trump election lie

The draw—and deadliness—of American denial

From vaccines to elections to climate change, denial is doing lasting damage to the country.

Americans have learned a lot about the concept of denial in recent years.


  • COVID-19 denial, where the horrible facts of a global body count of three million, including an American COVID death toll that's nearly twice the U. S. combat toll from World War II. That fact hasn't impressed some who think the pandemic is a hoax;
  • Vaccine denial, an offshoot of the widespread anti-vaccine movement, runs the risk of the U.S. never achieving herd immunity. Many public health experts consider that the dividing line between COVID-19 being a rare disaster and a permanent one;
  • Mask denial, when a public health essential is outweighed by a perception that mask mandates are a violation of individual rights;
  • Election denial, where a mass delusion championed by former President Trump becomes a national distraction at the worst possible time;
  • Gun denial, now a hardy paranoidal in American politics, pits an outlandishly outsized proportion of U.S. gun deaths compared to the rest of the world—from suicides to mass murders;
  • Insurrection denial, on Wednesday, Congressman Andrew Clyde (R-GA) likened the January 6 Capitol riot to "a normal tourist visit" and his colleague Ralph Norman (R-SC) said he hadn't "seen a poll" proving that Trump supporters were among the rioters;
  • Fake News denial, when all of the above draw skeptical reviews, blame it all on the Mainstream Media.

Climate change denial playbook 

If you follow the science and politics of climate change closely you'll recognize the pattern of motivated reasoning. Against a flood of scientific evidence, deniers have released barrel after barrel of red herrings.

Here are but a few:

  • Sunspots, not increasing CO2, are responsible for rising temperatures and extreme weather;
  • Climate scientists are only in it for the money -- unending torrents of research grants, not to mention the gravy train of fame and glory;
  • Activists have a tool to upend the world order — so do "leftist" politicians and governments.

History repeating itself 

Of course, climate denial itself has many fathers.

Merchants of Doubt is the groundbreaking 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. The authors performed political archaeology, tracing climate denial back through its ancestors—often credentialed scientists who deployed specious arguments to deny the impacts of secondhand smoke, ozone-depleting chemicals, and more.

Bottom line: History is repeating itself.

Before our very eyes. Denying the results of a presidential election threatens our democracy. Denying the ways to conquer COVID-19 threatens our health. Denying the ways to combat climate change threatens our future.

Pick your poison.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: CT Senate Republicans

Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less

Biden announces $1.7 billion to support US EV factories

The Biden administration is providing $1.7 billion to retool 11 auto factories for electric vehicle production, aiming to secure jobs and support union labor.

Maxine Joselow reports for The Washington Post.

Keep reading...Show less

Tribes and conservationists work to save spearfishing from climate change

As climate change impacts walleye populations in Wisconsin lakes, Indigenous tribes and conservationists are striving to preserve the traditional practice of spearfishing.

Melina Walling and John Locher report for The Associated Press.

Keep reading...Show less

A climate-themed version of Catan sparks new conversations

A new version of the popular board game Catan, called New Energies, aims to make discussing climate change more engaging by incorporating elements of renewable energy and fossil fuels.

Sachi Kitajima Mulkey reports for Grist.

Keep reading...Show less

Opinion: Building climate resilience fails to protect human health

The Department of Health and Human Services' focus on climate resilience is insufficient to address the extensive health impacts of climate change.

David Introcaso writes for Undark Magazine.

Keep reading...Show less
Montana Youth Climate lawsuit
Credit: Douglas Fischer

Montana’s Supreme Court debates climate law's constitutionality

A landmark climate lawsuit in Montana questions whether a state law supporting fossil fuel development infringes on constitutional rights to a healthy environment.

Nicholas Kusnetz and Najifa Farhat report for Inside Climate News.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
WATCH: Enduring the “endless” expansion of the nation’s petrochemical corridor

WATCH: Enduring the “endless” expansion of the nation’s petrochemical corridor

As mounds of dredged material from the Houston Ship Channel dot their neighborhoods, residents are left without answers as to what dangers could be lurking.

US Steel pollution

Nippon Steel shareholders demand environmental accountability in light of pending U.S. Steel acquisition

“It’s a little ironic that they’re coming to the U.S. and buying a company facing all the same problems they’re facing in Japan.”

Another chemical recycling plant closure offers ‘flashing red light’ to nascent industry

Another chemical recycling plant closure offers ‘flashing red light’ to nascent industry

Fulcrum BioFuels’ shuttered “sustainable aviation fuel” plant is the latest facility to run into technical and financial challenges.

nurses climate change

Op-ed: In a warming world, nurses heal people and the planet

Nurses have the experience, motivation and public support to make an important contribution in tackling the climate crises.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.