Climate Change and Conservative Denial

Like any journalist or storyteller or blogger, I am alert for items with thematic connections. Here are two, or three. About climate change and conservative denial.

NY Times, today’s front page, 19 May 2024: Mexico City Has Long Thirsted for Water. The Crisis Is Worsening., subtitled “A system of dams and canals may soon be unable to provide water to one of the world’s largest cities, a confluence of unchecked growth, crumbling infrastructure and a changing climate.”

This is not news; it’s been happening. It’s happening elsewhere, and will keep happening.

The article opens:

A collision of climate change, urban sprawl and poor infrastructure has pushed Mexico City to the brink of a profound water crisis.

The groundwater is quickly vanishing. A key reservoir got so low that it is no longer used to supply water. Last year was Mexico’s hottest and driest in at least 70 years. And one of the city’s main water systems faces a potential “Day Zero” this summer when levels dip so much that it, too, will no longer provide water.

“We’re suffering because the city is growing immeasurably and it cannot be stopped,” said Gabriel Martínez, 64, who lives in an apartment complex that struggles to get enough water for its roughly 600 residents. “There aren’t enough resources.”

Mexico City, once a water-rich valley that was drained to make way for a vast city, has a metropolitan population of 23 million, among the top 10 largest in the world and up from 15 million in 1990. It is one of several major cities facing severe water shortages, including Cape Town; São Paulo, Brazil; and Chennai, India. Many are the consequence of years of poor water management compounded by scarce rains.

Long article, with lots of pics. Here’s another.

Caption: “The Miguel Alemán dam at the Valle de Bravo reservoir, which is at historically low levels and stopped supplying water to Mexico City in April.”


Of course Republicans and conservatives in general have long been in denial about climate change, despite the increasing evidence, over decades, of its effects. Partly I think because they don’t “believe” in science, or evidence, that challenges their ideologies; and also because addressing the problem would involve challenging long-entrenched business interests, like the oil industry. (Trump recently promised oil industry executives that he would roll back all of Biden’s actions on climate change, if they donated $1 billion to his presidential campaign. Media Matters chastises mainstream media for not covering it.)

Thus, meanwhile, in Florida:

Washington Post, 16 May 2024: Record heat hits Florida, where DeSantis scrubbed ‘climate change’ from state laws, subtitled “Key West registered a heat index of 115 — matching its highest on record. More record heat is forecast.”

Scorching temperatures set numerous records across South Florida on Wednesday, and historically hot conditions for mid-May will persist through the weekend.

On Wednesday, Key West experienced a particularly brutal combination of heat and humidity, registering a heat index of 115 — matching the highest mark on record for any time of year.

The record heat comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday signed a bill scrubbing most references to climate change from state law. Critics say the measure, which will take effect July 1, ignores the threats Florida faces from extreme heat as well as powerful hurricanes and worsening toxic algae blooms.

Although South Florida is accustomed to warm, humid weather much of the year, this brutal combination of heat and humidity has little precedent in May.


Another example of how I’ve seen Republicans and conservatives in general deny problems that should be obvious and in their faces. I’m going to work this into my chart, which I should probably promote to a page.


Here’s the third.

Big Think, Ethan Siegel, 16 May 2024: 4 pervasive myths that cause us to abandon science, subtitled “It’s not a gambit. It’s not fraud. It’s not driven by opinion, prejudice, or bias. It’s not unchallengeable. And it’s more than facts alone.”

I think the reason most people dismiss science is, one, they notice it keeps changing (albeit in subtle, cumulative ways), and so distrust it, whereas their religions teach them inviolable, ultimate truths; and two, it increasingly conflicts with the narratives of their culture and religion — ancient stories propagated over centuries, built on tribal morality and ignorance about the wider world.

This is a never-ending problem, that will survive as long as humanity does. There will always be a split between the tiny minority who, able to overcome the tribal and narrative biases of base human nature, can apply reason and consistency to an understanding of the actual universe. (They are the ones whose discoveries have driven the technology that has transformed the world, increased human longevity, and so on and so on, in a way religion never has.) Everyone else will be happy and fulfilled living their within their communities, which will survive eternally without understanding of the real world.

There are many legitimate reasons to be mistrustful of some of our most vaunted institutes and ideas, particularly when corruption and bad behavior is easy to spot. Yet the past few years have seen the erosion of the public trust in science, even when it comes to irrefutable and robust findings that no serious scientists dispute. Here are the four most prominent myths that “merchants of doubt” use to sow distrust among us, and how to see through the ruse and determine what’s actually true for ourselves.

The four myths:

  1. Science is biased by who funds it.
  2. Science is driven by public opinion.
  3. Science is limited to knowing “just the facts” that are uncovered through scientific investigation.
  4. Science is immune to even the most legitimate challenges.

The article explains why these mis-apprehensions are not true. But my basic defense of science is this: it’s self-correcting. Any scientist would give his eye-teeth, or even first-born child, or whatever, to disprove evolution, or relativity, or whatever. Anyone can do so, if they gather the evidence, have it validated by peer review, get it published so the world’s scientists can examine the evidence and conclusions for faults, and if they really could disprove evolution, or relativity, or whatever, they’d win a Nobel Prize. But this never happens. Non-scientists attack science because its conclusions contradict their religious stories. And that’s the only reason.

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