I was right then, and I am right now

I was right then, and I am right now.

I couple of decades ago, an acquaintance asked me what I thought about those scientists who had begun making alarming claims about climate change.  I replied that I do not have special expertise in science, so it would be wiser of me to reserve judgment. That identified me as a cautious delayer.

The acquaintance, and some other friends, dismissed the warnings.  This group of scientists were alarmists, and the problem was not real.  That identified these people as proud sceptics.  The gullible public might jump to agree with the alarmists, but the sceptics felt proud of knowing better.

Other friends quickly agreed with the  scientists: Global warming was real, and needed immediate action.  That identified them as proud early adopters.

Now, a few decades have passed since that conversation, and the predictions of those scientists have borne out. The scientists predicted higher temperatures worldwide, ocean acidification, shrinking glaciers, stronger hurricanes, droughts, floods, forest fires – all have occurred, making the predictions robust science.

Early adopters feel vindicated.

What have we heard from proud sceptics?

It would make sense for them to say, “It turned out that we were wrong.  The scientists who issued warnings were right.”

They could even say, “We were right then. There was not enough evidence in the early days. The alarmist scientists who warned us made a lucky guess on insufficient evidence, but the guess was lucky.  Now we have evidence for the dangers of global warming, so now we are right to join with them and advocate action to deal with climate change.”

They could even keep quiet.

Some, however, continue to cavil at the idea of climate change.  They find little discrepancies to pick at. They maintain, somehow, that year after year of higher global temperatures does not vindicate the early predictions of climate change.  Or maybe they say, climate change really happens, but it represents only the usual fluctuations.  Human activity has nothing to do with the case.  Somehow, these scientifically-sophisticated folks still find a way to debunk human caused global warming.

Why?

It made sense to feel skeptical about this idea on first hearing.  Why do people persist in expressing skepticism long after the facts have come in?

Pride? Inertia? Embarrassment?

When does persistence change from admirable courage to ridiculous vanity?

What ideas have I held onto because getting on that horse made sense to me once, and now I cannot get off?

About the Author
Louis Finkelman teaches Literature and Writing at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan. He serves as half of the rabbinic team at Congregation Or Chadash in Oak Park, Michigan.
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