The worrisome rise of neoskepticism

Hallie Golden writes: An increasing number of Americans now acknowledge that climate change exists and is exacerbated by humans. But, even as the uproar from climate deniers diminishes into a whisper, a fresh and potentially detrimental ideology is taking hold: neoskepticism.

Neoskeptics aren’t deniers. They recognize the prevalence and cause of climate change, but still, they advocate against large-scale efforts to stop it. Why? Some believe there’s too much uncertainty surrounding the issue. Others think stopping climate change would simply be too costly. But whatever their reasons, this increasingly popular perspective has started to worry scientists. With this summer seeing the warmest global temperatures in NASA’s records, neoskepticism could lead to “policy paralysis,” says Paul Stern, co-author of a recent report about the ideology in the journal Science. By waiting for more certainty on the threat of climate change or more evidence of its catastrophic nature, the country is “postponing decisions that need to be made,” he says.

Neoskeptics have been increasingly vocal in the public sphere over the last two years. In 2014, American climatologist Judith Curry wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the need to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions is less urgent than many assume. In the same publication, Steven Koonin, the director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, argued that we should invest in “accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures,” but not much else, since “we are very far from the knowledge needed to make good climate policy.” [Continue reading…]

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