This thread yesterday brought up something else about the increasing sway global warming denialism has over the public at large, something I’ve been kicking around in my head for awhile. And it’s that at its base, global warming denialism is a conspiracy theory. Yep, just like birtherism, 9/11 truther crap, and the belief that NASA didn’t really put a man on the moon. And just in case this wasn’t already obvious, some of the wingnuts that were bugging me on Twitter last night made it clear that they think the scientists publishing the evidence for all this are fudging their data. Yep, they even went as far to claim that all 928 studies collected on global warming—of which not one went against the consensus that warming is real and likely man-made—are wrong.
See, from where I sit, there’s no way to believe that global warming isn’t real unless you think a) it’s a hoax and b) one that’s perpetrated on an epic scale. If you look at 928 studies on global warming, all of which run against your predetermined conclusion, then you either have to change your mind and accept reality, or you have to believe that everyone involved is colluding with a giant hoax.
That’s a lot of co-conspirators. If you take into consideration all the scientists doing the research and everyone who looks it over in a direct professional capacity, that means you have literally thousands of conspirators. But if you incorporate everyone who uses this research to promote policy—including pundits, activists, and politicians—the conspiracy literally incorporates millions of people. That’s a lot of discipline that the co-conspirators have! You’d think one of us would drink too much and let the secret out one of these days, but that would require an understanding of statistical likelihood, and let’s face it, global warming denialists wear their scientific illiteracy as a badge of honor.
But what I really don’t understand about this conspiracy theory is not just how you can be willing to believe that millions of people are colluding in this with little to no leaking of the plan, but what our motivations supposedly are. I guess the idea is that we’re in this to destroy capitalism. But why we would want to do that is never really explained. A lot of us criticize capitalism, but that’s because of its effects. For instance, we criticize capitalism because it rewards polluting behavior, and we’re against pollution because it’s bad for our health and contributes to global warming. But according to denialists, pollution is only a made-up problem that was made up to destroy capitalism, which we hate because of something that we know isn’t real (pollution), and god, do you have a headache yet? Because I do.
I’m also perplexed by the idea that reining in fossil fuel usage itself would be the end of capitalism. You’d think, if the millions of supposed conspirators in this whole thing were out to destroy capitalism, we’d take a less circuitous route than environmentalism. For one thing, there’s capitalists who make money off environmentalism, often with the help of the supposed conspirators, who encourage R&D and sales of green technology. You’d think we’d use our magnificent skills at organizing and maintaining secrecy to arrange a revolution, which would be easier to pull off with our numbers than fighting global warming is turning out to be.
But above all, I’m impressed that anyone can be dumb enough to think a conspiracy of this size could even hold together. We have a lot of real life examples of people who are organized around massive social change but disguise their intentions due to political considerations, and by and large, they don’t do that great a job of holding their cards that close to their chests. Take, for instance, the anti-choice movement. I’d argue that they’re organized around the principle of restoring the legal enforcement of certain gender roles they believe strongly in, and that they intend not only to attack abortion rights, but limit contraception usage that also has helped liberate women. They, however, would like to be seen as the champions of babies. But I don’t really see that they do a really great job of concealing their real intentions. On the contrary, they organize anti-contraception rallies, push for abstinence-only education, belong to churches that spread material around about wifely submission, and push to cut contraception funding every chance they get. It’s because maintaining the levels of secrecy required to conceal an underlying agenda takes tight-knit organizing and heavy policing of members of the conspiracy. And the anti-choice movement is, at best, a loose confederation. So they leak their true intentions, basically non-stop.
Not so with the supposed global warming “conspirators”. Even their most deep secret communications that get outed demonstrate that they…..want to exert political influence to stop global warming, because they think global warming is bad. The famous hacked emails, for instance, show basically that the “conspirators” want to stop global warming. There was no talk of lying about it to overthrow our capitalist masters, which is the sort of thing you’d expect to see in private emails if that was actually the secret plan. Even the most dedicated believers in this conspiracy theory think their smoking guns are evidence that environmentalists are extremely committed to the environment, which would incline thinking people to think that environmentalists are committed to the environment, just like they say they are, and aren’t actually involved in a grand conspiracy using the environment as cover. In other words, the supposed conspirators, at the end of the day, are always shown to be desirous of action to stop global warming, which implies that they believe in it and aren’t—contrary to vivid claims from conservatives—involved in history’s most elaborate, extensive, well-organized conspiracy that involves millions of people who know the truth but are lying about it without ever leaking. Even to each other.