Opinion » Bill Cope


And what it means to GWADs, SCMEDs and MAFOFUBs


Sometimes--usually after an unseasonable tornado has obliterated another community in a zone where tornadoes are rare even in season, or after hearing of a record-shattering weather event in some unlikely corner of the planet, or an uncontrollable wildfire kicks off on land that's been baked dry by the worst drought in memory--I imagine I'm an itsy-bitsy juice-sucking fruit fly. Perhaps a green squishy cabbage looper, who has survived the extraordinarily mild winter we've had hereabouts (along with most of the U.S.) by taking shelter inside the skull of a Global Warming Denier (GWAD). Curious as to what my host might be thinking after hearing the same reports of Climate Gone Berserk (CLIGOBER) as I have, I decide to take a little crawl through this GWAD's brain in search of any sign of self-doubt, any crack in the denier's denial.

But would I know it if I saw it? What might doubt in a GWAD's brain look like? After all, we are dealing with a tight tribe--the GWAD collective--most of which are proud to say they bow to a God that, we must surmise, had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of the scientific method or whatever knowledge that method has produced. You know as well as I do that there are villages, backwaters ... entire provinces ... peopled with Scientific Method Deniers (SCMEDs) for whom the advents of geology, biology ... even physics might as well never have happened. I'm not saying all SCMEDs are GWADs, or that all GWADs are total SCMEDs, but it cannot be denied that in some circles, the two populations have cross-bred with one another to a degree that makes them barely distinguishable.

Furthermore, it has been observed among SCMEDs going back at least as far as Darwin--in some cases back to the days of Copernicus--that if there is indeed any doubt in their minds as to what they prefer to be the truth, they have a common determination to squelch it. In fact, in their desperation to control doubts that might spring up within their ranks, SCMEDs have used techniques of doubt suppression ranging from burning the doubter at the stake to home schooling. So it's hardly surprising that doubt in a SCMED's brain is tougher to spot than a Sasquatch in a blackberry patch.

The same can generally be said about GWADs, only instead of hiding in dense brambles of biblical verse as does the traditional SCMED, a GWAD is more likely to camouflage himself with a coating of what sounds like authentic science to naive listeners. You've heard their arguments, I'm sure: of how centuries back, Greenland was so warm and glacier-free that Vikings decided to settle there; how sun flares are causing the Earth to warm up and eventually the solar cycle will end and everything will be hunky-dory again; how, in spite of everything you see, hear and feel, the Earth is actually experiencing a cooling trend, and if anything, we should be encouraging the greenhouse effect.

Of course, their most insistent claim is that Man the Fossil Fuel Burner (MAFOFUB) has nothing at all to do with climate change, and that the whole controversy has been cooked up by tree-humping radicals who are out to destroy our way of life. And conveniently (for the GWAD collective if no one else) there exists a richly endowed network of enablers who provide them with a steady diet of material. As soon as one source of phony info is exposed, up pops another.

Which brings us to the Wall Street Journal--Rupert Murdoch's latest venture into American thought laundry. Late in January, the WSJ published an article titled "No Need To Panic About Global Warming." It repeated the standard GWAD canon, that climate change evidence is rigged ... that even if it were true, we have years and years and years before we have to do anything about it ... and that climatologists are being forced to go along with the hoax or risk putting their careers in jeopardy. That article was co-signed by 16 individuals, few of whom are climatologists.

Almost two years prior to the appearance of "No Need To Panic About Global Warming," a letter was submitted to the WSJ with quite the opposite viewpoint: that global warming is as real as death and taxes, is caused primarily by greenhouse gases from modern industry and is an immediate concern rather than something we can put off 'til later. This essay was co-signed by 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, yet the WSJ declined to publish it.

Let us recap: 255 members of America's premier association of scientists wrote that global warming is a real and present danger, and the WSJ would not give their article an airing. (It was later printed in Science magazine.) The WSJ did, however, publish a piece co-signed by 16 random scientists whose only commonality is their opinion that there's nothing to worry about. (Their expertise in climatology, along with their ties to the petroleum industry, was immediately challenged in a response from 37 real climatologists, but of course, by then the damage was done; the deniers' denial had been reinforced.)

So then, might this be the self-doubt I search for? Is the GWAD collective so alarmed at the prospect of factual infiltration that they cannot bear to allow the other side a presence among them? Is the shunning of any anti-denial heresy an outward symptom of the doubt that, with every unseasonable tornado ... every record-shattering weather event ... every prolonged drought and 100-year flood and extraordinarily mild winter ... burrows deeper and deeper into their brains?