Nearly all scientists agree that climate change is happening. And really, just take a whiff of air coming out of your car exhaust and you know that can’t be good for the world. Why do people still deny the facts? And is there a way around that?
With the US electing a President who doesn’t believe in climate change, this question is becoming very important. Over half of the US population believes the lie that man-made climate change isn’t happening. Trump is withdrawing the US from the Paris Accords and deliberately trying to undermine research into the climate (don’t say I didn’t warn you).
Of course, we in Europe aren’t doing that much better. Facts are being denied, and even mainstream politicians claim doubt about climate change.
Facts are clearly not relevant in the discussion, so what is?
There’s a lot of money tied up in climate change, both on the climate-change-science side and on the climate-change-denier side. Note that I say ‘science’ versus ‘denier’ side. There is no real scientific research going on in proving climate change false. Money is only being applied to spreading disprovable FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).
You see, CO2 is removed naturally from the atmosphere, but the known mechanisms leave a large deficit. If man-made climate change were indeed a hoax, there would have to be some unknown mechanism that removes large amounts of CO2. The fact that nobody is pouring money into finding this mechanism shows no actual science is going on in climate denial land.
Billions are being poured into climate denial from the fossil fuel industry. This money is used to fund fake news, discredit scientists and to try and derail saving the planet in any way possible. The goal is to safeguard the many billions of dollars going around in the fossil fuel industry.
Simply put, a group of people is making a living off denying climate change. Unless you kill that money stream, they are not likely to be dissuaded. But that’s only a small group of people and clearly doesn’t make up half the US population.
A matter of identity
Social mobility in the US and EU are at an all-time low. Both the US and the EU have embedded neo-liberalism into their core, preferring to leave everything to ‘the market’. Unfortunately, this has created an increasing gap between marketable and unmarketable people.
Inequality breeds discontent, and the climate denial groups have taken full advantage. They’ve been hammering home the idea that fighting climate change is a hobby of the elite that’s taking away jobs and money for the poor and/or it’s a global conspiracy to create a global government.
The result is that many have made climate change denial a part of their identity politics: everything of the elite has to go, including the fight against climate change. We’ll not reduce CO2 emissions because it costs jobs. We won’t allow draconian rules from foreigners to rule over our free market. And so on.
In other words, the discontent of inequality has been appropriated by the climate change denial groups. As an added bonus, this has deflected eyes from the real causes.
The better narrative
Convincing people that climate change is real is not about facts. The facts are clear and they are having too little effect. We humans are just too good at closing ourselves off.
The narrative is currently ‘climate change effects are very hard to predict, but they are very bad. We have to work really hard and then maybe we can turn things around.’
That narrative is true, of course, but also very disconcerting. People see it as an attack on their way of life and identity, as described above.
That narrative needs to change.
Equally true is ‘we can fight poverty and unemployment by creating a new industry around clean energy. This will save the world for our children.’
Stop with the dire predictions of doing nothing. Start listing the advantages of doing something. There are tons of jobs in recycling, in making and installing solar panels and wind turbines, and in researching a circular economy. This new industry will reduce power costs in the future and extend our lives. You might have to give up your current polluting car, but you’ll get this awesome new one, possibly one that drives itself.
Yeah, that’s the narrative that could actually change the world. So, President Trump, please choose to create jobs and give us cool cars, instead of sentencing people to death by coal.