Environment

This Comic Reveals the Real Reason People Deny Climate Change

September 1st 2015

By:
Alex Mierjeski

The hefty costs of fighting climate change—replacing traditional energy sources with more renewable ones, for example—can be a deciding factor for both politicians and members of the public who vacillate between being believers and non-believers. For many, those costs pose concerns that are perhaps somewhat less abstract, and therefore more worthy of immediate attention, as the comic below illustrates.


As ATTN: has reported before, even the most egregious defenses of climate change denial can be rooted in a deep-seated belief that if it is real, the cost of fixing it is much too high. Take Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.), who chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe brought a snowball with him to Senate proceedings in January in an effort to disprove climate change. But in a 2012 interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Inhofe essentially said he believed in efforts to combat climate change until he saw the cost of proposed taxes and regulations aimed at weaning our reliance off of fossil fuels.

"Do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and first heard about this? I thought it must be true until I found out what it would cost," Inhofe said.

Inhofe's stance is a difficult one to reconcile, but perhaps not necessarily a surprising one. Recent research indicates this transformation is not atypical: one Duke University study found that climate change deniers are not necessarily opposed to the science behind climate change as much as they are against proposed solutions—generally in the forms of increased regulation and taxes—which in turn informs their view of the science. Forget melting glaciers and eroding shores, they seem to effuse—consider the costs. 

Similar sentiments were echoed following the announcement of President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which was hailed a crucial first step towards combating climate change.

"The President's lawless and radical attempt to destabilize the nation's energy system is flatly unconstitutional and—unless it is invalidated by Congress, struck down by the courts, or rescinded by the next Administration—will cause Americans' electricity costs to skyrocket at a time when we can least afford it," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in a prepared statement. Cruz has also denied climate change exists in the first place.

What's happening in Alaska?

#conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover, March 15th, National Conservation Areas

Economic concerns loomed large during Obama's tour of Alaska in September to raise awareness of climate change by using the country's most North Western state as a "wake-up call" to the current and future threats posed by a warming planet.

"If another country threatened to wipe out an American town, we'd do everything in our power to protect ourselves," the president said in reference to one Western Alaskan town being forced off of their land due to climate change in his Weekly Address. "Climate change poses the same threat right now."

Alaska, where temperatures have increased at twice the national average in the last 50 years, affecting all aspects of life for some communities there, has the potential to serve as a bellwether for what a steadily warming climate could mean for Americans' everyday lives in the near future. It is also the site of controversy for environmentalists concerned with the Obama administration's approval of permits allowing Shell to drill for oil off the state's coast.

The president acknowledged in his video address environmental concerns surrounding off-shore drilling, which he said he shares with environmentalists. But Obama was careful to note the oil industry's inexorable ties to domestic economic stability.

"Our economy still has to rely on oil and gas," he said. "And, as long as that's the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production than on foreign imports." Even so, the Obama administration has taken aim at the petroleum industry before, proposing slashes to billions in tax breaks for traditional energy companies, and making room to grow the renewable energy sector with tax credits and investments worth an estimated $31.5 billion in the next decade.