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The Truth Can Be Expensive

April 2, 2012 - When I started writing this blog three years ago, it was difficult to decide what to write about from week to week, largely because of the paucity of information available.  Fast forward three years, and such is no longer the case.  Though mainstream media are still mostly absent from the conversation (recognition here for ABC news, who is suddenly on board, probably for marketing reasons), the abundance of so-called "alternative media" means I no longer have to search high and low.  Take this week, for instance.  Several days ago, I thought I'd be writing about the wind farm planned for construction in Lake Erie.  I was momentarily distracted by a story about the military's intention (all branches) to figure climate change into their plans for the future, to which Congressional Republicans are, of course, opposed.  Then I was almost lured into giving attention to the increased fire risk found throughout the United States.

These ideas have all been moved to the back burners, however, because of an article I read in Mother Jones todayThe article is about a research paper written by Purdue University climatologist Matthew Huber and University of New South Wales, Australia, climatologist Steven Sherwood in May 2010.  It's not my intention to talk about the content of the paper, though it would be wrong of me not to mention that Huber and Sherwood's peers have sat up and taken notice; the paper has already been widely cited in other research papers.  No, that won't be my focus today.  My focus will be on another kind of feedback Huber receives:

                        "I get hate mail and death threats on a regular basis.  I'm used to that.
                         I didn't notice much of an uptick with publication of this paper.  I just
                         delete those emails anyway ....."

Dr. Huber sounds pretty reconciled to having his life threatened on a regular basis.  Perhaps, after enough time has gone by and nothing happens, he realizes it's the way some people let off steam.  Be that as it may, I'd like to explore this phenomenon.  Surely we all know it isn't right to threaten to kill someone?  The place I start in thinking about this type of reaction to scientific information is by asking myself if I've ever been angry enough about anything to threaten to kill someone.  The answer is no.  This is not the case because I would never question science.  Lots of people question science, especially other scientists.  Even when they find mistakes, though, they don't threaten to kill each other.  I'm going to let scientists off the hook on this one.

Something tells me that the threatening individuals feel threatened.  As well they should!  We all should.  Part of the difference between people who make death threats about climate change and people who don't is in how the two groups perceive the threat.  It seems very clear to me now that Death Threateners threaten Dr. Huber with death because they believe what he's telling them is that it's wrong to live the way they live, and they'll have to give up their standard of living.  All of which, incidentally, is right on the money.  No one likes to be told they're wrong, especially if they tend to be a little insecure in the first place.  And that part about giving up their standard of living ... where else have I heard that recently?

I remember!  Here's what Denier-in-Chief James Inhofe had to say last week about why he denies the truth of climate change:

                            “I was actually on your side of this issue when I was
                             chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I
                             thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

(The quote can be found here:

You probably heard about Inhofe's gaffe; he made it when appearing on the Rachel Maddow show last week.  If, like me, you find yourself scratching your head as you try to figure out how the cost of climate change eradication would affect the truth of the basic science, then no further explanation is necessary.  The bottom line, unlikely as it may seem, appears to be this: the vast majority of us who know the science to be true want to eliminate climate change from our futures, because we know that no matter how much it costs to stop climate change, that cost will be a fraction of the cost of dealing with it.  We also love living life on this planet.

The Death Threatening minority apparently won't find life worth living if they can't buy season tickets to the drag races.


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