It’s the closing weeks of 2013 and The Boston Globe, the recently acquired real estate of proud Red Sox owner John W. Henry, still publishes climate denial on its Opinion page. This puts Mr. Henry in fine company, so to speak, as shown in an important new study of the climate-denial funding machine from Drexel University’s Robert J. Brulle and Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Of course, Henry’s funding of his op-ed page can’t be compared with the billion-dollar ocean of right-wing anti-science money. But still.
If it’s hard to accept—at this late date, given what we know about the imminent threat of catastrophic warming—that one of America’s great newspapers still runs columns denying the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, consider for a moment some of the other forms that denial still takes, many of them far more subtle and yet, perhaps, no less dangerous.
Indeed, you find them in places you’d least expect, such as Harvard’s Massachusetts Hall. As Tim DeChristopher put it in a guest post on this blog in October, when Harvard President Drew Faust issued her public statement rejecting students’ call for fossil-fuel divestment, she revealed, not outright denial of climate science, but a failure to acknowledge what the situation requires. Here’s DeChristopher:
[Faust] touts all the great research on climate change that is done at Harvard, but she ignores the fact that the fossil fuel industry actively works to suppress or distort every one of those efforts. To seriously suggest that any research will solve the climate crisis while we continue to allow the fossil fuel industry to maintain a stranglehold on our democracy is profoundly naive. Faust never admits whether or not she agrees with the basic science of the carbon budget, which is the foundation of the understanding that the current reserves of the fossil fuel industry cannot be burned without condemning us to an unlivable future. If she accepts the science, she should explain how her plan of cooperation will convince the industry to leave those assets in the ground.
But here’s the truly scary thing: Drew Faust is utterly conventional in her failure to connect climate science with our political and economic realities. And I’m not talking about conservatives here. Remarkably, you see it across a broad swath of the center-left and left, from mainstream to radical, where climate is too often completely absent from any analysis—whether it’s Peter Beinart, to take just one example, in one of the year’s most talked-about pieces, arguing that millennials are giving rise to a “new new left,” while leaving out of his generational analysis the existential threat looming over today’s young people; or whether it’s Jacobin founding editor Bhaskar Sunkara, whose recent “Letter to The Nation From a Young Radical” described a “Next Left” that’s apparently oblivious to climate science. (To be fair, Jacobin has published some searching essays on climate and left politics by Alyssa Battistoni, with another forthcoming in January.)