My local part of the globe is experiencing what the television weather people are cheerfully calling a "cold snap." The temperature is stuck in single digits, Fahrenheit. That's not unheard of for this part of the country, but it's also very cold in places that normally don't get so cold. I understand this is being caused by arctic oscillation and the polar vortex and is likely connected to global warming.
Here in the U.S. we've lacked the political will to come to terms with global warming. Many have been persuaded that global warming is a myth. Or, if it is happening, it's just part of normal planetary temperature fluctuation and is not man made. Yes, there are corporate and political forces spreading this denialism, but that will have to be the subject of someone else's blog.
Science and Buddhism both discourage practitioners from clinging to dogma. It's more skillful to stay open to new understandings. It's hard to fathom how people can so stubbornly cling to views that contradict 97 percent of scientific studies, but let's consider why they do.
Austin Cline, About.com guide to Agnosticism/Atheism, argues that climate change denial is linked to authoritarianism. Basically, parts of our political spectrum place a high value on ideological loyalty and conformity. And authoritarianism does not handle change well. (I would add, it particularly does not handle change well when authority figures have a vested interest in things not changing.) I won't repeat Austin's entire argument here, but I think it is valid.
From a Buddhist perspective, I'd say that there's a lot of existential angst supporting the authoritarianism.
Buddhism teaches that the world we live in is a creation of our own projections, made up of beliefs and assumptions that often are anchored in our subconscious. Anything that challenges our projected reality can feel like a mortal threat. The stronger the challenge, the more some of us will retreat into denial and irrationality.
Loyalty to authority is one strategy for keeping the loudly growling snow-tossing monsters (see the last post) that challenge us at bay. As long as there is some authority -- any authority--- telling us that our projected reality is the true one and the challengers are crazy, that's all some of us need to hear. No amount of data or scientific explanations will make a dent in authority-validated beliefs.
Unfortunately, I fear this means the climate will have to get a whole lot worse before we can begin to make it better.