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The Atlantic has an article about the renowned physicist Freeman Dyson and his inexplicable denial of the reality and implications of climate change. The article provides a fascinating insight into the life of one of our great “deep thinkers,” as the author, Kenneth Brower, attempts to reconcile Dyson’s indisputable genius with his apparent oversight on the issue of climate change. As Brower mused, turning a decidedly arrogant comment by Dyson on its head, “how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb?” Indeed, it is a great challenge to understand how someone as obviously intelligent as Dyson could hold the views described in this excerpt:
Among intelligent nonexperts who have weighed in on climate change, Freeman Dyson has become, now that Michael Crichton is dead, perhaps our most prominent global-warming skeptic. Charlie Rose began his interview with questions about the climate. Dyson answered that he remained very skeptical about the dangers of global warming. He did not believe the pronouncements of the experts. He did not claim to be an expert himself, so he would not argue the details with anybody; he had not given much time to the issue and did not pretend to know the real answers, but what he knew for sure was that the global-warming experts did not know the answers, either.
Dyson did not deny that the world was getting warmer. What he doubted was the models of the climatologists, and the grave consequences they predicted, and the supposition that global warming is bad. “I went to Greenland myself, where the warming is most extreme,” he said. “And it’s quite spectacular, of course, what you see in Greenland. But what is also true is, the people there love it. The people there hope it continues. It makes their lives a lot more pleasant.”
Now, it is important to highlight the fact that Dyson is not a denier of climate change. He recognizes that it is happening, but he disputes its supposed severity. He seems to be under the misguided impression that global warming is potentially a good thing for our planet and the species that inhabit it, as clearly demonstrated in quoted passage above. In matters of mathematics, physics and engineering, Dyson possesses an intellect that is almost without peer. And yet his reasoning on the issue of climate change seems exceedingly rudimentary – childish, even.
Dyson’s opinions on the matter are shared by a large percentage of Americans, including Dyson’s belief that the fruits of science and technology will eventually save us from the worst dangers of climate change. However, until very recently most Americans were reluctant to even admit that climate change was actually occurring. It has only been within the last decade – and mostly within the last half-decade – that the effects of climatic shifts became so apparent that all but the most fool-hardy skeptics could continue to deny its existence.
The most dire consequences of climate change are still a decade or more away, but the subtle shifts in weather patterns are already obvious to most casual observers. Giant hurricanes, early summers, widespread droughts and snowstorms in the South are difficult to ignore. As a result, it has slowly become accepted within the cultural mainstream – even within the corporate mainstream media – that climate change is real, but its causes and ramifications are still regarded with deep suspicion. In light of the rapid climatic changes we are already experiencing, it was inevitable that the mainstream media would be forced to eventually acknowledge the existence of global warming, but they continue to challenge the scientific consensus regarding its roots.
The reality is that most Americans are heavily influenced by the media, whether they admit it or not. In fact, those who claim to be most skeptical of the media (because of its supposed liberal bias, for example) are often its most devout followers, at least subconsciously. The reason for this is that the media has been highly successful at defining the parameters of our national dialogue, and in doing so massive swathes of the population are unwittingly herded into a narrow range of beliefs on various topics. Therefore, when the corporate media was forced to shift the boundary of discussion from widespread denial of the very existence of global warming, many Americans reluctantly – and subconsciously – followed suit. But these Americans also retained the corporate narrative that the roots of climate change are disputable, and are most likely not related to human activities.
Of course, the science speaks otherwise, and has done so for decades. A consensus has existed within the scientific community since at least the 1970s regarding the nature of climate change and its human roots. The corporations which control our media have a vested interest in denying this reality, since the implications of widespread acceptance of a human cause would entail drastic changes to the status quo. Many of the giant, multinational corporations which control our media and heavily influence our government – including the EPA – stand to lose immense profits if drastic action is taken to remedy the causes and effects of climate change. As a result, these corporations will attempt to deny the reality of climate change for as long as they possibly can, and will do whatever is necessary to continue to fool the American people.
It should be kept in mind that corporations are beholden not to long-term sustainability or long-term profits, but to the maximum profits they can provide to their shareholders in the short term. And since these corporations are non-human entities (in spite of the 14th amendment), they lack the foresight necessary to avert global ecological and social devastation as a result of their ruthless profiteering. In other words, these non-human corporations will literally drive the earth and its inhabitants to complete and utter devastation in the relentless pursuit of short-term profits. And in the sacred name of capitalism our fellow Americans are willfully and enthusiastically urging them on, unwittingly offering themselves to the vicious self-immolation that climate change and environmental destruction will ultimately bring, if left unabated.