A hard-working gentleman feels a pain in his head. The pain continues to increase to the point where he goes to a doctor. A doctor highly trained in medicine.
After a few rounds of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” the doctor does some tests and concludes that this is no ordinary headache that comes and goes on a normal cycle due to short-term phenomena such as stress at work or having to visit the in-laws. This is more serious and could have longer-term ramifications for your health.
So he does more tests. Brain scans, MRIs, tomography, blood enzyme tests, etc. The sum total of all of this evidence leads him to conclude that you have a brain tumor and that action must be taken to remove it, or to at least slow its growth.
A brain tumor, you say. No way. I want a second opinion.
So you ask 100 people. Of those 100, after each doing a battery of different tests, 97 concur you have a brain tumor, it’s getting bigger, faster, and that you need to take action. One says you have a brain tumor but he thinks it is shrinking. Two say you don’t have a tumor at all, and even if you did, it’s “natural” and no action is necessary. By this point the tumor is growing out your ear, but these two somehow don’t see it. Perhaps because neither of the two is a doctor; one is a mortician who makes his money selling coffins and the other is a local political operative who runs a blog with political views similar to your own.
So you still don’t believe you have a tumor. After all, two of the 100 say you don’t have a tumor. And the other 98, the ones who are trained experts in the field in which you are querying, certainly can’t be trusted. After all, you rationalize, if we start trusting experts in their fields we are giving up our freedom to think for ourselves.
So you do nothing. The pain is unbearable now but we drink a lot, which helps. The tumor growing out your ear, the one you deny exists, is now the size of your head. But you’ve found a nice paper bag to cover it so have convinced yourself that no one notices.
Meanwhile the trained doctors have started to get more vocal in telling you that the tumor is getting worse and that you must do something about it. They show you more test results, time lapse videos of the enlarging tumor, photographs of your neighbors cringing at the sight of you. The evidence that you have a tumor is overwhelming. Even the one skeptic who is trained in the field is now admitting that the tumor exists.
But still you deny you have a tumor. Why? In part because you don’t want to shell out the cost of the deductible and co-pays for your insurance coverage. In part because your ego would feel diminished if you admit that 1) you were wrong and 2) let “experts” think for you. It becomes a “rights” and “freedom” issue. It isn’t, of course, but you tell yourself that as a defense mechanism. It also gives you some cover for not taking responsibility for your choices.
The evidence is overwhelming. Human activity is causing climate change and we must act. Denying it doesn’t make it go away.