The Right's Inability to Grasp Climate Change May Be Funny, But It's Also Very Dangerous

Climate change conspiracies are hardly new, but the so-called Snowpocalypse in Washington D.C. has returned them front-and-center to every single right-wing media outlet.

A Fox News anchor smugly claimed that the record snow had not only buried people's cars -- it was also "burying" global warming theories. In a World Net Daily radio segment, someone joked that liberals would soon be claiming the snowfall -- and global warming -- was the Tea Party movement's fault. And the family of Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, built a six-foot-tall igloo on Capitol Hill and topped it off with a sign that read, "Al Gore's New Home," before posting it on Facebook to the delight of climate change non-believers across the country. (From a commenter: "What if the D.C. tent cities became IGLOO cities?? The irony!" Bashing global warming and the homeless in one fell swoop -- classy.)

For years since climate change has been accepted fact among the bulk of the international scientific and environmental community, many people have contended that global warming is a farce brought on by a New World Order (often embodied by the relatively powerless United Nations) to construct a world government that will undermine American sovereignty and make us all slaves to Al Gore and his green business cronies, who will be swimming in our green -- our hard-earned cash. Certainly not all global warming deniers fall into this particular conspiracy camp, but it's among the more popular story-lines.

The recent onslaught of freezing temperatures has only further cemented deniers' belief that global warming is simply impossible. Indeed, one segment even points to news of people freezing to death in ordinarily balmy parts of India, record snowfall in China and Korea, and confirmation that last December was much wetter and colder than is average for the United States, as proof that the world isn't warming at all -- instead, it's cooling.

Of course, this completely ignores evidence that the last decade was the warmest ever on the meteorological record, and that while in the long-run we can expect winter squalls like the one that just ravaged the Beltway to be far more uncommon, in the meantime, all this snow may very well be the result of warmer air supercharged with moisture that will result in snowstorms rather than in torrential winter rains, as long as the temperature remains below freezing. In fact, precipitation of all kinds is up -- way up. A recent study by the U.S. Global Change Research Program found that levels of very high precipitation from Maine to D.C. rose by 67 percent from 1958 to 2007; the Midwest has seen a 30 percent increase. Global warming holds that weather of all sorts -- warm and cold -- will be extreme, as we trend to an overall hotter planet.

But this logic doesn't sit well with Matt Patterson, a blogger at Pajamas Media, who accuses the Environmental Protection Agency of fear-mongering by classifying carbon-dioxide -- "literally our very breath" -- as an atmospheric pollutant, and scoffs at "any possible downsides" to the global warming conspiracy: "[O]h my God, I might have to walk over a few feet to keep from drowning." Clearly he hasn't seen a photographic projection of Manhattan submerged under water in the not-too-distant future; nor has he heard of the plight of island nations like the Maldives, which is expected to be underwater sometime within the century.

While Patterson suggests we are more likely entering an ice age than experiencing global warming, Patrick J. Michaels at the National Review Online, thinks the snowstorms in D.C. were much ado about nothing. "[T]here are those who insist that it snowed more than when they were little," writes Michaels, a former state climatologist for Virginia. "That's partially a matter of physical perspective, as 20 inches of snow on the ground looks a lot bigger to a three-foot child than to a six-foot adult." Cute.

Most right-wingers are in Michaels' camp -- they really do believe nothing is happening. Emblematic of this is a Washington Times editorial titled "Snowmageddon is nigh," which reads: "Those who value freedom should thank Mother Nature for her sense of humor, undermining the case for global warming one flake at a time. So although we're quite tired of shoveling, we say, 'Bring on the blizzard.'" (Did you catch the "flake" pun?)

Ah yes, freedom. That's what it all comes down to, for many of these folks. Over at Vocal Minority, a blog dedicated to "exposing liberal ignorance," a climate change believer is considered analogous to "Islamic radicals [that] will put you to death for apostasy." Similarly, the "global warming alarmist punishes her non-believers first with smears, lies, and verbal attacks; then moves on to taxes and surcharges, and ultimately imprisonment."

While Focus on the Family's Tim Tebow Super Bowl anti-abortion plug might have been the ad we were all talking about for weeks in advance, the commercial from this year's game that may most live in infamy is likely Audi's "Green Police" ad. An environmental police state is not satire, says the right; that's what evil environmental activists are planning and, in many ways, already doing.

Many climate change deniers base their conspiracism in the inconsistencies produced by global warming researchers attempting to distill the latest in climate change discoveries, and unsurprisingly, making missteps as they wade through uncharted scientific territory.

As with all science, consensus and certainty is usually not reached until a hypothesis has been proven as fact -- and in the case of global warming, that could prove disastrous for all of us, even those who today believe it's nothing more than a spurious scare-tactic.

In the meantime, we'll have to deal with global warming deniers who, as Jon Stewart's faux weather correspondents so aptly caricatured, believe that snow in certain parts of the globe, or even just in certain parts of the country, handily refutes the entire climate change premise. Their inability to correctly draw causal connections could have tragic ripple effects. Sometime in the next century, island nations like the Maldives could be wiped out entirely. How's that for family values?

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