What, I must ask, is the irresistible allure of ignorance?
I understand inadvertent ignorance; I admit to being one of its victims. But willful ignorance is another matter. We’re in the middle of an ignorance revival, and I just don’t understand what the enthusiasts get out of it.
Take global warming. That it’s real is beyond dispute. The polar ice caps are melting! One-third of the summer ice in the Arctic Ocean has melted, and some scientists think the Arctic summer will be ice-free by 2013.
At the South Pole, an ice bridge holding the Wilkins shelf to the continent gave way over the weekend, which means the shelf, about the size of Jamaica, is in danger of sinking into the sea, one of 10 such shelves, some 10,000 years old, now shrinking.
Despite these and a million other signs, global warming deniers persist in seeing the whole problem as some kind of cooked-up left-wing conspiracy to deprive us of our right to drive a Hummer.
This attitude is most firmly entrenched in places like the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, based in Winnipeg, which bills itself as an “independent think tank.” I’m glad they cleared that up: It’s hard to tell if anyone is thinking by going to their website, where piece after piece dismisses the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Prize for its work on global warming, as some kind of fraud.
For example, it huffs the head of the panel is an economist, not a scientist. So OK, here’s a scientist: Dr. Andrew Weaver, a climatologist and lead author of the landmark IPCC report that won the Nobel for “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change.”
Dr. Weaver is so distressed by opposition to the effort to fight global warming he recently issued an urgent cry: “The scientific community has a very solid understanding of what is causing global warming: It is overwhelmingly because of the combustion of fossil fuels.”
Dr. Weaver is alarmed because ignorance is not confined to the right. From the left, “environmentalists” have taken to opposing every effort to switch to alternative, non-fossil fuel sources: Wind turbines allegedly endanger birds, hydro lines cause brain cancer, run-of-river hydro generation kills rivers. Even if it doesn’t.
So, although the polar ice caps are melting, although real deal scientists such as Dr. Weaver try to warn us that time is running out to address global warming, we continue to try and argue it out of existence or complain the move to alternative energy has its own issues.
Good, there’s that threat dealt with. I’ll just stick my head back into the sand, and with any luck I’ll be long gone by the time anyone has to reap the heat.
– Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;
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