Hayhoe on zombie climate denier arguments


in Books and literature, Politics, Psychology, Science, The environment

Every day I’m bombarded with objections to the evidence for human-caused climate change. Most of them sound respectably scientific, like “climate changes all the time; humans have nothing to do with it.” It’s “the Sun,” or “volcanoes,” or “cosmic rays” that are making it happen, or “it’s not even warming,” some argue.

Scientists call these “zombie arguments.” They just won’t die, no matter how often or how thoroughly they’re debunked. And because they won’t die, it’s clear that, when it comes to climate change, you do have to be able to talk about some of the science. But what you don’t have to do is follow it down the rabbit hole. And you don’t have to become a climate scientist, either. The basics are extremely simple, the objections are very common and easily answered, and it makes sense to have a short response at hand.

Not only that, but as I mentioned before, most scientific-sounding objections are really just a thin smoke screen for the real problems. Climate denial originates in political polarization and identity, fueled by the mistaken belief that its impacts don’t matter to us and there’s nothing constructive or even tolerable we can do to fix it. Again, this isn’t only a U.S. problem: an analysis of people across fifty-six countries found that political affiliation and ideology was a much stronger indicator of their opinions on climate change than their education, their life experiences, or even their values.

For hundreds of years, we’ve been living as if there’s no tomorrow, running through our resources, putting our entire civilization at risk. And climate scientists are like physicians who have identified a disease that is affecting every member of the human race, including themselves, and no one wants to listen to them.

Hayhoe, Katharine. Saving Us: A Climate Scientists’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. Simon & Schuster. 2021. p. 38–9, 64

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