The hullabaloo over “alternative facts” reveals how the public’s sense of reality can be deformed by phony news on Facebook or streamed directly from the White House — fact-free, without editors — to gullible Twitter followers unable to tell truth from fiction.
“Alternative fact” is nothing new, however, in the world of global warming denial. Exxon, for instance, funded global warming denial for almost 40 years even after its scientists concluded that global warming was real. Thus the history of global warming denial illustrates what happens when misinformation and propaganda overwhelm objective facts.
The outlook is not exactly reassuring.
Man-made global warming is probably the most thoroughly studied geophysical phenomenon in the history of science, yet, despite scientific near-certainty that global warming is man-made, real and really dangerous, roughly half of Americans think scientists are unsure. About that many don’t consider it particularly serious.
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Thus, American climate policy is now directed by an ex-Exxon executive, an EPA director who hates the EPA and a propagandist-in-chief who once called global warming “a Chinese hoax” and says he wants to suspend NASA’s Earth monitoring mission — at the very moment when data suggest global climate disruption threatens the human future.
It’s no exaggeration to conclude that history suggests apocalyptic outcomes for a world where “alternative fact” is king.
Only courageous editors, reporters and citizen activists stand between us and catastrophe. Where are you? Stand up. Make yourself known. The hour is late and the water rises. Stand up!