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Climate Change Conspiracy Theorists are Today's Flat Earthers

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By Dave Lindorfff

When I was back in eighth grade, my science teacher, Mr. Malone, a brittle old man with a shock of white hair and a stern classroom demeanor, but a sharp sense of humor, had made a banner that ran across the top of the blackboard. It read: "If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist."

I used to ponder at that admonition every morning back in 1962, and its message did sink in, as I think it did in the minds of every student in the class who wasn't just falling asleep in the back of the room, or idly daydreaming. Students in that class went on to become brain surgeons, genetic engineers, writers, computer scientists, horticulturalists and lawyers. I don't think too many of us are conspiracy theorists.

Malone encouraged me and my classmates to pursue a science track. He selected a fellow student and me for an experiment, shifting us midway through the fall term to an 11th grade advanced physics class, where we learned to calculate vectors, understand wave behavior and the peculiar nature of light, and where we experimented with electricity (I learned its power when, during a boring lecture, I absent-mindedly stuck two straight pins into the electric outlet on my science desk and crossed them, causing a flash and pop, burning the outlet cover and my fingers, and casting the whole classroom into darkness). Sometimes I was lost, but most of the time, I was simply captivated, learning about the inner workings of the atom and the universe.

The public school I attended was excellent, featuring a number of iconoclastic teachers, who taught us to question, not just to memorize.

Sadly, I have learned that this is not the norm in American education, which many explain why the country is so prone to conspiracy theories.

What can we expect when polls show that only 39% of Americans believe in evolution (no surprise since fewer than 33% even know about DNA and its role in heredity)? What can we expect when one in five Americans, or about 20% of us, think that the sun revolves around the earth, or that 55% believe that they are protected by a "guardian angel"?

Conspiracy theories abound where people are fearful and ignorant. There is the conspiracy theory that Americans never really landed on the moon, the conspiracy theory that Jews run the world, the contradictory conspiracy theory that the Freemasons or Opus Dei run the world, the conspiracy theory that President Obama is a secret Muslim born in Kenya. The list goes on and on.

I'm not saying there are not good reasons for considering 1some conspiracy theories. Certainly the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was more complicated than the work of one man, Lee Harvey Oswald. Too many things had to work perfectly, and there are too many conflicting pieces of evidence, from the poorly adjusted sight on his gun to the Zapruder film and the alleged trajectory of one incredibly destructive "magic" bullet, for the official story to work. Ditto the assassination several years later of Martin Luther King.

Nor, or course, is the official story of the 9-11 attacks credible, and indeed even the participants in the 9-11 Commission are now refusing to stand by the commission's conclusions about what happened. There are too many gaping holes, from how planes hitting the tops of buildings and creating fires that were far below the melting point of steel could have caused those buildings to dissolve into dust from the bottom up to why another building, not hit by any plane, would collapse in exactly the same fashion for no reason.

But not accepting an official explanation is different from adhering to a full-blown conspiracy theory, and Americans seem amazingly inclined to do the latter.

The most stunning example of this is the popularity of the global warming conspiracy theory.

Despite all the terrifying evidence before our eyes--the rapid disappearance of the North Polar ice cap, the rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the shrinking back of mountain glaciers all over the world, the frightening acidification of the upper layer of the global oceans, the measurable and accelerating rise in sea levels, and the thousands of years of data on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere that can clearly be linked to temperature changes around the world, only half of Americans even believe that global climate is changing, and even fewer, just 36%, believe that the rising global temperature is caused even in part by human activity. Even more astounding is the fact that the number of Americans who believe the earth is heating up has fallen over the last few years from 77% to 51%.

Parallel to this is a growing support for an elaborate conspiracy theory that postulates that governments around the world, in collusion with virtually the entire scientific community, are working collectively to make up and promote a bogus story about global warming.

With other conspiracy theories, from the swine flu vaccination conspiracy to the lunar landing hoax, there is little need for concern. People have their belief system and go about their lives harmlessly. But with the climate change conspiracy, there is a terrible danger that it is leading to government inaction that could ultimately doom the human race, and indeed many of the earth's myriad life forms, to extinction.

Let's look at what the climate change conspiracy advocates are saying. They argue that the governments of Europe, of the US, of Canada, of China and India, and indeed of much of the rest of the world--governments that rarely agree on anything, I might point out--are acting in concert to promote a bogus claim that the earth is heating up because of man-made release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They claim that this conspiracy is being supported by the almost universal connivance of the world's scientists, who are collectively falsifying data and hiding countervailing data. And all this is happeningthey assert, despite the almost universal opposition of the world's corporations, most of which, we know, are resisting having governments take any serious action to combat climate change, and in many cases (look at the US Chamber of Commerce), are actively challenging the whole notion of climate change.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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Your teacher taught you to be a Cartesian material... by Dick Thomson on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 9:53:50 AM
It was 15 below zero here in the midwest. I couldn... by Dick Thomson on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 10:26:53 AM
Consider the following:1. The Sun MUST revolve aro... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 8:52:45 AM
Scientific logic does not mean "caveman logic". It... by Dick Thomson on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 12:02:00 PM
It's called the "Scientific Method" and it involve... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 12:40:43 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_methodThe ... by Dick Thomson on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 1:05:19 PM
Actually, science depends heavily on logic and l... by reasonableperson on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 4:52:20 PM
(i) no, I meant reactive with air. Pure elemental ... by Steven Leser on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 12:12:39 AM
You said air, I said water. Now you come back with... by reasonableperson on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 6:16:44 PM
I have watched this "climategate" scandal, and I t... by A. Scott Piraino on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 11:32:41 AM
Where does HAARP fit into your climate change theo... by Darren Pearson on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 12:00:49 PM
I would argue that the reailty is quite the opposi... by Techknowledgie on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 12:03:49 PM
But, There is evidence that our planet is warming ... by Mel Smith on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 12:58:52 PM
So here we are, discussing the conclusions of scie... by steve scheetz on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 1:23:06 PM
So... All plants were f---ed before humans started... by Adam Smith on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 4:01:25 PM
Are you SERIOUS?? Ummm yeah, that was a brilliant ... by steve scheetz on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 8:23:45 PM
Skip to the bottom. This is great! #1 - It turns ... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 12:32:59 AM
linkRegarding the murder of an abortion doctor, St... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 1:54:30 AM
why none of the raw data exists... IF the conclusi... by steve scheetz on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 6:37:10 PM
why none of the raw data exists... IF the conclusi... by steve scheetz on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 6:37:23 PM
link? They all have the data. Just give me a numbe... by Steven Leser on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 12:14:43 AM
< Bureaucrats representing most of the count... by Matt Kjeldsen on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 2:42:30 PM
gambling. Not only biofuels but wall street gambli... by Starla Immak on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 6:11:04 PM
government forcing the use of corn based ethanol h... by steve scheetz on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 8:32:40 PM
There are misleading postures presented by both si... by Richard Pietrasz on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 2:46:12 PM
Mr. Lindorff, I agree with many of your opinions ... by Michael Lee on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 3:32:06 PM
Let me know if you want me to mine your comments f... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 8:21:13 AM
I decided to go ahead and see what I could find if... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 8:36:37 AM
All that effort on your part for nothing.... by Michael Lee on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 9:40:27 AM
I did to you essentially what the email hackers di... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 12:35:15 PM
Well, even if we can't agree whether or not the wo... by Adam Smith on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 4:08:53 PM
Well, even if we can't agree whether or not the wo... by Adam Smith on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 4:09:46 PM
Your grade school science teacher was laying the g... by M. Umbrete on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 5:46:18 PM
The climate record and the "greenhouse effect" the... by Dick Thomson on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 7:58:00 PM
That was a great show. Its not a conspiracy if it ... by Starla Immak on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 6:06:07 PM
I first became aware of climate change as a proble... by M. Umbrete on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 7:43:05 PM
From "The First Global Revolution," published by t... by Dick Thomson on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 9:12:15 PM
If global warming is such a crisis, why are rich c... by 911TRUTH on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 8:23:18 PM
Any article that invokes "Conspiracy Theories" to ... by Bill Cain on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 9:09:17 PM
You opened a can of worms here, but I admire you f... by Oh on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 9:17:06 PM
Been following the responses since the day the sto... by reasonableperson on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 10:12:10 PM
So basically, if you believe in the conspiracy the... by J. Edward Tremlett on Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 at 11:46:20 PM
Well said.... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 12:35:26 AM
Important distinction: the Flat Earthers never hac... by Perry Logan on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 6:10:21 AM
A good point, sir. I've noticed a similar trend am... by J. Edward Tremlett on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 7:42:26 AM
Based on recent revelations that the data to suppo... by Michael Lee on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 8:13:31 AM
in the upper right of the first page. Thetrend abs... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 9:03:52 AM
attempt to discredit the peer-reviewed paper. Agai... by Michael Lee on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 9:15:34 AM
You said it yourself: "if correct". It's not.9th g... by hommedespoir on Thursday, Dec 17, 2009 at 4:43:34 AM
linkFrom ECOLOG-L e-mail listserver, March, 1998:D... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 9:12:36 AM
After climategate, can anyone with any common sens... by Michael Lee on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 9:29:26 AM
You assert it was peer reviewed, then research and... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 12:36:42 PM
Maybe you should study the literature a bit more c... by James Burdick on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 9:35:56 AM
The logical fallacy of "poisoning the well" is ali... by Mike on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 10:46:04 AM
This poll has it as 10% linkI would argue that Dav... by Steven Leser on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 1:05:35 PM
Actually, science depends heavily on logic and lo... by reasonableperson on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 4:46:22 PM
He has not helped his credibility at all, but he h... by steve scheetz on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 6:51:41 PM
of this. It's priceless!... by Steven Leser on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 12:22:46 AM
The program source codes have been tampered with. ... by Michael Lee on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 7:35:39 PM
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/570... by Steven Leser on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 12:20:16 AM
You've really blown your cover, Mr Leser.... I'm o... by hommedespoir on Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009 at 5:43:07 PM
are a complete and total fabrication...... the rep... by steve scheetz on Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009 at 9:22:19 PM
Steven, You seem to want to ignore what has trans... by Michael Lee on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 8:36:17 AM