My Personal Climate Change Denial

I’m not educated in any subject, so take this post with the same serious consideration you would the opinion of a random stranger in a Walmart parking lot. I’m sharing thoughts, not teaching. I’d love to hear counterpoints to anything I’ve said, especially if you can hit me with the reasons for them.

So, I picked up Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book Accessory to War on Audible. He goes into an interesting bit about how he had a change of heart regarding the nature of the aerospace conferences he visited.


Outside one such conference, a group of protesters picketed, claiming that the event was a weapons manufacturing expo. He took offense, believing that the focus was on the peaceful use of technology and the exploration of space.

The war in Iraq was underway. The convention crowd watched CNN coverage of the airstrikes. When a newscaster would say the name of a company that manufactured the weapons, Lockheed Martin for example, their employees would cheer.

And those cheers shook him—he became aware of how astronomers and physicists and cosmologists really did work hand in hand with the military.

In this Philosophy Tube video (which is a great Contrapoint to Jordan Peterson’s ideas), the orator says that an ideology is a story you use to filter relevant facts from the sea of information:

Is there a name for the ideology NDT followed that had blinded him? The idea that physicists and astronomers assist the military isn’t a surprise to anyone else. Hell, the science officer on Star Trek is the one figuring out how to aim the phasers half the time.

“I am become death, destroyer of worlds.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Ideology blinds people to the facts. Another high-profile example comes from the Vietnam war:

In fact, however, in the 1960s, when McNamara advocated massive military escalation in Vietnam, he simply rejected or ignored any evidence that contradicted Cold War orthodoxy. It’s not as if contrary views were unavailable. In the work of the scholar-journalist Bernard Fall, the pages of I. F. Stone’s Weekly, speeches at university teach-ins and antiwar rallies and countless other venues, critics pointed out that after World War II the United States made a clear choice to support the French effort to re-establish its colonial rule in Indochina, and eventually assumed the bulk of France’s cost for the first Indochina War. It should have been no surprise, therefore, that Vietnamese revolutionaries perceived the United States as a neocolonial power when it committed its own military forces in the next war.” — New York Times

We see ideology coming between facts and policy in modern politics, constantly. Here is a question: will a high tax rate on the top 20% help or harm the average citizen? We already know what progressives and conservatives will say, so who is right?

It’s possible that the facts point to a correct and even obvious answer, but then you would have to accept that half of the politicians and pundits are lying, and the other half are fighting the good fight for the truth—and that doesn’t sound right. I think it is more likely that most people adopt an ideology, knowingly or not, and then accept or pass on information that helps or harms their position. Both sides can think they are right.

There are other ideologies that seem prevalent, and I think one is playing a role in climate change denial. I think that because I feel the pull to deny climate change myself, deep inside.

I love science. I love hearing about particle colliders and black holes and space ships. Space X fascinates me. PBS Space Time is my favorite YouTube channel. I read Scientific America for years, and when I was a kid, I thought for sure I’d be a geologist or marine biologist or astronomer or something. But every time I see something that looks halfway reputable that either denies climate change, denies that it is a problem, or proposes a cure (no matter how serious it claims the issue is) I click that link.

Will carbon capture lead to clean fuel?

Are the conservative Russian models of climate change true?

Is climate change saving us from another ice age?

Soon as you ask, I’m on that link, reading and hoping.

A reasonable person could point out that I seem to be suffering from cognitive dissonance. How can I want to see a new particle collider built when I’m so distrustful of the scientific community?

It’s a curious question, because I think what I feel is very common.

I grew up with a common ideology. I believe, deep inside, that all technological progress is for the greater good, and that its application in both peace and war is unavoidable. I have FAITH that every problem has a technological solution, needing only minor policy implementation, and that the best thing we can do is march on.

It isn’t that I would rather see the world burn than go back to plowing fields with oxcarts. When someone tells me that we need to cut back on fossil fuels in order to save the Earth, it sounds untrue, backwards, and ungrateful. And when I’m given a fact that contradicts my view, I immediately filter it as unhelpful, irrelevant, or dangerous.

Does this ideology have a name? I don’t know. But I think it’s one that I have believed, and that no number of atomic blasts or rising seas or dying bees can easily shake.

Like all ideologies, mine probably came from a time when it served a purpose, and its implementation paid off, but all good things come to an end. People all over the world routinely work against their own self-interest because of their adherence to an outdated philosophy. Climate change denial is a symptom of that.

Where do we go from here?


2 thoughts on “My Personal Climate Change Denial

  1. Really interesting post. Philosophy Tube and Contrapoints are just great.

    “It’s possible that the facts point to a correct and even obvious answer, but then you would have to accept that half of the politicians and pundits are lying, and the other half are fighting the good fight for the truth—and that doesn’t sound right.”

    Not necessarily lying. While I think quite a few people are simply acting in bad faith, there’s also people unwilling to accept something when their financial interest depends on staying ignorant, and people too hopped up on false ideologies to face facts.

    Assuming a higher top tax rate is good (which is feasible: see the New Deal and modern European social democracy): How easy is it for a politician to believe a higher top tax rate would be good if their doners dislike it? Or if they’ve always followed neoliberal ideology?

    Some will lie. Others will be wrong because of ideology. Others will be wrong because they have an incentive not to think about it.

    In the case of tech and climate change, I think a bigger factor is our economic/political system.

    We could make big strides now with existing technology. We could begin rewilding, ramp up green energy, change farming practices. The technological challenge is a fraction of the challenge posed by lack of political will. What we need to do would threaten the logic of short-term profits and unsustainable growth.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s