Most people know whether they hold membership in the climate change church, but those outside the church may not know why they find themselves proscribed. Consider four complicated questions to determine whether or not you are a climate denier:
1) Does climate change exist? If you answer no, you’re a denier.
2) Does climate change pose a serious threat to the human race? If no, or you’re not sure, you’re a denier.
3) Would climate change stop if humans stopped burning carbon-based fuels? If no, you are a denier.
4) Can people adopt the measures required to stop climate change? If no, you are a denier.
In other words, any opposition, skepticism, doubt, push-back, or anything at all except hearty agreement in response to climate change orthodoxy makes you a denier. To put the point more strongly, if you have even small doubts about any of these four questions, you are an idiot. On what other issue has the public square given a hearing to polemicists who are plainly wrong in the way they conduct their arguments, and whose main weapon of discourse amounts to accusations of ignorance?
Let’s start with Al Gore. His symbol: the entire earth burning down to a cinder. This is a scare tactic. I automatically dismiss anyone who tries to persuade me with fear. Reason persuades. Logic persuades. Evidence persuades. Fear is just an emotion that comes and goes. You can check it, but you cannot control it very well. You certainly should not make decisions based on it. Yet climate change polemicists lead with fear. That’s their main talking point. They seem to think that if they can make you scared, you’ll believe everything else they say.
That’s bullsh*t. I won’t listen to anyone who tries to scare me into doing something. Warnings of danger – such as ‘stay away from the airplane while the propeller is turning’ – people welcome that kind of caution. To bring images of a burning cinder into the political arena – or the scientific arena for that matter – tells you something about polemicists and their attitudes from the outset. It especially tells you something about how they regard their audience. So does calling their opponents deniers. It is a put-down that recalls the Holocaust. They know it’s a put-down, and they use the term intentionally. The technique associates their opponents with Nazi death camps.
Climate change polemicists do not respect their opponents. They use ridicule, and the threat of ridicule, to keep people in their own camp. If that is the case, why should we respect them?
If polemicists had real confidence in their case, they would argue each of the four questions above in detail, rather than disrespectfully dismiss anyone who expresses the least doubt about any issue. Each question embodies its own complications. Each one does not resolve itself easily. In the past, I have argued one particular point: how do you separate human effects from natural changes in earth’s climate cycle? I have seen no convincing argument that we are able to distinguish human causes from natural causes. The argument does not exist, because we do not know why earth goes through periods of warming and cooling. We do not have evidence required to know.
Yet the polemicists are confident they know everything, including the basis of their opponents’ doubts. They are sure they have everything right. If they did not have such assurance, they would not behave as they do. That is another reason to ignore climate change polemicists: they don’t know what they don’t know. They know everything. You needn’t waste your time listening to people who think they know everything.
Lastly, polemicists do not deserve our time because they commit themselves only to the political arena, to address environmental issues not amenable to political solutions. Every solution they have involves an increase in government’s coercive power. Every solution they propose advances goals for resource management and environmental purity they espoused before they discovered how useful climate change orthodoxy could be for them. This coincidence between their political activities and their commitment to particular environmental practices makes the polemicists less than trustworthy. It seems they do not want to discuss all four questions in detail, because that would distract them from their coercive agenda.
When I started out, I only wanted to write down the four questions at the top. Discontent that these questions, and many related ones, do not receive the attention they deserve leads to these other arguments. Climate change polemicists: 1) use scare tactics rather than persuasion; 2) intentionally treat their opponents disrespectfully; 3) do not know the limits of their own knowledge; and 4) place coercive political goals before other issues related to climate change. All of these points indicate we should turn our attention away from people who hector us endlessly. Scientists do not persuade people by such methods. Nor do open-minded people who have integrity, and who respect the individuals they want to persuade.
In publication since the early 2000s, The Jeffersonian has produced several excellent collections of essays on politics. To learn about these books, and their author, visit Dr. G’s Writing Workshop.