Climate change denial, I discovered at the Hay festival, shares the same characteristics as religion.
Reposted from: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/george_monbiot/2007/05/a_few_hours_before_i.html
think I might have cracked it. Ever since I started giving lectures on man-made climate change, I've been troubled by the question of how to answer people who don't and won't believe it is happening.
You can tell them that almost all climate scientists believe it is taking place. But climate scientists are part of the conspiracy. You can explain that almost all peer-reviewed scientific papers on the subject accept it. But how does that help if they believe the Daily Mail is the font of all wisdom? You can point out that the effort to dissuade people that climate change is real has been sponsored by fossil fuel companies. In response - and in marvellous contradiction of their professed suspicion of scientists - they then point to the handful of climatologists who have not been sponsored by the oil industry who say that it isn't happening. You can argue that they are cherry-picking their experts and their data, but unless they have an understanding of the scientific process, they don't see what's wrong with that.
At my talk last night, a man in the audience informed me that a belief in climate change is a religion, and that I am its Billy Graham. He pointed out that temperatures on Mars have risen: could that be because of all the people driving their SUVs there? Well full marks for originality: I haven't heard that one more than 100 times since the Martian data was published. But instead of trying to argue with him, this time I asked a question: what would it take to convince you that manmade climate change is taking place?
"Nothing", he said. "The climate has always changed. This is just another natural cycle."
"So even if every scientist of every kind and every persuasion agreed that manmade climate change is happening, you would still place your own opinion above theirs?"
This, I suspect, must now be the position of most of those who still deny that man-made climate change is happening: that there is nothing - no evidence, however compelling, no scientific consensus, however robust - that could persuade them of the opposite case. Could there be a better definition of religion?