Climate Of Doubt And Social Change Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Development, Climate, Environmental Issues, Climate Change, Science, People, Debate, Doubt

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/06

The PBS Frontline documentary Climate of Doubt explores the American climate change debate, as framed through the media and the staunch opponents to climate change science. According to the documentary, despite the fact that 97% of scientists hold a consensus that the Earth is getting warmer through the actions of mankind, the climate change debate remains suspiciously balanced. This is due to moneyed interests using grassroots support and conservative backlash against climate scientists, skewing the narrative to make people believe that the climate change debate is not finished yet, or that climate change is not a bad thing, or that climate change legislation is simply anti-American and anti-job. Groups such as Americans for Prosperity argue that the climate change debate is not nearly finished, and that groups of scientists are furthering “climate change alarmism” in order to force legislation to increase taxes and place more pressure on businesses. The issue has become so politicized that even Republicans who are staunch conservatives, but believe in global warming, can be removed from power despite being a six-time incumbent.
One of the most significant things I learned from this documentary is how difficult it is to convince people of facts despite scientific consensus through substantial money from the opposition, firmly entrenched economic interests, and sheer emotionality. As previously mentioned, the issue of climate change has moved beyond discussions of environmentalism and social impact onto identity politics, in which camps of people take an us-versus-them standpoint (Democrats vs. Republicans, liberals vs. conservatives), and oust anyone who disagrees with their agenda. Rather than looking at the facts, people will reject outright what they are being told if it comes from a source that is on the opposite end of the political spectrum. In fact, many people will support their beliefs even further if they feel they are a persecuted minority, as in the documentary – Myron Ebell from the Competitive Enterprise Institute describes climate change skepticism as a “David and Goliath story,” when in fact it is simply an issue of stubbornly refusing to change their minds on something that has been established as fact. These kinds of media and psychological forces can make it hard to facilitate social change toward limiting climate change, as the issue is misinterpreted as a debate, rather than the very real issue of our changing environment.
These kinds of findings have significant effects on the world and social change; if it is this difficult for scientific facts to gain acceptance by the American public, it will be very hard to facilitate the kind of change that needs to be made to fix these problems. The climate change debate seems clear-cut when you rely on the word of scientists, but even a 97% consensus is not enough for many people, and in the documentary this is blamed on the scientists not making the issue compelling enough for people to believe in them. This shows the need to use the media to ‘spice up’ the story in order to make it more entertaining or agreeable for an audience, since they need to be sufficiently convinced to give up their long-standing beliefs to believe in science. This documentary proves that, when someone’s beliefs are strong enough, even cold hard science cannot shake them. (It also does not hurt that the few people who agree with them have substantial amounts of money, would benefit from spreading doubt about climate change, and need people to believe in them to keep themselves in business.) Many aspects of Climate of Doubt can be applied to what we have learned in class about social change. The biggest takeaway is the effect of mass media on the opinions of individuals; despite what the Supreme Court said about media being “a marketplace of ideas” where Americans can rationally take or leave what they believe, it seems as though many Americans allow themselves to be duped by media into rejecting what scientists say about global warming, for example, by citing it as being bad for business, or saying the debate isn’t finished yet. The media will, far too often, give equal balance to the anti-global warming debate despite its scientific consensus, giving the illusion that it has equal validity when it does not.
This documentary also supports the notion based on media theory and ‘agenda setting’ that we learned in class, as people hear what they want to hear. This is especially true in Climate of Doubt, as it seems as though the primary reason people believe the debate on climate change is not over is because to be proven wrong would be inconvenient for them. As a result, people are more willing to lend credence to stories and sources that say climate change is not manmade, as they do not want to have to be proven wrong or be forced to change their lifestyle to lessen their environmental impact. The arguments against climate change are flimsy and borne of desperate doubt against cold, hard science, attempting to reframe the argument as being unfinished or slandering scientists in order to cast doubt on what they are saying. Most of the audience that doubts the reality of climate change just do not want to hear that they have to change their way of life, or simply do not believe that climate change is manmade, or that it is a bad thing. This supports the heavily entrenched nature of public belief, in which the less realistic solution may be the preferred one if it suits your own lifestyle.
Climate of Doubt demonstrates that there is a social change occurring, but it is not a positive one, tying into our class discussions on social movements. The resistance to climate change “alarmism” is shown to take the form of resistance movement, in which ‘regular folks’ (most climate change deniers shown are old, white American males with Southern accents) seek to block change from taking place as they are happy with the status quo. Many anti-climate change groups do not even discuss the science, but simply mention that they are against the climate change policies that would force businesses to be held accountable for their environmental damage, such as cap-and-trade. To that end, whether the science supports what is being said is irrelevant; many Americans are shown to distrust scientists and are thought to be skewing facts to support an agenda. In this way, America is slowly moving more towards the eponymous “climate of doubt,” in which intellectualism and science is dismissed in favor of idle speculation about whether or not the climate change debate is finished, or how it would affect businesses and taxes.

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Climate Of Doubt And Social Change Essay Examples. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 06, 2020. Accessed May 25, 2022.

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