…more research needed” and have you write another fat check, yes?
But…just for a moment, let us say that we “buy into” the whole funding argument. Let’s see what kind of funding we’re talking about, and how it stacks up to funding for other projects out there, just to give it some context.
In 2012, the US is projected to spend $436 Billion (with a B) on R&D (all fields of study combined).
Historically, we find that, of that total, the amount spent on Environmental Sciences (with includes all the stuff I mentioned above, plus geologic surveys, studies of volcanoes, etc), totals about 2 Billion dollars total (ref: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/82xx/doc8221/06-18-Research.pdf – see page 20 of the report, the section labelled “Environmental Sciences”)
Let’s further assume that fully HALF of all money spent on Environmental Sciences is spent directly on global warming studies. We’re talking about one billion dollars, or roughly one quarter of one percent of the sum total of all R&D spending in the USA (that’s 0.025%). This is not a terribly large or impressive slice of pie the research pie, and I can’t see it being the springboard for some major, globe spanning funding conspiracy (though, looking at that same chart, I could perhaps see where Life Sciences spending might spawn such a thought).
To put that into further context, last year, in the US, we spent $26Billion on Golf, $25B on Video games (consoles and computers combined), and $34B on alternative medicine (things like Shark Piss and ground up tiger bones to cure arthritis, and the like), but somehow, this ~$1B in global warming research funding is supposed to have sparked a global conspiracy.
And this…THIS is the “quality argument” that conservative “thinkers” prefer to buy into.
Update 1: Not long after writing this, I happened to be watching Fox “News” (know thine enemy), and saw an unintentionally hilarious news item about the state of Virginia.
It seems that the state’s coastal areas are flooding with increasing frequency due to rising sea levels.
In response, they wanted to draft legislation to set aside money to study the issue and what could be done to make things better for their increasingly waterlogged citizens, but there was a problem…
The Dem who sponsored the bill ran into trouble getting the legislation past Republicans, who acknowledged that the problem existed and needed to be addressed, but felt that “rising sea levels” was provocative language that fed into what they felt was the “Global Warming Myth.”
So…understand this. The R’s admitted they had a problem (sea levels are rising and flooding their coastal cities and towns). They admitted that money needed to be set aside to study the issue, but they refused to do it until the language was changed, so that there was no mention of the culprit (the sea, and its rising level) causing the problem they were setting aside money to fix.
Talk about denial.
Anyway, you can read more about it here.
Update 2: This article was given to me by a couple of conservative posters who insist that it “proves” that the whole Global Warming thing is a hoax. Proves it authoritatively, once and for all.
A few notes:
1) The term is “global warming” not “Greenland warming.” Greenland is, of course, part of (and even an important part) the picture, but NOT the picture itself.
2) From the article itself: “Their evidence reinforces the belief that glaciers and other bodies of ice are exquisitely hyper-sensitive to climate change and bolsters the concern that rising temperatures will speed the demise of that island’s ice fields, hastening sea level rise.”
“The work, reported at this week’s annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco , may help to discount critics’ notion that the melting of Greenland ‘s glaciers is merely an isolated, regional event.”
“The fact that recent changes to Greenland’s ice sheet mirror its behavior nearly 70 years ago is increasing researchers’ confidence and alarm as to what the future holds”
Far from being “evidence” in support of the anti-global warming position, the article referenced actually bolsters the global warming claim.
No one in global climate sciences has EVER made the claim that the earth is not in a constant state of flux. That glaciers do not naturally wax and wane.
This article, however, takes newly discovered data and uses it for quite the opposite purposes that the conservatives above claim.
This should come as no surprise to anyone following conservative “thinkery.”
Take this poll from Pew, during the height of the health care debate:
In favor of the law: 42%
Against the law: 39%
In favor of the law but would prefer single payer: 19%
These numbers were used by conservatives to “prove” that “a majority of Americans were against the new health care law.”
To arrive at their majority, they counted the 19% who liked the law but didn’t think it went far enough, plus those outright against it (note that some twenty percent of those outright against it were against it because of the death panels,which of course ARE NOT IN THE LAW!.
The trouble is…more than half of those against it are against it for a conservative fiction (death panels), and the 19% listed above…those guys clearly are not on the side of the conservatives.
This is what they do.
This is ALL they do, because it is all they have.
Graphics Credit: http://www.theglobalconspiracy.org/2012/02/global-warming-hoax-is-now-killing.html