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Global Warming: Myth, Hoax, or Truth?

Is global warming a hoax? Scientists and the public’s views of climate change often conflict. Is global warming a hoax? Scientists and the public’s views of climate change often conflict.

A survey issued in March 2010 by Gallup found that almost half of all Americans do not believe that humans are the cause of global warming. And this number seems to be rising – from 33 percent in 2003. The public is becoming increasingly skeptical of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) while 98 percent of climatologists say AGW is not only real, but will bear catastrophic consequences for the human species. So why is the general public so divided over climate change when only scientists are equipped to answer whether global warming is fact or fiction, truth or myth?

The Cultural Cognition Project conducted a study that illustrated the power of cultural beliefs.

The fact that public opinion doesn’t reflect scientific consensus frustrates many climate scientists. But if the issue were simply due to the public being less informed than the experts, that would be all the more reason to expect skepticism to abate in the face of widespread scientific agreement. So what is causing all this controversy? Social science can provide some important insights.

Belief systems and cultural values can override fact in a person’s perception of the world. A Yale research group called The Cultural Cognition Project conducted a study that illustrated the power of cultural beliefs. They used a series of experiments to show how information is personally organized to conform with a preexisting belief system. Some people reject the same scientific information that others accept. The study shows that you are only open-minded if the implications strengthen your worldview. Some of these tests were specifically directed towards climate change and the sharp divide between public perception and scientific consensus.

Popular perceptions, whether on global warming or evolution, are not generally influenced by publishing concrete data, however indisputable. Still, this doesn’t answer our fundamental question - why do so many people maintain belief systems that reject the science of climate change? The opening line of an article The Independent published last year highlights how and why our culture’s dominant values are influenced in such a powerful way: “An orchestrated campaign is being waged against climate change science to undermine public acceptance of man-made global warming.” That pretty much sums it up. Multinational corporations, like Exxon and Kock Industries, who have a vested interest in maintaining oil-business as usual, are funneling millions of dollars into right-wing think-tanks whose primary objective is to crush public acceptance of AGW. Kock Industries alone has shelled out $50 million dollars to organizations and scientists willing to call climate change a hoax. They are manufacturing deception, and it’s working.

Why do so many people maintain belief systems that reject the science of climate change?

June 2009 to March 2010 were the hottest 12 months ever recorded. As CO2 parts per million continue to rise, the planet’s temperature will continue to rise. Public opinion and government policy is impervious to these scientific understandings. This presents us with a much broader, holistic problem: you can’t solve one issue without first tackling the underlying structure of society and the values it creates. We have to understand that oil is a good thing for the oil industry; war is a good thing for the war industry. Industrial capitalism concentrates money into the hands of a few – and when that happens, those with vested interests will attempt to maintain their privileges. The problem of climate change is intimately connected to all the other ills of contemporary society. And until we fix our broken system, the environment will just be one more victim in an ever-expanding industrial machine.

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Interested in ways you can help fight against global warming? Read this article.

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How uncertain are scientists about man-made global warming?
Last modified on Thursday, 06 September 2012 13:18

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