July 21, 2017
Less than a month after the 2016 presidential election, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus stated that climate change denialism would be the “default position” of the Trump administration (Meyjes 2016). In March 2017, Scott Pruit, President Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, expressed his belief—contrary to the estabilished scientific consensus—that carbon dioxide was not one of the primary contributors of climate change (Davenport 2107). Given this existence of climate denialism at the highest reaches of U.S. government, one might believe that, now more than ever, it is tremendously important to convince those who deny the reality of climate science of the well-established facts. Surely, with truth on our side, we must trumpet the evidence, making deniers our primary target and acceptance of the truth of climate change our primary goal.
The time has come, however, to revisit this line of reasoning. We’ve spent too much time and energy trying to convince climate deniers of the obvious facts, and false optimism has been too friendly to our entrenched inaction. Arguing the science against the deep-rooted climate denial of a small but influential portion of American society has failed to achieve even modest climate action. The election of Donald Trump is, sadly, almost assuredly going to make the task more difficult, given his appointments of prominent climate deniers and fossil fuel advocates to every climate-relevant cabinet position (Sidahmed 2016). If successful climate action depended on convincing the radical deniers, we would justifiably despair at the task before us.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.