Global Warming Denial Rears Its Ugly Head Around the World, in English
In Australia, USA, UK, and Canada, politicians are rejecting evidence and expert opinion about climate change
By John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli
As people’s understanding of climate science grows, among both experts and non-experts alike, we become more accepting of the fact that humans are the driving force behind global warming. That’s because the evidence supporting human-caused global warming is overwhelming; hence rejection of that reality is usually based on an incomplete understanding of the scientific evidence.
Photo by Caelie Frampton
In Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser Maurice Newman offered a prime example of global warming denial last week. Writing in The Australian, Newman suggested that we’re headed for a period of global cooling due to declining solar activity and related influences from galactic cosmic rays, calling mainstream climate science “a religion.”
As Graham Readfearn showed in his fact check of The Australian opinion piece, Newman got the science badly wrong in almost every way imaginable. Scientific research has consistently shown that a grand solar minimum would barely make a dent in human-caused global warming, and that galactic cosmic rays do not exert a significant influence on the Earth’s climate. To argue otherwise, Newman relied on selective cherry picking of some research, and a misinterpretation of other studies.
Due to his lack of a scientific background, combined with his likely ideological biases, it’s understandable that Newman would get the science wrong on this issue. The problem is that Newman has the ear of Australia’s Prime Minister. Worse yet, the country’s biggest-selling national newspaper printed his error-riddled editorial, misinforming its readership in the process. As a result of this sort of thinking, the Australian government recently revoked its carbon tax without a replacement plan to meet its carbon pollution reduction targets.
The United States has been moving in the opposite direction, with the EPA drafting rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants as the centerpiece of a larger climate action plan. Some candidates are even beginning to make climate change a central focus of their campaigns. Many in the Republican Party have criticized the Obama Administration for enforcing the law (specifically the Clean Air Act) with these regulations, but all they need do is vote to pass a small government, free market, economy-growing alternative solution to replace them.
However, many Republican politicians are currently frozen with fear on the subject of global warming. Specifically, fear of the Tea Party.
In stark contrast to their party’s public stance on Capitol Hill, many Republicans privately acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change and recognize the need to address the problem ... In Bloomberg BNA interviews with several dozen former senior congressional aides, nongovernmental organizations, lobbyists and others conducted over a period of several months, the sources cited fears of attracting an electoral primary challenger as one of the main reasons many Republicans choose not to speak out.
The subject of global warming is less politicized for America’s neighbors to the north, but their leadership seems not to have the least interest in doing anything about it. To the contrary, the Canadian government appears determined to exploit the Alberta tar sands to the fullest extent possible.
However, continuing to expand tar sands production will make it impossible for Canada to meet its promised carbon pollution cuts. The Harper government seems satisfied to pay lip service to the critical issue of climate change whilst muzzling its climate scientists and maximizing its dirty fossil fuel production.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron’s recently-sacked environment secretary Owen Paterson has since bragged about fighting against environmental groups, writing,
Like the nationalized industries and obstructive trade unions of the 1970s, the Green Blob has become a powerful self-serving caucus; it is the job of the elected politician to stand up to them. We must have the courage to tackle it head on, as Tony Abbott in Australia and Stephen Harper in Canada have done,
Patterson will now give the annual lecture at the anti-climate policy advocacy group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Like Maurice Newman, the GWPF has a tendency to cherry pick its preferred climate science research. Last year’s GWPF lecture was delivered by former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who described advocates of tackling climate change as “alarmists” and “zealots.” Under Paterson, the money spent on preparing the UK for the impacts of global warming was almost halved, and he has suggested that we can simply adapt to the consequences of climate change.
There is a pattern among these examples of politicians rejecting the full body of available scientific evidence and the consensus among climate experts – each is in an English-speaking country. The UK-based market research firm Ipsos MORI recently conducted an international survey asking respondents if they agreed with the statement, “The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity.”
Rejection of human-caused global warming was most prevalent in the USA, UK, and Australia, with Canada not far behind in the seventh position.
These four countries also share the commonality of highly influential fossil fuel industries, and the wide reach of the Murdoch media empire, known for its global warming denial.
The rejection of inconvenient scientific evidence also originates from conservative political parties in each country. That needn’t be the case; as Barry Bickmore recently wrote, real conservatives are conservationists who value evidence.
Meanwhile, these countries are also being battered more frequently by extreme weather. Australia and the western North America have been hit by heat waves and harsh droughts, while cold winter temperatures have chilled the UK and central and eastern USA, and Canada has joined those regions in being flooded by intense deluges.
A new study has found that “blocking patterns,” where hot or wet weather remains stuck over a region for weeks causing heat waves or floods, are becoming more frequent, potentially as a result of human-caused global warming. Recent research has also found that global warming will intensify droughts.
Global warming denial remains a tenable position for politicians in English-speaking countries because voters in those regions don’t yet view the issue as urgent or a high priority, in large part due to the false balance in media coverage of the subject. However, as people continue to directly experience more intense and frequent extreme weather events, this will inevitably change.
We’re in the midst of a critically important race. Will the political climate in these countries change quickly enough for them to take action to prevent the most damaging global climate changes?