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Katy Burns: What’s in it for the average climate change skeptic?

Do climate change deniers ever wonder whether they just may be wrong? Do they ever allow a niggling doubt to creep into their certainty? Do they ever ask themselves what might happen if that which they have so firmly and loudly insisted will not occur does in fact occur?

I’m not talking about people like the Koch brothers, who likely know perfectly well that human activity has been adversely affecting climate and will continue to do so. They – and others whose fortunes and futures are tied to fossil fuel industries – happily line their own pockets while despoiling the planet. After all, their money and power will protect them from the worst of the coming changes, right?

Nor am I talking about the army of propagandists – paid for by the Kochs and their ilk – who argue loudly that there’s no such thing as man-made climate change. They’ve got to make a living somehow.

And I’m not even talking about the gutless politicians who also know that warming is real and largely human-caused, but they’re never, ever going to admit that in public. (Watching Marco Rubio’s twisting himself into knots on the subject in a TV interview in New Hampshire last weekend was downright fun.)

I’m really talking about the ordinary citizens who are so convinced that this warming cannot be happening that they have basically become unhinged – and who scare the aforementioned gutless politicians to death.

These deniers carry signs denouncing climate science, they clog the lines to radio talk shows, they fulminate in letters to editors and they haunt news comment sections waxing ever more hysterical about hoaxes and worldwide plots by a cabal – a very, very large cabal – of top climate scientists who . . . well, what?

Why on earth would vast numbers of scientists from across the world – men and women who have spent most of their lives studying climate and related sciences, whose lives are largely dedicated to searching out facts, who are perhaps the ultimate reality-based human beings – willingly band together in a global conspiracy to hoodwink the world’s billions of nonscientists?

It simply makes no sense.

Grant money? What grant money is worth traipsing all over the Arctic and Antarctica? Wouldn’t it be easier to work for an international energy conglomerate and spend time in nice, warm places?

Glory? They’d get a lot more curing cancer or inventing a flying car. Even coming up with a hot new video game.

Well, deniers darkly mutter, all this scientific skullduggery is really meant to allow Obama/the U.N./the Bilderbergers/some other international conspiracy to achieve his/their nefarious goal – destroying our country’s economy, impoverishing Americans or (a favorite of our right-wing brethren) taking away our liberties. Someone is always plotting to take away our liberties.

What nonsense! If in fact this conspiracy is about taking away our liberties, why on earth is our military taking it seriously? Because it is. Our nation’s defense establishment – the people sworn to protect our liberties – is spending lots of time and money preparing for increased global warming and its potentially catastrophic results.

Now I can testify from personal familial familiarity that by and large the military isn’t a hothouse full of touchy-feely hyper-liberals. But one can honestly say America’s military is another reality-based community.

And those people believe it’s a darned good idea to prepare for whatever – realistically – may come in the future. It’s called contingency planning, and the military does it very thoroughly. It methodically plans for things we ordinary folks never even think of.

They’re doing it in a variety of ways. They’re spending big bucks to explore alternative energy sources, including renewables. After all, the military uses a huge amount of fuel. And who wants its army dependent on a fuel that is controlled in large part by countries that are hostile to our nation and its ideals? Or fuel that we could lose access to in the event of some kind of global disaster?

They’re also deep into planning what it could mean for this country when other, more vulnerable countries around the world begin literally sinking into the rising seas. Because they will. The potential for world destabilization and human catastrophe is great, and its effect on other countries could be profoundly disruptive as well.

And they must plan on what they should do when this country starts losing its low-lying areas as well – including our own New England coast. Because we will call on the military for help. We always do. And they have to be prepared.

In the last two weeks, we’ve seen the national release of two monumental reports on the rapidly changing world climate and what it means for our future.

The first was the third National Climate Assessment, a massive study mandated by Congress back when Congress cared about such things. Those who participated in the study, including representatives of oil companies, foresaw a grim future. And it singled out the Northeast as bearing the brunt of the changes, with Boston and our own Portsmouth cited as coastal communities especially threatened by rapid sea rise.

The Boston Globe summarized what the study said of the Northeast: “Over the past century, temperatures in Northeastern states have risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and if heat-trapping gases increase at current rates, warming could spike as much as 10 degrees by the 2080s, prolonging bouts of extreme heat, taxing electrical systems and disrupting ecosystems.

“In the same time, the region’s precipitation has risen by more than 10 percent, and the worst storms here have brought significantly more rain and snow – a surge of more than 70 percent over the past 50 years and significantly more than other parts of the country.”

It is only going to get worse, the report said. And it summarized different but also dramatic changes elsewhere in our country – more and longer droughts, bigger and more frequent wildfires, more catastrophic flooding and crippling snowstorms, more extremes of heat and cold.

The second study, released just days ago, dealt with the alarming and unexpected loss of the ice sheet in west Antarctica, which is breaking apart and disappearing at a rate that “appears unstoppable.” It could disappear entirely by the end of the century, leading to ocean rises of anywhere from 1 to 4 feet – catastrophic for low-lying coastal settlements around the globe.

These two studies alone should surely give even the most ardent warming deniers pause, at least. What if all these alarms are real? What if there’s even a 5 percent chance the global warming predictors are not crazy conspirators? Shouldn’t we be prepared to protect ourselves? Does it ever occur to deniers that, well, maybe it might be worth doing just a little planning? Just in case?

Those of us of a certain age, of course, won’t be dramatically affected by coming changes. But what about our children and their children? Do we really want to leave this deteriorating world for them to repair?

Sadly, for a lot of the deniers – and the politicians too afraid to cross them – the answer is, oh, why not!

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

Legacy Comments16

Too many questions and "denier" mentioned too many times. This piece could have come out of any number of extreme hard "left" websites.

Nonsense. This piece didn't come out of any "extreme hard left website". It was written by a writer with established mainstream views and published in a mainstream newspaper. The piece relied on facts that OVER 97% of climate scientists accept as settled scientific findings. The fact YOU don't accept those findings shows who is really out of the mainstream and off in a swamp of extremism and paranoia. The views cited in the article regarding those categorized as deniers are increasingly shared by more and more Americans. The facts on climate change can only be obscured for so long before they becomes self-evident to all but the most willfully obtuse. Et tu?

Lets talk about the 97% of scientists survey Bruce. This is what I know about that survey. The survey targeted 10,257 responses. Correct? Of those surveyed, we have no clue who they are in regards to qualifications, etc. Correct? 2 questions were asked. Correct? Eventually only 77 of the answers were used. 75 out of 77 of those agreed in regards to the two questions asked. That is where the 97% figure comes from. 77 experts. I do not know anybody that denies climate change. Calling anybody a denier who questions the extent of that change, or the impact from different sources, does not make them deniers. Climate Change fearmongers are in it for jobs and grants. The govt is in it to mandate EPA laws period. Gore was in it to get rich. Again, the issue is not about if in fact our climate has changed. The issue is how much has our climate changed over time, what impacts climate, and the extent of that impact. If you want to fool folks for political reasons, the best way to do that is to distort the information. An easy target to distort info on is science. Most folks have no clue about science, so you can count on them to take your word on it.

You've posted the same stuff before, and as politely as I can say: it's denialist nonsense you're re-posting. Yes, those who still question the consensus ARE "deniers" and at this point, they belong morally in the same category as Holocaust deniers. And no, I don't think that's too strong or unfair, considering the stakes involved. You owe it to yourself to become informed on the topic--ideally from real scientists, and not from those few flacks associated with Heartland Institute, Cato, or some other denier outlet. There have been a half dozen or more reviews of the peer-reviewed literature, the abstracts, and surveys of the scientists. All come to nearly the same figure--97%. If this figure were not accurate, it would be easy to take a representative sample of the papers by climate scientists and show that this figure was false. No one has done so--because they can't. All the fossil-fuel funded deniers can do is put up smoke screen after smoke screen, and rely on the willingly duped to re-post. Here, for your delectation, is the statement on global warming from AAAS, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, just one of the dozens of scientific bodies worldwide that supports the consensus. The list of scientists who issued and vetted his report is impressive. For the deniers to suggest they're lying, or part of some vast conspiracy, is absurd beyond belief. It's past time to stop posting lies, and join the reality-based majority who know we need to address the problem urgently.

Bruce, climate change deniers are if anything worse than holocaust deniers who are demonstrably crackpots and have very little influence outside their tiny, inbred circle. They are more like the anti-vaxxers whose actions, or more accurately non-action, has immediate negative impact on the public health. Every kid who contracts an entirely preventible disease is a microcosm of the damage to OUR (each and every one of us) one and only home that the deniers cause.

And Ivory Soap is 99 and 99/100% pure. Extreme and paranoid, from someone fixated on the faux Koch Brothers claims.

That is another side to that question that I have asked many times here. What is the point of giant "hoax" that is being pulled by so many scientists all over the world? Now there is the worst flooding in the Balkans than has ever been recorded but since it hasn't happened in the US and we had a quiet hurricane season last year there is no climate change.

since there has been no globull warming going on 17 years 9 months continuing the alarmism is what indeed qualifies it as a hoax

No global warming? I sincerely hope you're around to personally apologize to everybody living within 10 or so feet of sea level when the West Antarctic ice sheet finds itself floating in the Pacific. Your statement used to be a quaint bit of misinformation; in the face of now overwhelming data it's now a baldfaced lie.

Simply a distortion of the facts. Each decade since the 1980's has been hotter than the last. The warming of the atmosphere at the surface has slowed--not stopped, and that "extra" heat that formerly contributed to a rapid warming in the atmosphere has more recently been measurably warming the oceans--where 90% of the extra heat from the enhanced greenhouse effect goes. If as predicted, we see a strong El Nino (meaning warming central and eastern Pacific surface waters) kick in this year, 2014-2015 could see record warm temperatures.Stay tuned.

And the Ostrich Award once again goes to........ BestPresidentReagan/Sail.

When a Globull Warming Alarmist speaks your natural human instinct of skepticism should go into full bore unless of course you suffer from liberalism. HEADLINE: EPA Estimates Its Greenhouse Gas Restrictions Would Reduce Global Temperature by No More Than 0.006 of a Degree in 90 Years - See more at:

Katy says "After all, the military uses a huge amount of fuel. And who wants its army dependent on a fuel that is controlled in large part by countries that are hostile to our nation and its ideals?"....The US has huge amounts of energy reserves. So does Canada. Vast vast reserves are known to exist. In the news last year.."The United States is now the world's biggest supplier of oil overtaking the world number one, Saudi Arabia, according to latest output figures." Yes, I'm sure the military does have to plan for idiots in this country that would deny them the use of that fuel. But Katys statement is a canard.

I am not necessarily a denier, but I am skeptical about the goals of the proponents. Why has what they used to call global warming now called climate change? Why no discussion about what should really be done to mitigate the effects? For instance, decrease use of fossil fuels by increasing nuclear plants. Cut old forests because new trees are much more efficient at carbon dioxide uptake and oxygen production. Decrease the manufacture on new vehicles, including electric and hybrids, because the manufacturing process produces more pollution than repairing, maintaining, and driving older vehicles. So maybe we should be asking "what's in it for both sides"

after all that the EPA says we may change the earth temperature 0.006 degrees in 100 years

Thanks for the straight talk on this topic. I guess the deniers will be descending in a minute or two.

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