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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Science, climate risks, and black helicopters

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, has released a stark report on global climate disruption.

human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action. 
Simple. Clear. Strong. Might it begin to turn the tide toward action?

Probably not.  

Virtual scientific certainty isn't enough to convince people of certain economic interests or ideologies.  I met three such folks a few weeks ago, when I spoke at a forum on climate change and public policy at West Chester University. The release of the AAAS report brought back the memory of that encounter.

The forum was crowded, and featured great presentations and some very thoughtful questions from audience members. (See this summary.) Afterwards, as folks milled about and chatted, two women and one man approached me - angry looks on their faces.

“This should have been a debate!” the woman spat. The other two nodded vigorously in agreement. 

Seriously, I asked? When 97% of climate scientists agree that climate disruption is real and urgent?  “The IPCC!” she exclaimed, brandishing a fist full of papers. She insisted that “a member of the IPCC” had disagreed with their latest, dire, climate assessment - obviously exposing it as a sham. 

“I’m on the internet!” she proclaimed, to prove her sleuthing credentials.

Then, glancing over her shoulder at the dispersing attendees, she scoffed, “These people are sheeple!” She waved the back of her hand dismissively. Then she fixed her disgusted stare back on me.

“I believe we have climate change!” She paused for a beat to build the suspense and add rhetorical flourish. “It’s called winter, spring, summer, and fall!” Every sentence of hers really did end with an exclamation point.

“That’s right!” the other two repeated, still nodding forcefully.

“I believe in taking care of the earth! But I see Liberals throwing things out of their car windows!” Must have been the telltale bumper stickers that gave them away, I guess.

“That’s right!” the choir repeated, still nodding and displaying excellent neck muscle endurance.

The man, wanting to contribute more than dittos to the conversation, interjected - somewhat wild-eyed - “Agenda 21!” I swear it was just that sentence fragment, angrily delivered.

Black helicopters, I asked in reply?

“YES!” he said, delighted by my knowing recognition of the sinister delivery vehicle of world government.

At that moment, I remembered a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer that I try to put into practice, not always successfully: “When you have a choice to be right or to be kind, always pick kind.”

I tried a little harder this time.

Well, I guess we disagree, I said softly.

Not satisfied, the man added his peroration. “I’m going to write a letter to the editor!”

And with that, the three stormed off.

AAAS has its work cut out. And so do we.

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