This is a political year. That means everyone has opinions about where the world should be headed and how we should get there. No matter how weird this political season has been, there remains a key difference between opinions and facts. That difference comes into the starkest relief when people must face their own inconsistencies in reconciling the two domains. And nowhere is the gap between opinions and facts more apparent than the subject of climate change. I’m talking about climate change deniers; people who benefit from science every day somehow manage to find a place in their heads to simultaneously reject it.
The facts of science — the facts of climate change — are in this day and age up for debate. But, science does not require belief to be true. Of course, everyone has a right to voice their opinion and debate, but climate science is not debatable any more than the temperature at which water boils is debatable. We have taken a proven scientific concept and convoluted it. President Donald Trump considers man-made climate change a “hoax” and therefore withdrew from the Paris climate accord. How did we get here? Just when did we begin to doubt the whole idea of climate change?
25 years ago, climate science was not a political or economic subject — it certainly wasn’t bipartisan. Republican President George H.W. Bush touted himself as being pro-environment. “I’m an environmentalist … And I always will be,” he said in his pledge to reduce acid rain in 1988. “And that is not inconsistent with being a businessman. Nor is it with being a conservative.”
Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. But similar to the Paris Agreement, the UNFCCC treaty does not have any penalty in place if countries refuse to lower their carbon dioxide emission, it just acknowledges that climate change is real and everyone has to work together to solve it. The conversation about climate change began to take root in the US among academic circles. Then, all of a sudden, the fossil fuel industries chimed into the conversation and turned a scientific talk into an economic debate. They feared the possibility of putting limits on an industry by requiring a reduction of carbon dioxide levels, which would mean people losing jobs and them losing money. At that point in the early 90s, there was a debate taking place where there shouldn’t have been a debate at all. These industries started to bankroll think tanks and appeared in media to convince the public that the science behind climate change is wrong. Scientists were hired to haggle with any government climate regulations that negatively affected the industry.