I’ve been trying to explain to my science-oriented friends who complain about climate change denial that a lot of people who have doubts about global warming are not so much anti-science as they are suspicious of scientific claims coming from people with an ideological agenda.
Imagine for a moment that your least favorite right-wing pundits — Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, John Derbyshire, Michelle Malkin, whoever — all started talking about new neurological research that found racially-linked differences in brain structures which implied that people of African descent have weaker impulse control than people of European descent. And suppose they used this research to justify polices protecting white people from out-of-control black people, such as removal of black people from the military and police forces, separate schools for black and white children, and allowing businesses to refuse to serve black customers because “science has proven that black people can’t control themselves.”
Wouldn’t that sort of racist agenda make you really, really skeptical about the validity of the neuroscience they were touting? Science should, of course, be judged by scientific standards — good data, rigorous methods, peer review, repeatability — and if you have the background to understand the science, you might insist on seeing the detailed studies for yourself.
But if you, like most people, don’t have the knowledge or skills or time to evaluate the science directly, you have to rely on what more knowledgeable people are saying about it, and with a controversial subject like global warming, you have to figure out who to trust, and in trying to figure out who to trust, you’re going to end up looking at what else people stand for. And if they have an agenda you find repellant, wouldn’t you be damned suspicious of their science?
Ever since global warming started attracting attention at the end of the 1980’s, left-leaning folks have been seizing on it as a justification for their preexisting agenda. Here’s a very recent sample of what I’m talking about from this weekend’s People’s Climate March in New York:
The people interviewed here are not discussing climate change much at all. Instead we hear them saying that “corporations have to be reined in” and that they want to create a “new socialist society,” and that they want “revolution, nothing less.”
Many of the featured protesters are anti-capitalist, anti-corporation, and anti-free market. Some of them are literally communists. Some of them oppose not just capitalism, but all the benefits of modern civilization:
“We live in a grotesque era where we have everything we want, all the time, right now.”
“I think having less is actually very freeing.”
“Turn everything off.”
When you see people like this as the face of the climate change movement, you could be forgiven for wondering if maybe anthropogenic global warming is not so much an “inconvenient truth” as a suspiciously convenient theory for the radical left.
(Personally, I’ve been following some libertarian pundits and free market economists on the climate issue, because I share their values and because I know they’ll be skeptical of dire warnings of disaster that come prepackaged with claimed solutions that would further empower the government, and the argument there has long since moved on from the question of whether global warming is happening to what we should do about it.)