'Newsweek' Rightly Identifies Global Warming Deniers as 'Denial Machine'


"Newsweek" exposed this week the axis of corporations and conservative organizations that oppose the scientific evidence that human actions are causing global warming as the "denial machine."

The magazine's insightful overview of chronology, participants and arguments missed only one thing—the role of religion as fuel in the campaign of doubt and deception.

Newsweek magazine's cover story used the term "denial machine" some 10 times. For example, reporter Sharon Begley wrote (italics added):

  • "[T]he denial machine is running at full throttle—and continuing to shape both government policy and public opinion."
  • "A new NEWSWEEK Poll finds that the influence of the denial machine remains strong."
  • "With the Inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001, the denial machine expected to have friends in the White House."
  • "Killing bills in Congress was only one prong of the denial machine's campaign."
  • "Still, like a great beast that has been wounded, the denial machine is not what it once was."

Begley wrote: "Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless."

Unlike Europeans and Japanese, who recognize the scientific consensus about global warming, some two-thirds of Americans think that the scientific community has much disagreement about the changing climate, according to a 2006 poll, indicating the power of the denial machine.

Corporations, like ExxonMobile, and lobbying groups, like Global Climate Coalition, Information Council on the Environment and American Petroleum Institute, were listed as entities in the campaign of disinformation.

The Southern Baptist Convention and other Christian Right groups were missing from the list, however. Yet they deserve as much shameful identification as Rush Limbaugh and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who were named in the article as being part of the community of denial.

Fundamentalist leaders have surely played a destructive role in providing a flawed theological perspective to justify moral inaction and juicing up people of faith to reject the science of global warming.

EthicsDaily.com has repeatedly identified those who reject climate change with the same kind of language as Newsweek. We have used the phrase "global warming deniers."

An early January editorial said: "Yet a larger number of Southern Baptists, conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists still deny the evidence that demands a moral verdict. They prefer to believe science-fiction writers than the National Academy of Sciences. Moderate Baptists, too, have their own global warming deniers."

The phrase was repeated in a February editorial and again in a March editorial.

Climate change is too serious to leave unchallenged those in church conversations and public discussions who dismiss global warming as bad science or faulty theology. Silence is too often interpreted as agreement or acceptance. Silence in the square filled with no-nothing extremists or the uniformed rarely advances the common good.

At every point, thoughtful and responsible Christians need to speak up about our moral responsibility to address climate change. Refuting directly the global warming deniers will throw the sand of discourse into the gears of the denial machine.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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Tags: Environment, Global Warming, Robert Parham, TheGreenBible.org


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