One contemporary issue that I happen to have a fair amount of knowledge about is the issue of global warming. My first real job after college involved working for an environmental consulting firm, which organized climate change research.
In doing this work, I encountered a deliberately engineered campaign to cloud the public mind and obscure the debate on global warming with a carefully designed and marketed set of half-truths and outright lies. I currently hold the opinion that those who engineered the global warming denial campaigns of the last 20 years seriously rank with the Nazis of Germany and the Stalinists in terms of evil.
This is not hyperbole. The engineers and financiers of these campaigns show themselves to be as unconcerned about the destruction of whole cities or countries and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people as the Nazis and Stalinists showed themselves to be.
I suspect that future generations will be able to name at least four Presidents from America's past without effort, Three of these will be Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. The fourth will be George W. Bush. The reason that Bush's name will come up is because future generations will have monuments to remind them of the work his administration did (or did not do). Among these will be the watery ruins of Miami and New Orleans, for example.
The denialist arguments had no merit based on reason. A person with a moral concern not to contribute to destruction comparable to that suffered in World War II – a person who cared about such things – would have been motivated to look at the data and would have seen the flaws. A morally concerned person would have then asked, "Would a good person risk being responsible for this level of destruction for the sake of money?" and would have answered, "No."
A moral person would have said, "The people need the facts. Even if I, personally, have not made up my mind on the issue of global warming, I am going to feed the people facts, not fallacies scientifically engineered to maximize confusion and paralyzing people against taking action that could have prevented the destruction of future cities and cost future lives."
A moral person would have cared.
One of those fallacious arguments was the argument, "The future is uncertain, so we should do nothing until we have more data."
One of the implications of uncertainty is that there is as much of a chance that things will be worse than expected than there is that the situation will be better than expected.
Consider a case in which a researcher tells a supervisor, "Our best estimate is that, if you set off the explosion now, you will kill six people. We are 95% confident that it will be somewhere between 0 and 20."
To this, the manager responds, "Good. You don't know that anybody will be killed in the explosion, so set off the explosion."
This is the moral quality of those who participated in the global warming denial campaign, except the cost is not between 0 and 20 lives. The cost is the destruction of whole cities (though at a rate where the population will be able to move out) and the deaths of tens to hundreds of millions (from disease, starvation, thirst, and wars caused by population migrations due to sea level rise and climate change).
A growing body of evidence is suggesting that the estimates as to the amount of destruction that we will see as a result of global warming will actually exceed the estimates from the computer model. The models predicted that the arctic ice cap would not disappear until 2050. Now, they are looking at 2015. The models did not predict the melting of the Greenland ice sheet – sea level rise was sue almost exclusively to thermal expansion. Now, we're looking at 20+ feet of sea-level rise from Greenland’s melting alone, with nearly 10 times as much waiting to melt in Antarctica.
This is the cost of hyperskepticism, when practiced by those who willing to dismiss the destruction of whole cities and the deaths of perhaps hundreds of millions of people for the sake of their own profit.