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Former Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who died on Tuesday, was infamous for his climate change denial. He once held up a snowball in the U.S. Senate chamber to argue that, because it was snowing in Washington in February, climate change was a “hoax.” The denial that he and others promoted for years persuaded some people to ignore both science and the changes in weather patterns happening around them.

As the world faces record-breaking heat waves and extreme storms, Macalester College anthropologist Ron Barrett poses an interesting question: Can humanity still address climate change without believing it’s true?

Barrett looks back in history to germ theory, at a time when microscopes were just coming into use, to show how people can still make the right choices, even if they don’t understand a threat they can’t see.

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Stacy Morford

Environment + Climate Editor

Monster Soup, an 1828 political cartoon by William Health, shows a woman horrified by a magnified drop of Thames River water. Wellcome Images via Wikimedia

Can humanity address climate change without believing it? Medical history suggests it is possible

Ron Barrett, Macalester College

In the 19th century, many doctors might not have believed germ theory, but they switched to using protective methods anyway for a simple reason.

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