Rupert Murdoch's media outlets will seemingly buy all climate denial arguments at the same time. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
I've previously written about the five stages of climate denial. Climate contrarians were exhibiting all five stages leading up to the release of the latest IPCC report in ideologically biased media outlets like Rupert Murdoch's The Australian.
"There are various states of climate denial, with some states contradicting others. For example, some believe global warming is not happening. Others believe global warming is happening but is not caused by humans. Others believe humans are causing global warming but that the impacts won't be bad.
Now, it's perfectly understandable for a community of people to hold mutually inconsistent beliefs. But can one person hold three inconsistent beliefs at the same time? Can a person argue that global warming is not happening, then smoothly transition to arguing that global warming is happening but is caused by something else?
They can, and they do ... It can be explained by the "quantum theory of climate denial." This theory holds that climate deniers exist in a fuzzy quantum state of denial, simultaneously rejecting many or all aspects of climate science."
The Quantum Theory of Climate Denial. Created by John Cook
Psychologically this can be easily explained, because climate denial is based not on science, but rather on ideology. This denial is caused by a desire to maintain the status quo and/or an opposition to the policies needed to solve the climate problem. Pseudoscientific arguments are only needed as a means to justify those ideological positions.
If the problem doesn't exist, or if it's not our fault, or if it's nothing to worry about, then we can maintain the status quo. Any of these arguments will suffice to justify opposition to climate solutions, so even though they're contradictory, those who deny climate realities for ideological reasons can deploy any of these positions at any time.
The editorial was full of misleading, unsubstantiated arguments. In essence, 'renewable energy is too expensive and receives too many subsidies, whereas fossil fuels are great for the poor because they're cheap.' Just look at China, suggests Lomborg – if you can see it through the smog-filled air that's causing 1.2 million premature deaths per year.
The editorial also complained that Australia's carbon tax has caused energy prices to rise, making it difficult for low-income households to pay their energy bills. The solution to that problem is a simple one – make the tax revenue neutral. While energy prices will still rise in that scenario, the costs to households will be offset when the resulting revenue is returned to the taxpayers.
The quantum theory of climate denial extends far beyond Australia of course. Media outlets, politicians, and others in the US and UK can also often be found to inhabit multiple seemingly contradictory climate positions at the same time. However, given that an ideological opposition to climate solutions seems to be the basis for this denial, it would be nice if we could all move beyond arguing about well-established science and instead debate about climate policies. After all, if we're all honest with ourselves,the climate 'debate' isn't about science at all.