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in conserving the planet, even though the preservation of cherished tra-
ditions—the core of the conservative position—will be impossible if we
don't also conserve the environments we live in.
By now, “skeptical” opinion has very litle going for it: the scientiic
research doesn't support it, its leading spokespeople have been largely
discredited, many of its former leaders have recanted or altered their posi-
tions, and a vast majority subscribes to the consensus view. Nevertheless,
as a result many contrarians hold to their views with greater intransi-
gence. No doubt a certain lazy style of media coverage—which continues
to speak of “both sides” of a so-called “debate”—helps sustain this degree
of public misperception. But media coverage alone cannot account for
that deep resistance. he ferocity of the rhetoric atacking climate change
scientists, the hostility to all the suggestions for how to address the prob-
lem, and the general intolerance for the concerns of environmental jus-
tice suggest that something else is at stake.
For some lay “skeptics,” the idea of climate change undermines the
belief that God protects and sustains his creation. Acknowledging the
consensus view would require giving up a particular version of the theol-
ogy of creation. In another version of this resistance, Lindzen is reluctant
to give up his belief that nature is intrinsically capable of balancing out
its own systems. 169 For other “skeptics,” the consensus poses a threat to
the notion of individual liberty guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and
the prospect that the government might take action to decrease our emis-
sions smacks to them of an unwarranted intrusion into our private lives.
This position amounts to a civil religion in which liberty trumps all other
concerns, including the “general welfare” of the Preamble to that very
Constitution. People commited to these fundamental positions have
ample motive to seize upon the least doubt regarding the consensus to
justify their “skepticism.” Clearly, what is at stake for them goes much fur-
ther than a reading of the science. (I discuss these aspects of the debate in
depth in chapters four and twelve.)
Linked to these deep sources of resistance is another: a suspicion
of the political and cultural power of experts. For good reasons, com-
mon people around the world instinctively mistrust the power of highly
educated people, whatever their profession, to understand and govern
them. The inevitable failure of those in the governing class to reflect on
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