EDITORIAL: There Are Not Two Sides to Every Argument
The views expressed herein represent the views of a majority of the members of the Caravel’s Editorial Board and are not reflective of the position of any individual member, the newsroom staff, or Georgetown University.
On March 16, 2008, then-Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson appeared on FOX News to reassure the nation. “Our financial institutions are strong,” he told Chris Wallace. On September 15 of that year, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, throwing 25,000 employees out on the street. On September 29, the New York Stock Exchange lost $1.2 trillion in value in a single day. Paulson was wrong, and people lost their jobs, life savings, and sense of financial security because of it.
Eleven years later, the CO2 Coalition’s Dr. Patrick Michaels told a room full of Georgetown students that “perhaps [a world after climate change] won’t be such a bad world after all.” He is just as wrong as Paulson was a decade ago. But, the consequences of his blindness will be even more catastrophic. There is a grey area in economic forecasting that simply does not exist in the dishonest attempt to debate settled science.
Climate change threatens not only livelihoods—but also lives. It is both more global and more fundamental than instability in our financial system. It is instability in the foundation of our entire society. Those that deny its truth will soon be exposed: they are as morally bankrupt as Lehman Brothers was in 2008.
Georgetown University College Republicans (GUCR) hosted Michaels and several other climate change deniers for Climate Forum: A Rebuttal on September 19. The speakers included the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow’s Marc Morano and Paul Driessen, the CO2 Coalition’s Dr. Caleb Rossiter and Dr. Patrick Michaels, and the Institute for Energy Research’s Kenny Stein.
Climate change denialism is dangerous because there is no time. Climate change is causing rising sea levels, destruction of marine ecosystems, and more extreme weather events, including wildfires, hurricanes, and precipitation. Conditions will continue to worsen in the future.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—a United Nations climate change forum—predicts drastic effects for all regions of the world. In Asia, coastal areas are at risk from increased flooding. In North America, heat waves are expected to increase in duration and intensity. In Africa, rain-dependent agriculture is predicted to decrease by up to 50 percent in certain areas by 2020. The science is solid, and it does not support Stein’s self-serving contention that “this is a political question, not a science question.”
The speakers at the GUCR event tried to cast doubt on solid science with dishonest arguments. GUCR Vice President Rowan Saydlowski introduced the event with a disclaimer that the student group did not necessarily endorse the views presented by the speakers and claimed GUCR was merely making space for alternative viewpoints on climate change.
Climate change is a matter of fact and science, not of debate or opinion. GUCR’s event created a false equivalence between scientists that have undergone rigorous peer review and skeptics that lack a factual and scientific foundation for their opinions. Scientists base climate change facts on the scientific method, in which a pattern of similar results in recreated experiments confirms a hypothesis.
Countless scientists and scientific experiments over thousands of repetitions have confirmed the facts of climate change. Skeptics counter science-based fact—the closest thing our society has to truth—with rumors, threats, and fear. They cast doubt using hypothetical and unprovable arguments based on fallacies and malicious use of falsehoods.
By inviting such speakers to campus, GUCR gives them a platform, legitimacy, and the space to undermine science, facts, and the truth in illegitimate ways. The only way to debate science and facts is with additional science and facts. Skeptics claim to do this, when in reality their main tactic is to undermine science instead of legitimately countering it. A series of sound experiments that contradicted the prevailing science would be a welcome force pushing forward the scientific debate. But, a scattershot collection of debunked studies and concerns is not sound science and is not an intellectually honest argument.
Climate change deniers do not perform their own repeated experiments to nullify hypotheses. They use opinions and emotions to undermine science as best they can subjectively, hoping individuals will ignore the objective value of science as fact. This mentality, serving to undermine the truth, advances dangerous narratives that many without the time, energy, or resources to reject them will be tricked into adopting themselves.
GUCR certainly has a right to invite such speakers, but doing so was irresponsible and damaging. GUCR could have hosted a productive counter-event about climate change. They could have and should have invited conservative and Republican voices to discuss their opinions on tackling the challenges climate change presents.
Such an event not only would have provided alternative viewpoints that actually engaged with the policies debated at the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Policy’s Climate Forum, but would also have engaged with the science in a meaningful way.
GUCR could have hosted an event that questioned the feasibility of Democratic candidates’ climate change policies and offered alternatives grounded in a conservative vision for the country and the world. Instead, they opted to immaturely and irresponsibly undermine the science-based reality of our world. As a result, there was more than one clown in the room on September 19.
Have a different opinion? Write a letter to the editor and submit it via this form to be considered for publication on our website!