Hysteria and Anti-Science In Conservative Attacks on Climate Change

While people try to evaluate the news media in terms of liberal versus conservative bias, the reality is far more complex. While some outlets like Fox consistently promote a party line, most news reports are biased by a variety of factors. One such factor is the desire to report controversy, even if there is little actual controversy. We saw this when the second IPCC report was released, and an AP reporter saw this as an opportunity to publicize the views of William Gray, a rare global warming sceptic in the scientific community.

Gray was quoted as attacking Al Gore, which is a common tactic for global warming sceptics. Although Al Gore is just someone who is publicizing the science, they realize that they will obtain more support from political partisans by attacking Gore as opposed to responding to the scientific research directly.

Gray’s views on climate change have been questioned in the past. The report does give some clue that Gray’s views are out of the mainstream as it concludes:

Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor who had feuded with Gray over global warming, said Gray has wrongly “dug (his) heels in” even though there is ample evidence that the world is getting hotter.”

Gray argues that “a recent uptick in strong hurricanes is part of a multi-decade trend of alternating busy and slow periods related to ocean circulation patterns. Contrary to mainstream thinking, Gray believes ocean temperatures are going to drop in the next five to 10 years.”

At least we have a way of determining who is right as the ocean temperatures can be tracked over the next five to ten years. In the meantime, there is ample reason to research alternative energy sources and reduce carbon emissions beyond global warming. Becoming more independent of middle east oil wouldn’t be a bad thing even if it turns out that the claims on global warming are totally untrue.

The response to Gray’s criticism of Al Gore provides further insight into the anti-scientific views of the right wing. Even though Gray’s work has held up poorly in the past, several conservative bloggers are jumping onto this article as more proof to refute the scientific consensus. Rather than caring about the scientific findings, they pick and choose statements based upon whether they fit into their political views. We’ve also seen this before whenever other news reports came out supporting their view, regardless of how weak the arguments.

While conservatives repeat arguments such as Gray’s as fact, ignoring the considerable scientific criticism of Gray’s work, to liberals this presents an opportunity. The point is not to twist information to present arguments either way about climate change, but to determine what is actually happening so that we can respond to problems appropriately. Listening to the consensus of leading scientists in the field currently appears to be the best choice, but what the anti-science conservatives fail to realize is that testing of predictions is how improvements in scientific theories are made. If Gray is right and the ocean temperatures do fall, current theories on climate change will be revised, or even discarded if necessary. However, if ocean temperatures continue to rise, it is a safe bet that conservatives will continue to deny the science of climate change.

Reading the conservative attacks on science also demonstrates a number of other irrational arguments. One meme they attempt is to claim that global warming is a type of religion. I have already responded to that argument here, but to summarize the religious viewpoint is that expressed by the right in denying the science regardless of the evidence, while the liberal non-religious viewpoint is to accept the scientific consensus regardless of what we prefer to believe.

Another common conservative meme is to accuse liberals of hysteria, with this word occurring repeatedly in conservative writings. The true hysteria comes from the right, which exaggerates the action needed to reduce carbon emissions and describes it as a plot to virtually shut down our modern economies. The conservative strategy is to present a hysterical view of measures to combat global warming which will scare off many people who would find such distored solutions unthinkable. This tactic even led to the recent attacks on Al Gore’s energy use as they first attributed far more Draconian views to Gore than he has ever expressed, and then claimed he was a hypocrite for not following the views he actually does not hold. Ironically, many of the proposals have a distinct market approach which I’m surprised the right does not have a better understanding of, as these views are very similar to views on industrial pollution which many libertarians advocated even before the current climate change debate.

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    janet says:

    During one of our recent visits to conservative relatives of my husband, global climate change became a topic of discussion. These folks are hopelessly tied to FOXnews but they have a lot of respect for my husband knowing he is a prominent scientist. So they asked him–was this global warming thing real or overblown?

    His response was there is no longer any real debate among respected scientists and that it is real and here and we can and should take measures. He tried to point out that what is happening is shocking and occurring sooner than scientists dreamed even a few years ago.

    The devastating influence of FOX news amazes me—even supposedly smart people buy into everything they hear on that channel without question.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    While there is no debate among scientists, you certainly couldn’t tell this from the right wing news or blogs. You can always find an ocassional person whose views will vary from established views, and the right wing noise machine will always play this up to hide the fact that there is a scientific consensus on climate change. Strange that a consensus of most scientists doesn’t count for much to them, but an isolated view to the contrary is repeated as fact regardless of how weak the arguments are.

  3. 3
    daveinboca says:

    The current hysteria is a symptom of displacement, a psychological mechanism that allows one to ignore real threats like Islamic terrorism, in order to focus on imaginary phantasms like Anthropogenic Global Warming. Part of the left’s denial of reality, a symptom of a larger mass psychosis infecting much of the American electorate. The left is completely delusional and dishonest on the subject of AGW and this post is typical of one of the symptoms outlined above.

    Deal with your dementia and don’t foist your dishonest pseudo-science by committee onto mentally stable citizens smarter than you leftardos.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    It’s the right which is distracted from the real threats, including both from terrorism and climate change. Regarding terrorism:

    It was the Republicans which blocked Clinton’s attempts to go after al Qaeda.

    It was the Bush administration which ignored the recommendations passed down by the Clinton administration to deal with al Qaeda.

    It was Bush who ignored the pre 9/11 warnings of an attack.

    It was Bush who left the job in Afghanistan unfinished and then went and attacked the wrong country.

    It was Bush’s poor planning which allowed bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora.

    It’s been Democrats who have advocated real measures to improve homeland security, while the Republicans have opposed them.

    As for the claim of pseudo-science, the true dishonest pseudo-science comes from those who ignore the consensus of scientific thought.

  5. 5
    Martin Williams says:

    “The true hysteria comes from the right” – yes, indeed.
    I’ve a thread on my global warming forum –
    with some daftness, chiefly by righties

    Includes assertion there have been “Nuremberg Trials” re warming; use of “jihadists” for people saying global warming is real; and notions that the “American way of life” is threatened by people who say we should do something re warming. Oh dear!

    As to science: science historian Naomi Oreskes has done worthwhile piece, showing strength of body of research supporting anthropogenic warming.

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