Have the climate sceptics really won?
24 May 2013
Roger Pielke Jr, The Guardian
Earlier this week, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times announced that the "climate sceptics have won". His comments echo those of former Nasa scientist James Hansen who told an audience in Edinburgh last year that the sceptics "have been winning the public debate with the help of tremendous resources." The action needed in response to this situation was spelt out by Lord Stern - the eponymous author of the well-known 2007 report on the economics of climate change - who once called sceptics "forces of darkness" who had to be "driven back."
Such comments reflect a conventional wisdom in the climate debate. Climate sceptics, or deniers as they are often called, are presented as all-powerful forces bankrolled by rich corporations who have wielded their awesome power to block efforts to deal with the threat of human caused climate change. How do we know that climate sceptics have such power? As Martin Wolf explains, it is the "world's inaction" on climate policy which reveals their power.
From this perspective then, a key challenge of securing action on climate change is to defeat the sceptics - to drive back the forces of darkness so that the forces of good might prevail. Victory will be achieved by winning the battle for public opinion on the state of climate science.