June 17, 2007

Environmental fundamentalists

"Whatever your views on global warming, the term "climate change denial", and the speed with which it has become part of everyday language, shouldn't be welcomed. The term is reductive, as well as offensive in its connotations.

It encapsulates the way the environmental movement, for all its good intentions, is increasingly adopting the sanctimonious, hectoring and stifling attributes of organised religion. To question climate change today is to be cast as a denier of an absolute truth.

That people who used to be called "climate change sceptics" are now called "deniers" is quite deliberate. The aim is to suggest that climate change scepticism is somehow akin to Holocaust denial. The moral repugnance we feel for the latter, we should essentially feel for the former. The connection is subliminal mostly, but some commentators have been more than happy to spell it out.

Guardian columnist and author George Monbiot wrote: "Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and unacceptable as Holocaust denial."

Closer to home, Margo Kingston wrote: "David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial. Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all."

Such attempts at moral equivalence are deeply repugnant and, frankly, stupid."

Environmental fundamentalists are re-branding good and evil. They are not merely closing down debate, they’re locking out free speech, free will and the scientific method while they're at it.

It is a rare thing for those so sure of a cause to be so viciously defensive and so blatantly afraid of having their beliefs held up to the light and tested.

One way or another, it's very likely that history is going to judge us as having been extraordinarily stupid. Like any other brand of fundamentalism, hubris-filled environmentalists are being a tad quick to grab the smug crown.

"I know what I don't like, and that's a censorious culture, the demonisation of people and ideas, and the undermining of rational debate.

The more the most zealous greenies argue that climate change is beyond debate, the science beyond interrogation, and that anyone who disagrees is no better than a Holocaust denier, the more they sound to me like religious extremists, and the more I don't want to listen to them.

Monbiot says that he wants to "make people so depressed about the state of the world that they stay in bed all day, thereby reducing their consumption of fossil fuel". Strewth. I spent my childhood under the tutelage of deeply repressed Christian Brothers and priests, but I don't recall ever hearing anything quite so fun-denying, guilt-inflicting and self-flagellating as that.

And boy, does the green movement seem like a religion sometimes. The similarities are there in the rhetoric. We must reject profligate ways or face climate doom (sinners must repent or go to hell). We ought to feel guilty when we're wasteful, but if our footprint is light on the earth, self-righteousness and superiority are the reward. If we are bad, we should buy carbon credits (aka, do penance). We should never seriously doubt or question the facts, and can demonise those who dare to.

Whatever your opinion on climate change, the undermining of debate by casting sceptics as little better than a bunch of David Irvings should be a cause for concern. It is anti-science and anti-intellectual. The planet may face many threats, but free speech, open debate and scepticism are not among them."


  1. Anonymous11:28 PM

    Good Post Caz.

    Things are certainly being taken to the extreme here!
    Personally, I think it's all a bit of a croc.
    And as much as John Howard gets up my nose. He is right on the money with this climate change stuff!.He never saw it as a priority..
    But Rudd saw fit to throw it in to the ring,to score a few extra points.

    Fuck, I hate politicians...

    The lot of 'em!

    Show me an altruistic pollie and I'll show you a shark turned vegetarian... Puhleeese!

    The public are ceertainly being conned!

  2. The point is that *if* (and that's a big if) AGW is an actual phenomenon, those who believe it can be legislated out of existence by rich world governments hamstringing the productivity of their citizens are grievously mistaken. China and India (and the rest of the developing world) simply won't follow suit. Global CO2 outputs will continue to climb, even if we decide to reduce ours.

    The GW alarmists claim that even if we're not absolutely certain that AGW is real and catastrophic, we should nevertheless work to negate any potential threat as a precaution via CO2 emissions controls etc. This is a complete waste of resources. If AGW is real, it's inevitable and the alarmists need to accept this.
    Any money spent on this issue for prophylactic purposes should be channelled into how to minimise the consequences of AGW - if it ever materialises.

    PS. hello Caz, Kath, Tim, Princess and the rest! How are you all doing?

  3. Anonymous12:53 PM

    As I understand it there is a consensus among the people who are expected to know these thing that global warming is ocurring.

    There is however no consensus on:

    *What is causing it. In particular whether it is the consequence of CO2 or indeed human activity at all.

    *What is the extent of the problem. When will it start causing damage and how much damage? What kind of damage? Is this something that will be of no serious consequence for another century or more? Is it unmitigatedly bad? Are there any major benefits in global warming?

    Is my understanding of the state of play more or less right?

  4. As always Geoff, you have grasped and summarised the state of play almost perfectly.

    In truth, I don’t particularly care about the “consensus” bleating, but I do care about the insistence that the “debate is closed” – such simple and simplistic special pleading over such an important and global matter appals me.

    Besides, there are very real and much respected scientists who, having done their research, are no longer “true believers”. They do exist!

    Apart from that: let’s never ever, ever, ever, EVER forget that SCIENCE IS NOT CONSENSUS.

    How many times do we have to SHOUT that point? Do we need bumper stickers?

    Hmm, okay, so I do care a little bit about the “consensus” bleating. It’ wrong, it’s a lie, it’s inappropriate.

    Far more important though, as you suggest, is what action should be taken. That is the meta-political and uber-economic question.

    It doesn’t matter what “green” solutions you look at, they all include trade offs.

    Carbon trading, the meta-model being tossed about is not what it appears to be.

    Kyoto is a total bust, we know that already.

    Hybrid cars may reduce carbon emissions, but at around three times the cost of other methods readily available for carbon reductions.

    Hot rocks may never turn into a viable technology, solar is a long way from being cost effective, or even efficient, yet we wring our hands over nuclear power. The US has more than 100 nuclear power plants. Some European countries rely almost 100% on nuclear power, and have done for decades. Today’s online news says that more than 90% of Australian’s oppose nuclear.

    Hundreds of millions or billions (depending on how hysterical the doomsayers are) might be displaced because of rising sea levels. For some areas, this might happen within 20 years. The CAUSE is utterly irrelevant. If the event IS probable, where are the plans for an organised retreat from those threatened areas? Seriously?! I hope no one comes running hysterically to me in twenty years time about the refugee crisis, or the mass deaths. There is no excuse why these potential outcomes cannot be avoided. Relying on “turning back the tied” would be dumb. Finger pointing in a two decades would be dumb. If you know something will happen, you plan, you adapt, you take action, you mitigate the risks. In this example, you start moving people, and you do it now, slowly, a few hundred here, a few thousand there. I’ll bet every region where this is a risk is still issuing building permits, right?

    Australia, believe it or not, has more water than any other country (all others? or nearly all other countries?). Other countries do have a water crisis. We don’t. We have obscenely neglected and fucked-up management and infrastructure for the wealth of water that we do, in fact, have, relative to other countries. How did we get in this state, for goodness sake? Oh that’s right, sub-rate politicians, a conservative electorate, and greenies opposed to building any worthwhile infrastructure for current and future generations. A big part of our water crisis is down to environmental lobbying and politicians too weak willed to do the right thing, to present the case to the electorate. They’d rather placate minority radical groups.

    The above are just a handful and superficially covered matters. There are thousands of other examples, and it will only get worse.

    Why would anyone throw billions of dollars into doing pointless things, or things that are barely less-bad than is already the case, or that will actually be worse?

  5. Hey James!

    Nice to see you still taking an interest in the world, while you travel it ... which is entirely to be expected, really.