Spoonfeeding: For Climate Deniers, Science is like Broccoli
April 10, 2017
They don’t know what it is, but they know they don’t like it.
I’ve often said that climate denial is not a result of rational reasoning so much as poor potty training. Simply stating the facts doesn’t penetrate deeply enough.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make progress while waiting for deniers to seek therapy.
GLEN ELDER, Kan. — Doug Palen, a fourth-generation grain farmer on Kansas’ wind-swept plains, is in the business of understanding the climate. Since 2012, he has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust. His planting season starts earlier in the spring and pushes deeper into winter.
To adapt, he has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water. He can talk for hours about carbon sequestration — the trapping of global-warming-causing gases in plant life and in the soil — or the science of the beneficial microbes that enrich his land.
In short, he is a climate change realist. Just don’t expect him to utter the words “climate change.”
“If politicians want to exhaust themselves debating the climate, that’s their choice,” Mr. Palen said, walking through fields of freshly planted winter wheat. “I have a farm to run.”
Here in north-central Kansas, America’s breadbasket and conservative heartland, the economic realities of agriculture make climate change a critical business issue. At the same time, politics and social pressure make frank discussion complicated. This is wheat country, and Donald J. Trump country, and though the weather is acting up, the conservative orthodoxy maintains that the science isn’t settled.
So while climate change is part of daily conversation, it gets disguised as something else.
“People are all talking about it, without talking about it,” said Miriam Horn, the author of a recent book on conservative Americans and the environment, “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman.” “It’s become such a charged topic that there’s a navigation people do.”
Sabrina McCormick, a sociologist at George Washington University who once investigated how cities cope with disasters for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set out earlier this year to find out. Her study, recently published in the journal Climatic Change, breaks down 65 in-depth interviews with city officials and experts in six cities — Portland, Boston, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Tucson, and Tampa. It seeks to answer the etiquette question from hell: How does a city go about preparing for something that its residents would rather not think about, or even believe in?
In a recent interview, McCormick said she learned that many city officials believe the key to getting everybody on board to battle climate change is to avoid uttering the words “climate change.” It’s “a poisonous term to use,” one said.
Climate change is still a dirty word in Tallahassee.
On the last day of a three-day Key West summit on climate change in South Florida, local lawmakers said they are chipping away at problems tied to rising sea levels and a host of ills linked to a warming planet, as long as they call it something else.
“You’re not allowed to talk about climate change. I don’t think that’s literally the policy, but because of the environment, you’re not allowed to openly engage,” said State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, a Miami Democrat.
Rodriguez, along with State Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, said in addressing woes projected for the state – from declining coral reefs to a six to 12-inch rise in South Florida seas in the next 15 years – they struggle to delicately describe it as something else. Finding money for projects, they say, is easier than changing policy. Just don’t mention the dreaded C words.
“Everyday we’re seeing people accept things that I didn’t think they would,” Jacobs said. “Who would have thought Republicans would be for passing marijuana?”
By not calling it climate change, Rodriguez said the local delegation, both Democrats and Republicans, hope to nail down Amendment 1 money for land and water conservation projects. Last year legislators spent the money largely on administrative matters, prompting four environmental groups to claim that at least $237 million was illegally diverted and sue lawmakers in Leon County circuit court.
One bill winding through Tallahassee would require at least 25 percent of the money go to Everglades Restoration, a critical piece of sea-rise fighting work that could help ailing Florida Bay and vulnerable South Florida water supplies.
I know it’s popular to say that smart aleck edjicated folk shouldn’t make fun of dumbass rubes who’ve bought into the Rush Limbaugh world view. I’ll let Time magazine mull that over with a reasonable tone.
We’ll continue to strip the bark off the little bastards here.
“We have neighbors who’ve lived out here their whole lives and they say they’ve never seen that kind of hail or that much rain,” Carter told The Huffington Post. “They know that it’s different and that it’s more intense.”
Carter said she believes climate change is to blame for such extremes, and making her farm more adaptable to such wild weather has been on her mind practically from the start. It’s the reason she grows a rotating variety of some 60 different vegetables, uses cover crops and avoids pesticides and fertilizers made with chemicals.
But she also knows that most farmers aren’t like her.
“It’s easier [for them] to pretend that it’s just liberal jibber-jabber,” Carter said.