I was watching a television forum the other night where an audience had been watching "The Great Global Warming Swindle" followed by an expert panel discussion and questions from the audience. It was an eye opener for two reasons. First was the sprinkling of Lyndon La Rouche followers throughout the audience, asking, with crazy staring eyes, questions about how the Global Warming conspiracy was being used to promote "eugenics", and how "Environmentalists" hate people. The rest of the audience looked on in amazement as these people, obviously under instruction from head office of the La Rouche conspiracy (this planet ain't big enough for two conspiracies) took over and disrupted the discussion. The presence of these cult members only made it more obvious that climate change deniers themselves have become a cult.
And then I realized something else. Holding a rationalist view of the world I had been thinking that as the case for global warming became more and more nailed down, the deniers would gradually fade away. Must have been like this with flat Earth believers, I thought, first of all in a majority, then gradually falling in numbers as the evidence came in. Eventually disappearing as the last old man, a hermit in a cabin high in the mountains somewhere, muttered to himself - "Nevertheless it is flat" before passing away.
I now understand something that should have long been obvious to someone of my advancing years - perhaps I have led a sheltered life - the more the number of deniers decline the stronger will be the opposition. Call it Horton's Law, if you will. A decade ago people were rationally debating global warming, the evidence says this, no it doesn't the evidence says that, probably equally divided between yea-sayers and nay-sayers, and no one had very strong emotions about it.
But as the rational members of society gradually came to understand the evidence, as all of their questions were answered one by one, the number of deniers dwindled down, November, December, to a precious few. And that is where the problem has really begun. The smaller the numbers the more cult-like the devotion to the cause, the more persecuted they feel, the more they clutch at prophets and messiahs, the more they search for signs, any signs, to bolster their beliefs. In the old days such a process would have involved say, five-legged calves, or two-headed toads, or comets, or blood red suns; for the deniers it is Mars icecaps, or cold winters, or C14 in coal, or blood red sunspots, or the incredible revelation that the scientists working on climate change are actually employed by organizations to work on climate change. See, they are biased, they scream, fingers in their ears and speaking in tongues. And the more that people laugh at them, point fingers, comment on their strange ways, the stronger their absolute faith in Fred Singer becomes.
And more than this. For rational people, the idea that 99.99% of the human race disagreed with you might cause a rethink - I must be wrong, would be the obvious reponse. But for cults, the smaller the numbers the better, they have got down to just the hard core of believers, go rid of those weak-minded people who took notice of glaciers, or species distribution changes, or CO2 in air bubbles, or droughts or storms. Got rid of everyone except the tiny few who agree with you 100%. Soon perhaps the tiny few will be holed up in a farm house in Waco, waiting for the Federal Authorities to arrive.
So this nonsense, this irrational behavior, is not going to go away soon, and as it continues the media and politicians will continue to respect beliefs and pretend that the debate continues. Suits the big energy companies.
An answer? I don't have an answer, any more than I do for the LaRouchians, another persecuted tiny minority whose beliefs get stronger, not weaker, with "persecution" and small size.
Changing the political paradigm is going to be much harder than scientists could possibly have imagined. It wasn't just a matter of presenting the facts and nothing but the facts. Nevertheless it warms, and somehow we have to isolate the lunatic fringe from the grown-up debate that is not about theories but about actions. We don't have time to wait for Fred Singer to finally die in that Appalachian cabin.
Thomas Huxley said "If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?" Come and see if I am out of danger on The Watermelon Blog.