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Environment

The Denialist

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMarch 29, 2010 8:38 PM

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Over the weekend I attended a large wedding anniversary party in Florida. Lots of smart, successful people in attendance. At one of the tables I was sitting at, a few snow birds were complaining about the unusually cold winter. It sounded as if some pact had been breached. One retiree complained about having to keep moving back his tennis game on a recent morning, from 9am to noon. Imagine the horror. Another guy then chimed in, sarcastically, "Must be that global warming thing." They had a good laugh. Yes, this is an isolated anecdote, but I believe the weather is how average Americans process the climate change debate. Which brings me to Michael Tobis and his attempt to compare "science denialism" to an OCD disorder. Yeesh. First of all, he can't limit his thesis to climate skeptics if he wants to make this argument. There are many, many people who believe the earth was created in seven days. Just as there are many who believe that autism is caused by vaccines. These are two solid cases of "science denialism." Are these people suffering from an OCD-like disorder, too? And what about the Floridians who get annoyed by a few weeks of unseasonably cold weather, which they are inclined to consider as proof that global warming is not a pressing matter. More evidence of an underlying behavioral disorder? Actually, the one who seems in denial here is Tobis. For as long as I've been reading his blog (over a year), he's blamed the media for not doing more to awaken the public to the reality of rising greenhouse gases and its consequences. Some have tried explaining to him that a majority of the American public already believes global warming is real. The more salient issue--which Tobis continues to ignore--is that there is no sense of urgency, because most people don't see any current consequences to existing climate change and they don't have the capacity to internalize future consequences, the worst of which are projected to be decades down the road. Must be a bad case of societal OCD, I guess. The irony is that Tobis, in comparing the outright denial of climate change to a neurosis, remains blind to the obvious behavioral aspect of the larger problem-- public apathy. The fact is: Humans are hardwired to act on immediate dangers and concerns, not those that 1) are unclear and 2) are slated to unfold in the distant future. I'm starting to wonder if Tobis is a denialist of some kind.

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