In recent years, every major scientific body in the world has produced reports confirming the peril of climate change. All 15 of the warmest years on record have come in the last two decades. And Earth's major natural systems are all showing undeniable signs of rapid flux: melting Arctic and glacial ice, rapidly acidifying seawater and so on.
Yet because of a recent onslaught of attacks on the science of climate change, fewer Americans now believe humans are warming the planet than did just a few years ago.
The doubters of climate science have launched an enormously clever -- and effective -- campaign, and it's worth trying to understand how they've done it. The best analogy is perhaps the O.J. Simpson trial.
The "dream team" of lawyers assembled for Simpson's defense had a problem: The evidence against their client was formidable. Nicole Brown Simpson's blood was all over his socks, and that was just the beginning. So Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian et al. decided to attack the process, arguing that it put Simpson's guilt in doubt -- and doubt, of course, was all they needed. Hence, those days of cross-examination about exactly how Dennis Fung had transported blood samples and which racial slurs LAPD Det. Mark Fuhrman had used....
...They made convincing mountains from the molehills they had to work with.
Similarly, the immense pile of evidence now proving the science of global warming beyond any reasonable doubt is in some ways a great boon for those who deny that the biggest problem we've ever faced is actually a problem at all. If you have a three-page report, it won't be overwhelming, but it's also unlikely to have many mistakes. Three thousand pages (the length of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)? That pretty much guarantees you'll get some things wrong....
The skeptics also have taken advantage of lucky breaks that have crossed their path, such as the recent record set of snowstorms that hit Washington. It doesn't matter that such a record is just the kind of thing scientists have been predicting, given the extra water vapor global warming is adding to the atmosphere. The doubters simply question how it can be suddenly super-snowy if the world is actually warming. ...
...These are the things that stick in people's heads. If the winter glove won't fit, you must acquit.
In the long run, the climate-deniers will be a footnote to history. But by delaying action, they will have helped prevent us from taking the steps we need to take while there's still time.
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For people of faith the debate over how best to treat this planet comes down to a question over how we best act as stewards of God's creation. Only the far-right fringes of the Religious Right (political groups like the Institute on Religion and Democracy) argue against the reality of global climate change and fight against the common sense measures the world should take to protect the future of the Earth and all that inhabits her.
On the side of protecting creation: mainline Christians, many conservative evangelicals, the Vatican, and the World Council of Churches.
Our children - and God - are counting on us to do the right things in this moment of history and we cannot fail.
For more on Christianity and the environment visit the website of the National Council of Churches.