Snow came back yesterday. After winter basically skipped all of Canada, it finally remembered that it was supposed to deliver snow, so there I was yesterday building a snowman on April 23rd. Meanwhile, record-high temperatures in the West had people in Winnipeg and Calgary sunbathing and wearing sandals, just as we did in Ottawa six weeks ago.
This is, of course, not normal. We know it isn’t normal. We know also that the reason we had almost no winter was that a jet stream kept the cold weather further north, and created the coldest most bitter winter on record throughout Europe and Russia. While we were breaking out the tank tops and flip flops, 150 people were dying from the cold in Italy and the Ukraine.
The reaction I see from all of this has been a shrug and a joke – oh yeah man, bring on the global warming, I’m loving this! I golfed in January in Edmonton, yo! Wait…really? Is the world really ignoring global warming entirely again? Actually – yeah. It kind of is.
The climate change deniers have, for lack of a better word, WON this war. This battle of fact versus rhetoric, of science versus anger. The loudest and the dumbest have shouted down anyone who dares suggest that climate change is real, and that people might have something to do with it. They have framed the debate as my-opinion-versus-your-opinion, which frames this environmental catastrophe as a theory, an opinion, and an ideology rather than as fact.
Climate change is, of course, no more a “theory” than is the “theory” of gravity, or the “theory” of evolution. Imagine debating someone about gravity the way they debate you about climate change. They would point to the fact that Isaac Newton got really rich thanks to his “theory” – he was warden of the mint, you know, and even a member of British parliament! Also, he was secretive about some of his religious views, and therefore could not be trusted.
This has been essentially, the reasoning of climate change deniers. David Suzuki and Al Gore are rich. Therefore they are either inventing global warming to become rich, or they are hypocrites. Which is solid reasoning. after all, imagine how many more people they would reach if they were poor, and lived in a mud hut and ate nothing but berries and didn’t have TV shows and movies. And imagine how much LESS credible they would be if they were super-rich. Like, I don’t know…oil barons?
Also, every discussion you have with a denier will almost certainly have some mention of the enormous scandal that was Climategate! You know, those hacked emails from scientists that rocked the environmental movement and gave Fox News and Sun TV weeks worth of fodder. You can explain to your denier friend that six – SIX different independant review agencies pored over those emails and the entire scandal, and found that nothing untoward had taken place at all. That, in fact, “climategate” was nothing at all. But you will have a hard time convincing your friend of this, because the exoneration of the climate scientists was not broadcast on FOX. So it probably never happened.
Here’s the thing. The depressing thing. It’s not that the climate change deniers have won the debate. They can’t win the debate because they are not working with facts. But they have won the battle by silencing a huge number of environmental advocates. It has just become too difficult, too stressful and too annoying to continue to talk about it. You mention global warming or climate change and some simpleton is invariably there to shout you down, his anger drowning out your facts. And you throw up your hands and stop trying. And you lose. And he wins, through volume alone.
It has now been two years since the massive BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, an unprecedented environmental catastrophe that was SURE to affect offshore drilling policy the world over. Since that time, no real technology has been invented that could prevent it from ever happening again. And yet our government is all about more drilling, with less regulation. And the American presidential race is currently seeing Obama and Romney battling it out over which of the two is MORE pro-drilling!
This is, of course, insane. And it’s happening because people are shutting up. And I’m to blame in this as well. I have grown more and more silent the more I am confronted with the entrenched angry rhetoric of people who are powerfully and noisily wrong. But no more. This is a scarier time for the environment than it has ever been, and we have to stop shutting up about it.