North Carolina climate change deniers owe the world an apology

Published August 4, 2022

By Rob Schofield

As you’ve no doubt noticed, our state, nation and planet are experiencing yet another summer of record heat and intense storms. As scientists have been explaining and predicting for decades, climate change resulting from greenhouse-gas-driven global warming is altering weather patterns and spurring big and deeply problematic changes in the Earth’s environment.

It’s a rapidly worsening crisis that’s helping to expedite the extinction of numerous species and render vast swaths of territory increasingly uninhabitable. Across the planet – even here in the U.S. – millions of people have become “climate refugees” as the lands they and numerous other living species once called home have been inundated by rising seas or become inarable deserts.

That now is a time for urgent, all-hands-on-deck action by every individual, group and institution with the slightest ability to help combat this emergency is beyond question.

And fortunately, this is a message that seems finally to be getting through in a lot of places that long denied it or tuned it out.

Across the planet, manufacturers of automobiles, aircraft and other polluting modes of transportation have finally begun the process of weaning their creations from fossil fuels.

Massive public and private institutions like the U.S military and the insurance industry are taking action to change practices and adapt – if for no other reason than to preserve vulnerable assets and survive.

And while they continue to downplay their role in unleashing especially damaging pollutants like methane, even some major oil companies now feature prominent statements on their corporate websites in which they concede truths like the “the future of energy will be lower carbon.”

And last week, U.S. Senate negotiators agreed on climate legislation that could make a significant impact.

Whether however such actions and statements will be sufficient to stave off widespread disaster for the planet and those who call it home is, tragically, highly questionable. Even if humanity somehow manages to achieve ambitious goals for mid-century “carbon neutrality,” things are still going to get a lot worse than they are today. Absent a series of unforeseen technological miracles, a massive overhaul of human living patterns or ideally, both, the physical, economic, and political pressures on the earth’s billions of acquisitive human inhabitants are sure to ramp up in the decades to come.

Of course, one of the many great tragedies associated with this sobering situation is that we might well have avoided a good bit of it. The scientific consensus on climate change stretches well back into the 20th Century and it’s been 16 years since former Vice President Al Gore made the film, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

As with the dangers of cigarettes, cars without seat belts, and widespread easy access to military-grade assault weapons, it didn’t and doesn’t take a genius to grasp what the ever-increasing consumption of carbon fuels and the emissions it produces were and are doing to the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, as has become the norm in so many areas in the modern era, greed, ignorance, and a stubborn unwillingness to change, or even to endure minor inconvenience, got in the way.

Spurred on by the denials of selfish, polluting industries and the propaganda mouthed by the conservative “free market” think tanks they funded, millions of Americans naively fell for the crazy notion that the climate emergency is some kind of hoax born of a nefarious plot by liberals to squeeze all the fun out of life.

Here in North Carolina, groups funded by conservative megadonor Art Pope have for years generated a steady flow of commentaries, links, and “research” designed to promote this fantasy. Some posts claimed that global-warming-driven climate change wasn’t really happening. Others said that if it was, it was likely to due to solar cycles or some other non-anthropocentric cause.

More recently, as the reality of climate change has become painfully and unavoidably obvious to anyone not in a coma, the deniers have taken to denying that real world disasters (like the huge spike in western wildfires in recent years) have any connection to the phenomenon. Other posts simply warn against doing anything to address the situation. You can visit the John Locke Foundation’s website and search “climate change” to see some of this stuff.

And, of course, all this propaganda has taken a huge and destructive toll by providing convenient cover to feckless politicians in thrall to corporate lobbyists cautioning against taxes on pollution that might somehow “harm the economy.”

Never mind that the “tax” imposed on all of us by climate change – in the form of massive cleanup and infrastructure costs (as well as the loss of life and planetary well-being) – dwarfs any financial levy that any government official ever considered asking of Americans.

The bottom line: If there is any justice left in the world, at some point very soon the climate change deniers will – like many other enemies of the truth throughout history – come to see the disastrous error of their ways, apologize to the millions whom their actions have helped endanger, and join the effort to advance real solutions for our increasingly fragile planet.

One can only hope there will still be sizable portion of it left to save when the truth finally dawns.