Editor's Letter

10/01/2013 | By Chris Olson

Why the Vitriol in the Climate Change Debate?

An indignant or incensed letter from a reader is a rare occurrence for the editorial staff at BUILDINGS. Most letters and comments we receive are requests for amplification or information. I can think of only one topic that is likely to provoke an angry response – climate change.

Last month we published an article in The Energy Manager e-newsletter entitled “Climate Change Kills Coal, Vaunts Solar Power.” Although the primary focus of the article is on the changing economics of solar vs. coal, it’s also clear that its author, Eric Woodroof, believes that global warming is taking place and that it is at least in part a man-made trend. His statement that “Every national academy of science in the world endorses that climate change is real and man-made” elicited this response from a reader:

Translation: liberal fanatics, intolerant of any fact-based opposing viewpoint, have successfully taken over the major academies of “science” and politicized their respective organizations, and have ensured that all real scientists are fired, de-funded, silenced, or censored. New students are brainwashed with the momentum of the moment, inculcated with the “values” of this new movement, and educated as true believers by flunking any student who fails to “get with” the Climate Change bandwagon.

Another reader responded to the same article with “This climate change crap makes me sick and the only thing that is man-made is the ‘crisis’ that has been fabricated.”

I’ve received missives with similar emotions on renewable energy and other topics related to climate change. By the way, I know there are equally angry words coming from the camp that believes climate change is a threat, but I do not recall receiving any vitriolic examples at BUILDINGS, for whatever the reasons.

But my interest here is not in determining which side is angrier or more ideological, only wondering why this issue has become so polarizing and politicized. It often resembles shouting by fans of rival in-state college football teams more than a scientific debate that should rely on data for evidence. It neglects a middle ground where I suspect many strident deniers and believers in climate change could agree: that energy efficiency saves money, makes businesses more competitive, and reduces pollutants. And without a middle ground, progress is postponed.

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