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1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]

Out of Left Field | Commentary by Charlie Vignola
| Monday, Feb 11, 2013

charlievignolaI have too many friends from across the political spectrum to believe that anyone or any party has a monopoly on wisdom or intelligence, and yet I’m frequently surprised by some of the things that my friends believe.

The other day, a very nice and bright young lady where I work let slip the fact that she’s skeptical of global warming. Now, you don’t hear much about global warming in the media anymore, but that’s not because the problem has magically gone away. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012 was the hottest year in more than a century of record-keeping, shattering the mark set in 1998 by a wide margin.

The weather has been getting crazier and crazier everywhere you look. Last year it culminated in New York City looking like a scene out of “The Day After Tomorrow,” courtesy of Hurricane Sandy – an event some Republicans credit with helping get President Obama re-elected.

If you believe in such things, you’d also have to take into account the fact that a well-timed hurricane also forced the Republicans to cancel one whole day from their national convention. If the Almighty gets a vote, between the convention hurricane and the election hurricane, it seems pretty clear whom He was rooting for.

Anyway, this bright young lady from work didn’t seem ready to credit global warming for the increasingly bizarre weather, even though this is pretty much exactly the kind of thing climate scientists have been warning us would happen as climate change worsened. No, she repeated the talking point she’d heard: that the climate has been changing for millions of years, so this was nothing to be concerned about.

I countered that while yes, the climate has changed for millions of years, scientists stress that the type of dramatic change we’re seeing now is unprecedented and syncs up quite clearly with human activity. Worldwide industrial pollution isn’t a neutral phenomenon; it increases greenhouse gasses, which accelerate the warming cycle, which is what causes global warming.

How do we know this? Because people who study this for a living, people who know more about this than anyone else on the planet, people who have all of the evidence to verify this, say this is the case.

By and large, the vast majority of people who are still skeptical about global warming aren’t exactly the most scientifically fluent. They’re generally people who get their ideas about global warming from sources hostile to the concept of global warming: mostly conservative news sources and pseudo-science websites.

Be honest with yourself. If you doubt global warming exists, do you feel this way because you’ve actually read a number of academic research papers and books about global warming, attended global warming conferences around the world, and conversed with the top scientists presently studying climate change? Or do you doubt it primarily because that’s what you’ve heard on conservative talk radio and news?

The mainstream media, in their desire to seem fair and balanced, appear to give both sides of the global warming argument equal weight. But this is a key example of “false equivalence” – giving equal representation to two sides of an argument when in fact they are not equal at all.

For example, if you think scientists are equally divided on this issue, you’re gravely mistaken. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S., 97 percent of climate scientists most actively publishing in the field acknowledge the reality of man-made global warming.

Think about it this way: If you had severe chest pains and 97 percent of the cardiologists you went to said you needed open heart surgery to save your life, but 3 percent said you were perfectly fine, would you get the surgery or not?

It’s funny how lay people know better than to challenge astrophysicists about the mechanics of black holes and the expanding universe, or virologists about the evolution and treatment of AIDS, but feel perfectly comfortable in loudly rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change even though they know as little about its underlying principles as they do about quantum physics or virology.

At the end of the day, there are only two possible scenarios. The first scenario is that there’s an active, worldwide conspiracy among tens of thousands of climate scientists to falsify mountains of data about global warming in the hope they’ll be able to generate more research grant money for themselves, even if it comes at the price of sacrificing all of their professional reputations if the ruse is ever discovered.

In this scenario, the wild weather we’ve been experiencing year after year, which just happens to be precisely what these scientists have been warning would happen, is merely a happy coincidence that reinforces their false story.

The second scenario is that the transnational corporations that stand to gain the most from sowing doubt about climate change, namely the energy companies that are the most profitable businesses on the planet, are purposely muddying the waters by financing their own “studies” critical of the scientific consensus and gaming public opinion through their vast and well-funded network of conservative think tanks and right-wing mass media.

In this case, while these corporations can’t deny the wild weather or accelerated melting of the polar ice caps, they insist that something other than man-made global warming is responsible, even though no other scientific theory they offer can adequately explain it all.

It’s up to you to decide which scenario seems more plausible. But if you inherently trust polluting energy companies to tell you the truth about the dangers they pose to the environment and are reflexively skeptical of climate scientists whose job is to study objective data, you might want to rethink why you feel this way and whether the sources you’re relying on for information are serving your best interests.


Charlie Vignola describes himself as a former College Republican turned liberal Democrat.  A resident of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1999, he works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.




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1 Comment

  1. Barnabus Collins says:

    Global Warming. Big problem for its advocates.


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