Why publish denialism?

On page seven, readers will find our columnist Brendan Trainor has written a number of things about climate change that we believe are inaccurate. Why did we print them? Dozens of newspapers across this country have stopped running most letters that claim climate change is a hoax. The evidence is otherwise. We let those letters run, so far, as long as they are civil.

We believe science and evidence tells us that (1) the climate is changing, (2) much of it is not natural but is caused by human activity, and (3) there are irresponsible corporate polluters who want to go on despoiling the earth for commerce and so they fund rent-a-scientists and contrarians to try to discredit science.

Brendan wrote, “Most damning of all, there has been no measurable increase in global temperatures for over 15 years.”

He’s cherry picking the evidence. There are occasional events called El Nino that appear in our weather—unforeseen anomalies. There was one in 1997-98, causing a sharp, sky-high rise in temperatures. In subsequent years, temperatures fell back to the trend line they were on before the El Nino. But because that spike was so hot, temperatures have not yet risen above it—though temperatures have continued to rise. The trend line is otherwise right on course. There have been anomalies like this before, and they acted the same way—and the temperature kept rising.

Elsewhere, Brendan writes, “Many scientists found the alarmist computer models lacked accurate data about clouds and water vapor contributions.” Some scientists did. Many, many more did not. Should we run corrections? Perhaps. Discover Magazine has a feature which ceaselessly calls out journalists who misrepresent genetically modified foods as hazardous.

If we stop running letters and columns challenging climate change, there would be equal or more compelling reasons to stop running challenges to vaccinations, GMOs, and evolution. Climate change damage lies ahead. Damage from lack of vaccinations is now. Famine is now.

As long as our government’s policy is to fight climate change, we are OK with a vigorous public debate. Most people still believe the science. Mendacious efforts to discredit the science may be slowing action but they haven’t stopped it. Federal agencies from agriculture to transportation are combating climate change.

We want to hear denialist Commander-in-Chief Trump order the Joint Chiefs of Staff to shut down the Pentagon’s climate change planning, to stop securing coastal bases and ports, to stop tracking refugee flows in the South Pacific or Middle East, to stop warning the nation of the approaching dangers—to stop, in other words, defending the United States of America from a looming and certain threat. Oh, to be a fly on that wall.

The troublemakers can do their worst, but the United States and other governments follow the science. They follow the lead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, not ExxonMobil. Columnists and letter writers keep writing denialism, and their governments keep ignoring it, instead fighting the very real risks the denialists belittle. Republican Congresses have come and gone, and the science keeps piling up on one side. The fakelore is transient; the threat is inexorable.