This week the BBC reported important news in the global warming debate. Before we get to that, let’s pause to consider the concept of “prejudice.” Break the word down into its constituent parts, and you’ll find “pre-,” which means “in advance,” and “judicium,” meaning judgment. One who is prejudiced, then, is one whose mind is made up and has no need for inconvenient facts. But, as John Adams pointed out, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
So what happens when a prejudiced person comes face-to-face with incontrovertible facts that contradict the prejudice? The profoundly stubborn, financially or emotionally invested in their biases, will simply deny the truth. (No matter what Galileo’s proof may be, you’ll never convince me the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth.)
The cynical partisan will grasp the truth, but continue to support the lie because it’s necessary to adhere to the party line and advance the agenda. Our comrades living under the glorious Soviet regime are the happiest people on earth.
But grown-ups who realize no one has a monopoly on the truth are willing to evaluate conflicting evidence on the strength of that evidence and judge on merit rather than prejudice.
Last week, former Vice President Gore in a Washington Post interview suggested those who disagree with his theories on global warming are comparable to homophobes, supporters of apartheid, advocates of slavery and families with alcoholic fathers. This seems unduly harsh and possibly alarmingly prejudiced in light with the current state of the science. But let’s take a look at the BBC article and you be the judge.
According to the Aug. 28 report, there has been a slowdown in global warming since 1998 even though there are increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Why? One explanation is that water vapor, soot and other aerosols in the atmosphere are reflecting sunlight back into space thus helping to cool the earth. Another possibility is that warming and cooling are the products of natural variability in the earth’s climate.
Whatever the explanation, this 1998 plateau in global warming is a difficult phenomenon for the doomsayers to explain. In the words of Professor Shang-Ping Xie of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, “For people on the street, it is very confusing as to which story is closer to the truth.” Professor Xie is the principal author of a study suggesting that natural cooling, taking place in certain parts of the Pacific Ocean, is counteracting the effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
According to Dr. Alex Sen Gupta of the University of New South Wales, this study “… clearly shows that recent slowdown is a consequence of natural oscillation.”
Evidently, there is a respected body of legitimate scientists pointing to objective data indicating, at least for the past 15 years, global warming has stopped and perhaps reversed in defiance of certain hysterical projections.
Despite the increasing temperature in the argument surrounding this debate, most of us are on the sidelines. We, as laypeople, are not competent to pass judgment on the scientific merits of these conflicting claims. It would be the height of arrogance and the grossest demonstration of vile prejudice to demonize the unpersuaded en masse as people who belong intellectually with homophobes and racists.
What other way the intractably prejudiced may respond to hard facts conflicting with their biases is to say this: OK, the evidence is against me now, but that doesn’t matter. Something will come up to prove me right later on. There are scientists, social engineers and entrepreneurs so emotionally and financially invested in stoking global panic that they are compelled to trivialize inconvenient truths inconsistent with their agenda. No doubt committed partisans will seize on the statement of Dr. Richard Allan of the University of Reading who acknowledges the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming but describes it as “a temporary respite.”
It seems the competing camps in the global warming debate are so polarized and emotionally committed to winning the argument they are willing to shred the evidence and process it through the machinery of individual and corporate prejudice. Unable to carry the day by force of scientific discussion, they stoop to calling their opponents insulting names.
A CNN headline announces “Gore says climate change deniers melting away.” One imagines a scene in the film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” where emotionless pod people gradually replacing thinking human beings nod knowingly to one another and say, “The others are melting away.” I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.