Foreign Policy Blogs

Denial World

A question arose for me the other day:  How would the world regard the Skeptics/Denialists if they were Holocaust Deniers?  The short answer is the “NY Times” wouldn’t have a cover story in their Sunday magazine on a prominent and well-regarded scientist who is, for whatever inexplicable reason and using whatever tortured logic, an outspoken proponent of the view that the looming climate change catastrophe is no big deal.  Nota bene to our brothers and sisters at the “NY Times” – climate change is already killing people, mercilessly, by the tens of thousands every year by exposure to measurably more intense heat, drought, and storms.  The toll will reach the millions before many more years if we don’t radically alter how we produce and consume energy, farm our lands, transport ourselves and our trade products.

The Freeman Dyson controversy exploded two weeks ago.  The indispensable DeSmogBlog responded here, as did the Island of Doubt here.  These are two sources that are indefatigable in uncovering the lies, flimflammery and ill will in the “message” of the Skeptics/Denialists.  Another blog doing essential work in this is The Intersection.  Framing Science, which looks at the sociology and psychology of the confluence of journalism and climate change, has a characteristically thoughtful take on this:  It’s a mistake for climate change activists to use “…science as the central rhetorical means to convey the urgency of climate change rather than effectively emphasizing a values-basis for action.”

For her final paper, a student of mine is giving great emphasis to how climate change is framed.  She says it is “…categorized as an ‘Environmental’ issue and viewed by many as something that liberals get animated over.  This needs to change.  Climate Change needs to be reframed as a ‘Security’ issue.”  Tom Friedman, in his wisdom, thinks we need a carbon tax and that the messenger “…should be the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, not the environmentalists.”

Here are the letters from tomorrow’s magazine in response to the Dyson profile.  One letter says:  “Dyson is quoted as supporting his views as ‘more a matter of judgment than knowledge.’ This is an astounding admission from a scientist.”  Indeed.  For the record, here’s the letter I wrote, one among, I have no doubt, hundreds that the paper received.

To The Editor:

That Freeman Dyson’s views should be given such prominence is unnerving.  The problem in your article lies in the fact that one voice is given such undue weight in the face of all the considerable body of evidence that has been accumulating, consistently, for decades, from top scientists from all over the world.

Dyson is a distinguished scientist, clearly, but as James Hansen notes, at least in regard to climate science, he “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”  In your profile, Dyson says, for instance, “The biologists have essentially been pushed aside.”  If Dyson were to read the evidence presented in the volume on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, he would see that he’s off the mark.  In this particular volume of the 2007 report, nearly thirty thousand datasets were examined by a few hundred authors and editors with review by more than 900 experts.  At the recent conference in Copenhagen that you reference, thousands of climate researchers heard updates on the science in scores of presentations.  Last summer, the Academies of Science of 13 leading nations called on world leaders to act “to limit the threat of climate change.”

These are the voices that are being heard, loud and clear, more and more, thankfully, by policy makers all over the world.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change