The Paranoid Style of Climate Change Denial

This article appeared in Anthropology News.

Irma turns into a tropical depression over the Southeastern U.S. as Hurricane Jose picks up in the Atlantic on September 12, 2017. NOAA/NASA CC BY 2.0

After the unprecedented flooding in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey, Michael Mann, a leading scientific voice on climate change, detailed the ways that climate change worsened the impact of the storm. Hurricane Harvey and, soon after, Hurricanes Irma and Maria have certainly provided real life case studies of the dire consequences predicted by climate change models: As ocean temperatures increase due to global warming, hurricanes are likely to be more severe and bring more rainfall. But in the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Irma in Florida, the Trump administration has elevated climate change denial to official government policy. The administration’s position represents a fundamental shift away from science toward the embrace of what historian Richard Hofstadter termed the “Paranoid Style in American Politics.” The paranoid style breeds a form of post-truth cynicism that destroys confidence in science as a tool for guiding thoughtful responses to issues like climate change.

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