Denialists by profession

We have denialists for all tastes: there are those of the Jewish Holocaust and those who do not admit that AIDS is caused by the HIV virus; Others reject the fundamental role of vaccines, claiming that behind it is the financial interest of pharmaceutical companies and warning of false side effects. Of course, there are deniers of climate change, some very relevant, as they lead several of the countries with the most weight in this house of cards that the planet has become, and they so speak despite the 97% of scientists who agree in pointing to the human being as a driving force of global warming. In addition, in many and striking cases they turn out to be the same ones that underestimated the importance of the pandemic, as well as the protective measures to observe. Leaders like Trump in the US (with 2.5 million infections and 125,000 deaths), Bolsonaro in Brazil (second most affected country with 1.2 million cases and 55,000 deaths); Johnson in the United Kingdom, who only rectified his relaxed view of the matter when Imperial College London warned of the half-million deaths the country would suffer if measures were not tightened … they have been opposing evidence of the climate disaster for years. Johnson published a column in the newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ in 2015, when he was mayor of London, entitled ‘I can’t bear this December heat, but it has nothing to do with global warming.’ In it he told that to know what was happening he had consulted an expert … who curiously belonged to that 3% denialist. As for Trump and Bolsonaro, their opinions on this matter are well known, which in the case of the first have led them to remove their country from the Paris Agreement, signed to contain the warming. Is this coincidence surprising between climate deniers and those who undervalued the coronavirus? Not to Fernando Valladares, professor at the National Museum of Natural Sciences, belonging to the Superior Center for Scientific Research (CSIC): «It is not a coincidence, but a simple and sadly habitual situation. The political options and the populist leaders whose main vision of government is to promote economic development at any cost do not hesitate to sow doubts about everything that can slow down or threaten that vision that they want to make a mission. Climate change threatens the use of fossil fuels and the promotion of industrial activities and a way of life with a high environmental footprint, and therefore threatens the traditional economy and short-term performance. So a common strategy that is getting worse and worse but still works in the very short term is to deny that climate change exists or that we cause it. And with COVID-19 similar, admitting that there is a serious pandemic and that requires containment measures with a direct impact on the economy means failing to fulfill that mission, which they want to take forward at the cost of people’s lives and health. ». «With the Covid-19 we have seen the results of denying reality. The same is happening with climate change »The expert assures that we are not talking about ineptitude. “It is a tremendous ability to deny the obvious and be able to sleep at night, despite having such dramatic impacts on citizens, including their own voters. It takes a lot of skill to be so cruel and turn reality around. ” “CO2 is not so bad …” And that the hoaxes used by denialists are often misleading, as CO2 should not be so harmful if plants take it in their breath and that we expel it ourselves: “The The hard core of hoaxes attributes changes in the climate to natural causes, reaching extremes similar to surrealism as that of the ‘terraplanistas’. They even say that climate change is caused by volcanoes, when eruptions have the opposite effect. It is true that volcanoes emit CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases, but the amount is not very large and the reflection of solar radiation from ashes and aerosols absolutely prevails, so the net thermal balance is cooling. “According to the surveys, the Spaniards align themselves with the scientists in a majority way” With the coincidence between both denials in hand, Valladares invites to make an extrapolation: “In the case of COVID-19 we have quickly and directly seen the results in contagions and human lives to deny the scientific reality. The same is happening with climate change, which already brings death and social dysfunction, and the denial by some leaders slows down the taking of global measures on the scale of the problem. ” Fortunately, climate deniers are very minority: “It is surprising that there are denialists, just as it is surprising that there are people who do not vaccinate their own children and sometimes see them die, in addition to causing a general health problem. But there are not so many, neither in the general public nor in the networks. What happens is that their positions are so strange that they attract attention and they themselves are usually very striking and provocative when defending them. A few, they show a lot. But they have always been few and they are less and less ». Emerges in the US Environmental biologist Francisco Heras Hernández, technical advisor to the Spanish Office for Climate Change, of the Ministry for Ecological Transition, answers some questions. – When did the climate denial movement arise? – Initially, it develops strongly in the United States and is, in its beginnings, heir to previous movements of a similar nature, such as the one that denied that tobacco is harmful to health. – Are there various types of climate deniers? – There are those who deny the facts (“climate change does not exist” or “it is an interested invention”); others reject human causality (“it is a natural phenomenon”); some deny its dangerousness (“it is a good thing”, “it has more benefits than harm …”) and others defend inaction arguing that “there are more important things to which we should pay attention”. The most surprising thing is that many embrace all these arguments simultaneously, despite the fact that in many cases they are incompatible with each other. Denial may also be considered as not wanting to take notice, ignore the issue, reject the information, or pretend that it will resolve on its own.– At first, the group of experts that somehow denied global warming was much more bulky. Consensus in the scientific community has always been higher than it seemed. Skeptical positions have been overrepresented in the media for years, perhaps seeking to highlight controversies to increase interest in information. But science has its means to measure the level of consensus and, on basic questions, it has been very high for a long time. – But it is striking the amount of denial opinions on social networks …– According to surveys carried out to know the Spanish opinions in the last decade our society is aligned mainly with scientists. Although it must be recognized that humans have a facility to ignore information that is inconvenient or unpleasant to us. It is enough to review the number of expressions we have to describe this answer: look the other way, turn a deaf ear, not want to be aware, follow the ostrich policy … – Who is behind the denialist movement? – Those who see responses to climate change as a threat to their position, interests or ideas. Paradoxically, the ‘threat’ they are trying to avoid (change in the energy system, the appearance of regulations to limit emissions …), is much less than that derived from an uncontrolled and dangerous change in the climate. – What are the great fallacies what do they handle? – The identification of conspiracies: if an overwhelming majority of scientists consider something to be true, it is argued that the individuals in question are implicated in a secret conspiracy. The use of false experts and the denigration of more recognized researchers. The selectivity in the use of scientific sources, the creation of expectations impossible to satisfy on the contributions of science, for example, denounce that there were no precise temperature measurements prior to the invention of the thermometer … For lack of knowledge, satiety, interest , fear, politics … Miguel Gutiérrez Garitano, adventurer, writer, member of the Spanish Geographical Society and fierce defender of nature, usually comes across ‘trolls’ on his Facebook every time he writes something related to climate change. Where does so much denial come from? He asked himself one day. Here it is answered: «In the first place, of the lack of culture. There is consensus among scientists, but there will always be someone who, out of ignorance, prefers simple, magical, foolish or marginal theories of unscrupulous “. He then mentions “interest, from the potentates who base their wealth on fossil fuels to the Amazon gold miners, who live in great misery.” Thirdly, it points to the “fear” of the most vulnerable minds who, in the face of a serious problem, prefer to deny it than face it “and cling to the easiest way out, even if it is false.” In other cases, we speak of a “reaction by satiety, there are people who say they are environmentalists but have contributed to discredit the movement by conducting themselves fanatically, or using the sermon or the pointing instead of personal example and opinion. And those who feel unfairly treated or lectured, react in the opposite direction, although some get fed up without reason and prejudice; they are the ones who do not tolerate Greta Thunberg for being a minor and a woman ». Others deny because of “political antagonism, especially right-wing people who perceive ecological thinking as typical of the left and, therefore, see it as something to fight.” And lastly, he cites “conspiranoids and mistrusts, who fit into ignorance: in a moment of capitalist, western and scientific discredit, they believe that behind each ecological initiative there are hidden economic interests … They are those who deny pharmaceutical science due to reaction to excess from some specific firms, but that’s like denying the effectiveness of reinforced concrete because construction companies commit crimes. ”