In 2006 and 2007 most of us believed that global warming is happening and that whatever needed to be done to mitigate its effects must be done. Since, we’ve gone through a period when public concern and interest plummeted. Recent polls are registering heightened public concern at 69 percent, due apparently to the warmest year ever worldwide.
The drop in interest is in direct relation to the economic insecurity imposed on our nation by the financial collapse and (this is important) the choices of the fossil fuel industry and their political allies to manipulate public opinion. There’s no avoiding that is almost exclusively a choice of the Republican leadership which they don’t deny.
In 2002 Republican consultant Frank Luntz wrote in a memo for party leadership these words and advice: “The scientific debate is closing (against us) but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.” He suggested this “language that works” for manipulating the public attitude. “Unnecessary environmental regulations…mean less income for families struggling to survive and educate their children.” It worked. With all-consuming and pervasive financial concerns, with responsible media attention almost non-existent, it wasn’t hard to convince a distracted public that 97 percent of the scientific community was wrong, even, at the extreme, complicit in a hoax.
The Senate’s foremost climate change denier, Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, made a startling statement on a major TV network news show in March. He said he had actually believed global warming was happening until he discovered how much it would cost to deal with it. Try, if you can, to square that with the certainty of the world-wide scientific community that global warming is real and that its results will be calamitous.
Fifty years ago Rachel Carson in Silent Spring overcame industry efforts to manipulate public opinion to ignore her warning about the dramatic ramifications of continuing indiscriminate use of pesticides. Her belief that a public in full possession of the facts would make wise choices, and it did. Her confidence was vindicated, helped for certain by a period when Americans enjoyed a robust economy with energy to direct to the problem at hand.
We can’t replicate the conditions now that make wise choices easier, but to promote a false choice that pits the economy against the environment is not responsible policy at any level. What we can do is chose not to be manipulated. An educated public will know not just the causes but how global warming will effect the way we live and the cost of passivity. (I don’t need to remind that talking heads on TV and radio are unreliable as are political mouthpieces for sustaining industries.)
Only when fully informed can we decide if the present road is good enough. That’s all Rachel Carson asked and that, for sure, is good enough.
By Jennie Young