Throwing a Wrench in the Climate Denial Machine
2014/06/30
By : Anna Clark / Huffington Post
The retina of any sighted person can detect a flicker of flame or the glow of a TV screen. But when light rises above 780 nanometers or falls below 380 nm along the electromagnetic spectrum, it becomes imperceptible to the naked eye -- and potentially dangerous with enough intensity. Unfiltered infrared light creeping in through museum windows can degrade priceless works of art while extreme ultraviolet light and X-rays can harm human organs.

Only those who understand the potency of radiation can protect themselves from exposure to it. Still fewer have the power to bend it to their will.

As a phenomenon, radiation shares some things in common with climate change denial, an organized yet covert attempt to downplay the scientific consensus on climate change. This invisible force, both diffuse and laser-like in its effects, is a well-oiled machine spreading confusion among legislators and the American public.

Climate denial was on full display during the recent Senate subcommittee hearing Climate Change: The Need to Act Now, which addressed the EPA's proposed rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants. Denigrating the science of climate change as well as the policies for mitigating it, vocal climate denier Senator James Inhofe argued that the EPA proposal is part of "the first round of regulations to force America to live out his [Obama's] green dream."

Interestingly, the Republican's comments were countered by testimony from four EPA administrators who served during Republican administrations, who affirmed the 97 percent scientific consensus on climate change and the need for urgent action. Days later, the Supreme Court again validated the EPA's plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as pollutants via the Clean Air Act.

However, the inability of the administration and Congress to find common ground on the issue of global warming suggests that climate denial remains a significant hurdle to implementing a comprehensive plan to orient our country toward a sustainable future.

According to research from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, more than half of Americans now believe global warming is happening. However, the "disinterested" minority still maintains disproportionate control.

Fueled by groups such as the Heartland Institute and various "ultra free market"foundations, the climate denial campaign is laser-focused on influencing legislators to put the interests of the fossil fuel industry above environmental and public health interests. Such influence that is made possible through campaign donations.

"Contributing money is really about getting access," explained Russ Choma, a money and politics reporter for the Center for Responsive Politics. "It's subtle, yet nefarious."

As with invisible radiation, the money that flows into the coffers of political candidates is hiding in plain sight for those with the tools to track it. I learned about the Center's non-partisan data clearinghouse OpenSecrets.org while in D.C. during a science writing residency at Johns Hopkins.

Our introduction to policy making also included an investigation into the Keystone pipeline, an issue that has become symbolic of the divide between the nation's economic and environmental interests. Following one debate, I asked,

"What bi-partisan energy proposals would you consider supporting?" The respondents stuck to their speaking points, dodging my question. As with the Senate subcommittee hearing, I came away knowing more facts, yet still in the dark about the truth.
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