For decades powerful forces have willfully exploited people's misunderstanding of science and their feelings of being belittled by others.
The right wing media radio and TV hosts tap into listeners' feeling of inadequacy and turns that into a weapon to use to attack scientists, liberals and anyone who represents them.
"Those smarty pants liberals think they are smarter than you! They aren't! They aren't perfect! Look at how they were wrong in the past about the climate! Why listen to them now?"
Greta represents all the people who laughed at them. She is also young and female.
"How dare a 16-year-old girl tell you what to do? Who does she think she is?"
Encouraging people to be aggrieved is a powerful part of right wing media appeal. Digby, Atrios and Sam Seder have pointed this out for years. They also push the underlying theme that liberal elites have been laughing at conservative listeners. Now that they are in power it's time to rub that laughter into their smug liberal faces.
People ask me. "Why do people deny human caused climate change?" One answer I give is obvious.
- Their job/income depends on disputing the science.
Some ask, "Why do people argue about the science that shows climate change?" One answer is that it is a way to slow down change from the status quo.
- If everyone listened to scientists and acted right now millions will have to change their lives and disrupt the status quo. They think it's too much too fast.
If they respond, "I get those reasons, but what's behind the vicious attacks on Greta?" I have a different kind of answer. It makes them happy.
- They enjoy sticking it to people who made them feel "less than" in the past. Greta represents all the people who ever made them feel wrong, stupid, weak and inadequate.
My Vulcan side thinks evidence and illustrations of rising sea levels should convince people. But my human side reminds me that emotions drive most human actions and behaviors. If I want to get humans to act on my facts I must also find a way to get their emotional support for them.
The people who want to block action on climate change will cast doubt on the facts but also use strong human emotions to attack the people telling those facts.
It's not about the science, it's about the people
When I was a little Vulcan I was thrilled by the idea of going into space. I have always been amazed at what you could learn with science and what technology could do. (Today's example, NASA finds 'water ice' just below the surface of Mars.
As I got older I figured out I didn't have the aptitude and brains for pure science nor the mechanical ability for technology. Instead I ended up helping those who did do this work explain it to others.
One of the things I learned is that not everyone responds the same to being unable to grasp science. Especially if they felt belittled when talking with scientists and technologists about their work.
And belittling happens. I've worked with very smart men in science and technology who were condescending to everyone they didn't think were as smart as they were. I showed them what their condescension looks like and how it can come back to hurt them. When they saw the problem they worked to fix it. But not everyone cares about how they come across to others. "It's not my problem they don't understand!"
The people who want to deny climate change have found the right buttons to push for different groups of people. For one group they say, "Ignore the science to keep your jobs."
To another group they say, "Argue about the science because it'll slow change."
For yet another group they say, "Attack this person who represents everyone who made you feel stupid, weak and inadequate in the past. Have fun with it!" These people love to attend Trump's Nuremberg hoedowns.
It doesn't matter if in the future cities will be underwater because they didn't act. They can have fun attacking Greta RIGHT NOW.
Sticking it to the scientists and liberals who made them feel "less than" in the past is a great feeling. When a powerful group leader attacks Greta too that gives them great joy. (Read about Identity Fusion here)
People on the left also understand the joy that comes from mocking our enemies. A world of memes shows what fun that can be. However, there is a difference. In most cases we can point to the significant crimes and morally repugnant acts our targets have committed that justify our mocking attacks on them.
Giving a face to an issue to create an enemy is an old strategy. Chanting hate slogans and directing people's insecurities toward a person or group strengthens their hate.
But hate isn't the only binding emotion. Watch crowds chanting "Lock her up!" They look happy, even joyful. The right is using the joy of the hate to create solidarity for their beliefs and stop action on climate change.
We need to understand how and why individuals act the way they do if we want to change their behavior or stop it. I believe we will eventually get people to understand and change their behavior.
As Craig Mazin, the writer for the Chernobyl mini-series said, "People can get away with a lie for a very long time, but the truth just doesn't care." The people denying that humans are causing climate change can't keep the truth at bay forever.
Greta is pushing the truth in their faces. That makes me happy. Joyful even.