If you follow a credible news source at all (i.e. not Fox, CNN, or MSNBC), you’ve undoubtedly been seeing all sorts of stories: “July hottest month on record, ever!“, “Massive drought grips Midwest“, “Heat records shattered across America“, “327th consecutive month with above average temperatures” (now at least 330), etc. Yet despite these facts (indeed, temperature measurements are facts and not guesses), climate skepticism is growing in the United States! Why, in the face of all these shattered temperature records, droughts, heat waves, and snowless winters, do people still argue against climate change?
I’ve pointed out before that the delivery of the climate change message has been less than perfect; fear is not the way forward. Presenting the facts in a neutral way might possibly work, but doom and gloom scenarios will not work (even if they are true).
So what is the one big reason many skeptics still deny climate change? One word: Hypocrisy. This has been bugging me for a while. My knowledge is restricted somewhat to my experience during my Master’s and PhD. programs, but ecology graduate students really do an abysmal job of taking their own advice. For example, ecologists and climate experts say that one of the most effective actions you can take to mitigate climate change is stop driving. Carpool, bike, walk, skateboard, whatever, just stop using your car so much. That’s a pretty big lifestyle change to ask people to undertake, especially when the people giving the advice are terrible at following it themselves and they should know better.
I bike or walk to work every day. Yes, I drive to the store (sometimes) or to my friend’s house, but that’s about it. I generally use my car way less than most, and that’s still considering my friends always make me DD (I’m chalking that up to carpooling, as well). Here’s a map of a few people I worked with in my Master’s program in relation to the lab (pins are not actual addresses, but close).
At this place, most students lived well within 4 miles of work. That’s a 20 minute ride at most at a very comfortable pace. Hell, it was an island, it wasn’t exactly a long trip anywhere.
This one is worse. Here’s a map of approximate grad student housing in relation to campus at my PhD program.
Not only are they incredibly close, but 1) It’s quicker to bike due to congested streets and the park being closed to automobiles, and 2) The cluster of people that live near one another never even carpooled, they drove separately.
Here’s another map of a place I have worked. In this situation, the lab was split into two segments roughly 3/4 miles apart. Moreover, the lab has about 30-40 free bikes for transportation around campus. Guess who would sign out a truck just to drive back and forth between labs?
If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I’m probably going to have a few people angry at me for this (as if anyone reads this anyway). People who should know better and constantly complain about “ignorant Americans driving their stupid cars” can’t be bothered to ride a bike themselves. In that case, why should anyone believe us? Skeptics probably say, “Well, if climate change is really an issue, why are these scientists still putzing a mile down the road in a car?”
“You must be the change you to see in the world”, right? Enough ‘Do as I say, not as I’ve done’. How about, “Do as I do, because we all need to work this out together”.
Also, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, 24 hour cable news networks are awful, awful sources of real information. Also, I was careful not to say names or places in the maps above. So if you do suck at not driving, your secret is safe until someone else says it.