Nobody likes being lied to. J. Oliver Buswell Jr., president of Wheaton College during the 1930s, told me once that nothing is more debilitating to a college campus’s sense of community and well-being than the discovery that key people can’t be trusted to tell the truth.
That’s what’s been happening, in spades, to American society at large over the last few years. On three key policy issues—the marketing of the Affordable Care Act, the explanations of what happened to the embassy at Benghazi, and the selective IRS attacks on conservative organizations—Americans have in the last couple of years witnessed as deliberate a record of falsification as is possible to imagine.
The result is that when we hear a new round of supposedly high-level reports about so-called “climate change,” we really don’t know what to believe. The wariness that has conditioned us doesn’t merely affect our acceptance of scary scenarios about the future. The skepticism doesn’t just make us cautious about other things the Obama people tell us. The uncertainty isn’t even limited to government at large. We have instead more and more become cynics on every front, and in all segments of our society. We simply don’t trust each other any more.
That’s a pretty frightful price to pay. But it’s a line item entry you’re simply obligated to include as you construct a profit-and-loss statement for the Obama administration.
All that comes to mind as you pick up the massive 840-page “National Climate Assessment” released by the White House early this month. The report is billed as a thoughtful update on the overall threat of a polluted atmosphere to our planet and to the human race. Instead, the report is a lopsidedly constructed piece of leftist propaganda. It starts with bias, moves on through long passages of misleading data collection, and ends with flat-out lies.
It’s that inclusion of deliberate lies that especially deserves our focus here. We can all agree on the certainty that different folks might well, in all kinds of debates, interpret the same data in different ways. That simply promotes good discussion. But a deliberately false report is poisonous to such a conversation.
It was a deliberately false report that triggered USA Today, the PBS Newshour, and countless other media to report as fact that recent “extreme” weather was the result of “climate change” patterns. Appealing to typically human tendencies to panic at such news, the report picked up on weather events that were fresh in readers’ and listeners’ minds, but for which no causal relationship was either reported or confirmed by scientific evidence.
It is a deliberately false report, and misleadingly alarmist, to claim that 12 major airports are newly susceptible to runway flooding as sea levels rise at “projected” rates. It’s not a particularly new problem. Some of those airports—all placed near big rivers, bays, and other waterways to take advantage of flat land—have for years been equipped with pumping systems to deal with such flooding.
It is a deliberately false report to claim that poor and poverty-stricken people around the world will be hardest hit by the effects of climate change. To the contrary, most of the mitigating responses proposed by climate change advocates would dramatically increase the cost of energy, hitting hardest those who can least afford it.
It is a deliberately false report to claim, as this report does, that the “debate is over” with respect to the effects of climate change. Instead, as columnist George Will warns, “When a politician says, concerning an issue involving science, that the debate is over, you may be sure the debate is rolling on and not going swimmingly for his side.”
This could be a good discussion—one that our whole nation deserves to be engaged in. It would be far more honest, and more persuasive to us doubters, if efforts like this were to include both majority and minority reports. It’s insulting to suggest (although way too common these days) that we can’t let folks expose themselves to both sides and then figure things out for themselves.
But the record makes it clear that it isn’t the doubters who have spoiled the chance for a productive conversation. It is those, instead, who have poisoned the landscape with a toxic but all too demonstrable habit of deliberate falsehood.