Friday, October 12, 2007

I am the walrus. CNN sent me an article summarizing some reader responses to Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize win. I was expecting the usual Gore- and Clinton-bashing that happens when Gore does, well, anything, but I was surprised by how many people called global warming "junk science." I realize I have a habit of ignoring people who don't agree with me (doesn't everyone?), but this was overwhelming. For as long as I can remember, people have talked about the negative impact of human activity on the globe. I remember learning about this in elementary school. Like the inevitability of the sun one day "dying," the environment, influenced by technology and human excess, was changing. But unlike the sun, I could actually do something to help the world, like recycling or not letting go of my balloon or using public transportation instead of driving.

Apparently, many people did not learn about this in second grade and seem to consider this all bunk. Curious, I decided to uncover the heart of the discrepancy with a visit to the mecca of spun news coverage: FoxNews. Searches for "global warming" and "climate change" uncovered countless Associated Press articles detailing how global warming is melting polar ice and forcing the walrus south and increasing the number of Western wildfires. I couldn't find anything on the FoxNews website which actually proved global warming pseudoscience.

Except for this guy, who enjoys writing about the ridiculous cost of lowering carbon dioxide emissions and how renewable energy will actually ruin the environment. Maybe he's right, though it's hard to trust someone who doesn't believe secondhand smoke causes cancer. But why would he? He was a paid consultant for Philip Morris at the time the article was published.

An editorial in the American Journal of Public Health noted that "... attacking the science underlying difficult public policy decisions with the label of 'junk' has become a common ploy for those opposed to regulation" [Source]. Calling science "junk" or "pseudo" does not make it untrue. It just means that you are unwilling to believe it. Maybe the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate is grossly exaggerated; I'd still rather try to save the walrus than do nothing.

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