Climate Change Skeptics

St. Louis Community College  has 2 presidents who have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).  They felt taking steps to reduce carbon and other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) was a worthy endeavor.  Dr. Pfeiffer at Florissant Valley campus, and now President Wasson at Meramec, are leading the way for the college and our area communities to measure carbon and develop strategies to lower their footprints.  I created a capstone class for the college this spring 2012 that will teach how to measure GHGs in the context of environmental issues that humans are facing due to climate change.

What most skeptics of climate change seems to believe is that the science is doubtful.  They question the scientific process that leads scientists to the conclusions drawn from their data.  They accuse scientists of an agenda to deceive and create panic. It seems completely inconceivable that there is a mass conspiracy among scientists from across the globe where data is being collected from climatologists, oceanographers, biologists, planetary physicists, astrophysicists, atmospheric chemists, paleoclimatologists, glacialogists, and meteorologists to name a few.  Could the agenda be competition for grants?  Do all these scientists own stock in oil and coal companies? Are they all in the pocket of powerful politicians?

I recently faced a nay-sayer in my capacity as the chair of an environmental commission.  I wanted to address skepticism in a way that would be convincing yet not demean the skeptics’ worldview.  Being a person of science (albeit the “soft” science of psychology), I know that scientific methodology can have flaws and be manipulated. Perception is fundamental.  Context for information is essential.  It IS important to question how data is collected. In fact, that is the hallmark of scientific methodology.  Denial is a perspective, but putting one’s head in the sand will not lead to the truth.  And truth is the core value of science.

I found a lecture on “Answering Climate Skeptics” given by History Professor Naomi Oreskes at the University of California-San Diego. In this hour-long talk, she addressed how climate research findings went from accepted science  in the 1970s to a political playing card today.  I felt angry like I do after watching a Michael Moore expose’.  How could loud, strategically placed protests gain momentum to erode belief in science established across multiple countries?  If Professor Oreskes uncovered a story of deceit tantamount to the tobacco companies coverup of health risks in order to make money, then once again, we must expose this manipulation of belief.

Mayor Schneider of the City of Florissant joined 1109 other mayors across the nation because he believed we as a City and nation need to address climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.  As I assist my leaders at the college and City to move past nay-sayers, I will search to find common ground for action that makes sense (both economically and environmentally) because I truly believe we share one planet and that actions here at home do indeed have impact on our neighbors.  At the December 2011 climate talks in Durban, South Africa, even China and India agreed it was time to join its neighbors and act for the health of its citizens.

Robert Kennedy Jr. made the point at a talk he gave while here in St. Louis that even those who protest the loudest about climate change hoax want their children to breathe easily, be able to swim and fish in clean waters, and have energy that comes from renewable sources.  My goal is to find common ground for action.


2 responses to “Climate Change Skeptics

  1. Peggy,
    Your strength and your weakness in this issue is your belief that rational thinking and discourse, in the context of an ethical sensibility, will move nay-sayers toward the light.

    The Arab Spring struggles point to the fact that there comes a collective “tipping” point in societies where the darkness must eventually make way for the “core values” you speak of.

    Many years ago I heard Ashley Montagu in a lecture at Meramec say, “Bigotry (an essential form of denial) is like the pupil of the eye: the more light you shine on it, the narrower it becomes.”

    Keep the faith, fellow traveler.

    Wil Loy

    • Thanks Wil for your encouragement. Teaching this GHG capstone, I am trying to lead by example, and thus not shine too much light on the pupil (pun intended) of the eye. I journey forward towards that “tipping point.”

      Warm aloha,

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