Tonight I watched an episode of the HBO news program “VICE” on Syria and climate change. For those who don’t have HBO, Bill Maher is the executive producer. So that should tell you immediately their reporting is going to have a far-left liberal progressive slant. Now this post is not to argue the merits of climate change, but what I will say is that the climate has been literally changing for hundreds of millions, indeed billions, of years. The debate is how much humans are a factor in the climate changing. Of course, the position of VICE is that humans are the primary cause, and that the overwhelming scientific consensus has settled on this. So it is “settled science.” Now I don’t believe this is settled science, as science is always provisional and science has, of course, been wrong before. It was settled science that the Earth was the center of the universe 600 years ago, based on the Aristotelian view of the universe that the Earth was where all heavy elements of the universe settled (basically, Earth was considered to be a cosmic sump, hardly a place of glory). The Catholic church accepted that view, and of course opposed those who took a different view, but that view was not made up by the Catholic church. They were told it was the accepted science of the day by scientists, and since it was consistent with how they believed God would create, defended the view.
What bothered me about the VICE episode are the methods they use to argue their point. Specifically, I saw three that made me no more believe their argument than I believe aliens have arrived and are living among us. First, they call those who don’t agree that anthropogenic (man-made) factors are the primary driver of global warming, causing destructive weather across the globe and flooding in low-lying coastal areas. They call those who don’t agree “climate deniers.” Just think about what happens when someone is trying to convince you of something that you are skeptical of, and the first thing they do is call you some pejorative name. What would your reaction be? Like most, it wouldn’t matter what the person said afterwards, you would be disposed to not believe a single thing more that they said because they opened with an insult. Instead of simply trying to convince you to come to their side, they basically tell you that you are deficient if you don’t believe as they do, and then proceed with arguing the facts of their position as they see them. This is a proven, ineffective way of making an argument, but liberal progressives are well known for calling names if you don’t agree with them, because they are always right.
The second technique the folks at VICE used was to paint fossil fuel companies as lying and disingenuous, in the same manner as tobacco companies, who for years denied cigarettes were bad for your health. I don’t know how they could possibly use such a ridiculous line of attack so seriously. Even as a child, I knew ingesting hot smoke into your lungs could not possibly be good for your health, and upon reading the label on the side of my dad’s cigarette pack about lung cancer, my suspicion was easily confirmed. To say that fossil fuel companies, who will not admit their product is “dangerous” to the environment, is the moral equivalent of tobacco companies selling people something that will kill them is quite a stretch. In the case of smoking, only smokers smoke, which is why they are called smokers. In the case of fossil fuels, people throughout the world enjoy the wonderful benefits of reliable, affordable power, including the VICE reporters using fossil fuels themselves to interview people trying to make fossil fuel companies look bad. It is one thing to say fossil fuel companies should give more consideration to renewable sources and capture of evil carbon dioxide emissions, but it is an entirely different matter to basically say they are malevolent, greedy people who have an unholy desire to destroy the planet in the name of profit. But then again, these are liberal progressives.
Finally, and laughably, they went after non-profit 501(c)(3) think tanks that argue climate change science is inconclusive, such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute, the CATO Institute, and the oil and gas companies that donate to these entities. They carp on about the American tax payer “subsidizing” non-profit think tanks that are working against the American public. Well that’s fanciful. Non-profits are not being “subsidized” by the American people. And what the VICE folks probably don’t recognize is that non-profits are not exclusive to people who don’t agree with them. There are plenty of non-profits who argue for climate change and are being “subsidized” also. From listening to VICE,, you would think the only industries that contribute to think tanks are oil and gas companies. Well just as there are companies that contribute to think tanks VICE doesn’t agree with, there are companies that contribute to think tanks that agree with VICE. So this is not a stacked game where only one side is active. Both sides make their cases, and so it is not ominous that oil and gas companies are funding think tanks that help them to make their case that climate change is inconclusive. But again, these are liberal progressives reporting, where they are always right, and if you don’t agree you’re a bad person. Perhaps if they focused on their actual argument and left out the demonizing of those who don’t agree with them, they would make headway with those who don’t.