Jonathan Chait brought my attention to some exciting news, Snowball-Chucking, Science-Hating Senator May Crash Paris Climate Talks. Yes, it’s our old friend James Inhofe — back in the news to bring the Truth™ to the people of the world. That Truth™ is, of course, that global warming is a hoax and that he can prove it because it snows in the winter. Inhofe is thinking of going the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, “I’ll repeat what I’ve done several times before, which is to go over and be the bad guy, the one-man truth squad, and tell the truth, that they’re going to be lied to by the Obama administration.”
This is sounding kind of hollow now. After all, it isn’t just Obama who takes global warming seriously. The governments of India and China and pretty much every other place on Earth take it seriously. Inhofe probably acts as a kind of argument for doing something about climate change. It’s the same as crazy people marching the streets shouting, “The end is nigh!” They always make me feel that everything is okay. If they weren’t so obviously crazy, I might be worried. Of course, the people of the world might start worrying about America in a general sense, but I can’t say that is unreasonable.
Such a stunt sounds so much like what a bunch of born again Christians would do. He’s certain he knows the truth. There is literally no way he will ever be convinced. I have to admit, that I’ve been somewhat deluded these past few years. I’ve thought that in ten or twenty years, all these global warming deniers would be unable to resist the plain facts. But that isn’t true. James Inhofe will never accept that global warming is happening, just as George Will won’t. It really doesn’t matter how long they live or what they see.
I talk a lot around here about how reasoning doesn’t work the way that we think it does. In general, people decide on something and then use their mighty brains to rationalize why they are right. But it does seem that not all people are alike in this regard. Some people are more open to new information than others. In particular, there are ways to turn off reflection. Fideism is a good way to do this. And it really doesn’t matter if it is through a dogmatic religion or an ossified ideology. In this case, we are not even talking about conservatism or “free market” absolutism. In Inhofe’s case, it is just a rejection of anything that he sees as liberal.
So imagine twenty years from now and global warming mitigation is costing the world trillions of dollars ever year. Inhofe is already 80 years old. He’ll be dead. George Will is 74, so he’ll probably be dead. But there will be a lot of living global warming deniers from today. And they’ll have a reason that they were right all along. There’s always a reason. If you are determined to believe something, you will find a way. But it doesn’t matter, because the damage will have been done. What’s more, even if all the Inhofes and Wills beg for forgiveness, they will still be out there denying any new threat to our safety and preaching their convenient Truth™.