Joseph Romm has written an interesting post on science, rhetoric, and why those who deny the reality of climate change are so effective at spreading their message. Basically, he argues that they are more sophisticated in terms of argumentation styles, and that they are able to engage people on terms they can intuitively appreciate.
Right now, it actually seems more as though the biggest gap is between accepting that humans are causing climate change and accepting what the consequences of that really are. Even organizations that claim to accept the conclusions of the IPCC are nonetheless perpetuating a society emitting grossly unacceptable amounts of greenhouse gasses. How, for instance, can you accept the science of climate change, then deny that it has a major impact on the applicability of a political philosophy based on unending economic growth?
With bluntness very unusual for a scientist, Andrew Weaver summarized the situation we are in:
[U]nless we reach a point where we stop emitting greenhouse gases entirely, 80 per cent of the world’s species will become extinct, and human civilization as we know it will be destroyed, by the end of this century.
We don’t actually need to completely eliminate emissions by the end of the century, but we certainly need to begin cutting them deeply and rapidly. That remains a reality that no government anywhere seems to have fully accepted. Right now, we are like a gambling addict losing $1,000 an hour. If we can get it down to a dramatically lower level, we can keep gambling for longer without going completely bust. Achieving that will require a lot of politically difficult work.