Steve Chapman

That is known as living in a fool's paradise. The consensus among experts, in fact, happens to be virtually unanimous on the other side. A survey of climate scientists who have published research in the field found that 97 to 98 percent believe people are causing the planet to heat up.

Every major scientific group concurs. The National Academy of Sciences published a report last year reaching a firm conclusion: "Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for -- and in many cases is already affecting -- a broad range of human and natural systems."

Groups such as the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science agree. So does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of scientists from around the world. At this point, disagreeing is like saying Willie Mays has no business in the Hall of Fame.

There are, of course, some scientists who express doubts about global warming. But what would environmental skeptics say if 97 percent of scientists solemnly announced that climate change is a massive pile of horsefeathers?

We don't have to ask, because we know from the past scares. In those instances, a solid scientific consensus was enough to settle the issue in their minds. This time, however, those who once urged opponents to defer to the experts are doing exactly the opposite.

They arrive at their position by reasoning backward: They reach a conclusion and snatch at any shred of evidence that justifies it. The climate change deniers don't like the idea of governments restricting greenhouse gas emissions, so they insist that these emissions are nothing to worry about, that scientists are corrupt and that it's all part of a socialist power grab.

They used to uphold respect for science. Now they prefer magical thinking.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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