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It’s not always what it appears to be

May 29, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance


I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to understand what may be the most outrageous case of cognitive dissonance in human history.  If you missed it in the news, the NOAA-operated Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reported that CO2 levels have reached 400 parts per million for the first time in more than 800,000 years.  The report went on to say that the last time CO2 was at 400 parts per million, humans didn’t even exist.

Articles I’ve read on the topic speak of how we are now certainly past the tipping point.  There are expressions being used such as “game over,” “dire situation” and “point of no return” along with predictions of the northern ice cap being completely gone in the next several years and global sea rise approaching eight feet or more in the next 25 years.

Yet, when I look at today’s online news sources, the leading stories are: Police name suspect in New Orleans’ parade shooting; 3-man crew returns safely to Earth from International Space Station; UN Security Council condemns deadly car bombing in Benghazi; Syria wants details before deciding to attend peace conference; The Shore gets ready for Prince Harry; Both Sides Condemn Convicted Pa. Abortion Doctor; Samsung Advances Toward 5G Networks.  To find any news about climate change, you would have to go to the Science News section.  And here’s where I find the cognitive dissonance.

If it really was “game over” for the way we all live our lives, if the sea really was going to rise as much as eight feet (which would destroy Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, New Orleans (again), Washington D.C., Boston, and also Amsterdam, Dubai, Alexandria, Cairo, Copenhagen, Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney and nearly every other coastal city on Earth), don’t you think it would be the leading story in the news every day, seven days a week?  If a clear and present threat to billions of people worldwide really did exist, would the news agencies continually shuttle this information all the way back to the Science section – perhaps one of the least-read sections of the news?  Wouldn’t this at least be the leading World News story?

I’ve tried to draw a comparison with the amount of news coverage given to other important issues of global significance in the past.  For example, when the Allies were fighting in Europe during WWII, practically every newspaper in the world carried the news of each day’s war events right on the front page.  Many major newspapers continued the war story to the inside pages along with related human-interest stories…day after day, month after month.  And with so much news about the war being consumed daily, people couldn’t help but believe that the war was very important – clearly, it was the most important story of the time.

Today, news agencies are giving climate change about the same level of coverage they give to the political unrest in Syria.  Is it any wonder that news about the catastrophic impact of climate change is being received by the public with skepticism?  At the same time, a recent study showed that out of nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change, only 84 of them disagreed with the vastly supported conclusion of the scientific community.  Hardly any scientific conclusion…ever…has been supported by such a consensus among experts.

I believe we all must feel some sense of this dissonance.

If people are ever going to unite behind the effort it will take to reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – and any solution is going to require massive global cooperation – it will only come after a purposeful and prolonged campaign by the mainstream media to inform the world.  Until this happens, and as long as a few climate skeptics along the fringe continue to be given the headlines for their self-aggrandizement, we will continue to make little progress.

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