There’s no doubt about it. It’s been a challenging year for climate science and climate scientists, for journalists, and for the public. A string of legislative and regulatory disappointments coupled with dizzying political spin have left many more confused than ever about the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate change.
It’s been a particularly grim year following the Citizens United decision that ushered in a new era of rampant electoral spending on climate change denial; the U.S. midterm elections produced a Senate filled with climate change skeptics and deniers; a failed climate bill or two, and after the Copenhagen talks failed to produce any real results. In addition, many pundits and analysts are giving us good reason to believe the U.S. won’t see a climate bill for two years, and little reason to believe that real climate progress will be made in Cancun next week. It seems there’s a lot of reason to feel distressed.
Last week marked a year since the so-called Climategate “scandal” sent climate change deniers into an echo chamber frenzy. Bud Ward and John Wihbey aptly note that to even call it “climategate” lends it credence that is undeserved. Yet it is imperative that we try to learn lessons from it. This certainly won’t be the last difficult year for the climate change movement; an increasingly challenging political environment promises more interesting times ahead, both for the science and for the scientists who devote their lives to the subject. In a nutshell, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.