If you have a life-threatening cancer that 95 percent of medical scientists say they have data that indicate they could successfully treat it, would you opt for the treatment even though 5 percent of medical scientists disagree? My guess is most people would opt for the treatment because 95 percent is a high level of confidence and one’s health and survival are at risk.
However, in the analogous situation in which 95 percent of climatologists state they have data and models that prove the earth is warming and humans are significantly contributing to it, only 30 percent to 50 percent (depending on which poll) of Americans agree even though our health and survival are at risk.
Why the disparity with regard to climate change? Likely it’s because of the marketing of doubt by the fossil fuel industry. After all, they make no money if the coal or oil remains in the ground. It’s a repeat of what the tobacco industry did years ago when the science showed smoking causes cancer and tobacco is addictive. Rather than accept the facts and act in the public interest, the industry hired marketing consultants to sell doubt saying, in effect, no one knows for certain the effects of smoking. They were successful at keeping sales up until internal memos were leaked to the public that demonstrated the industry knew the addictive and cancerous impacts of tobacco and lied about it. Now, history is repeating itself, and the marketing consultants are doing for the fossil fuel moguls what they did for tobacco. (See the documentary “Merchants of Doubt” for in-depth coverage.)
Time is running out. Fires, drought, extreme weather, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, water shortages, etc., are costly and should motivate us to demand public officials from local to federal levels act to mitigate global warming while the outcomes are less dire. We need to tax carbon, switch to alternative energy, and be much more energy efficient. The longer we wait the more expensive it will be. It’s a travesty that presidential candidates are denying reality and endangering our future by ignoring this urgent problem.