Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Vilifying climate heretics remains socially acceptable.
Climate change is a full-blown religious crusade. News organizations, church leaders, schools, corporations, and governments all insist something dangerous is underway, and that vigorous responses are necessary.
Anyone who dares challenge this doctrine is a heretic. In other eras, religious heretics were burned at the stake. Today, climate skeptics often remain in the closet. Some have been bullied into play acting, into mouthing what they secretly believe to be untrue in order to retain their jobs or their government grants.
It’s accurate, therefore, to describe climate skeptics as a minority – swimming against the tide, surrounded on all sides by a worldview to which they conscientiously object.
Independent thinkers don’t require society’s approval. But there’s a difference between an environment that is non-supportive, and one in which vilification flows like a river from the pages of the New York Times.
Members of other minority communities – be they religious, ethnic, racial, or sexual – are usually accorded tolerance and respect. Yet late last year, Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, called climate skeptics depraved in his Times column.
He declined to use the term ‘skeptic,’ choosing instead an emotionally-laden smear. Calling someone a ‘climate change denier’ is a deliberate attempt to link doubt over wholly unproven predictions about the future to people who dispute historically documented mass murder. (Ellen Goodman, another famous newspaper columnist, made this explicit a decade ago, when she declared that “global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.”)
Krugman insists “there are almost no good-faith climate-change deniers” – just people motivated by “greed, opportunism, and ego.” What rubbish. He has no possible way of diagnosing at a distance the motives of any human being, never mind the thousands of diverse individuals across the globe who dissent publicly, and the multitudes more who do so privately.
This is extreme prejudice. This is outright bigotry. This is a grown adult stamping his foot and bellowing that people who disagree with him are immoral villains.
In other contexts, we make a point of treating minorities with courtesy. But it remains open season on people who think humanity has more pressing problems than climate change, who draw different conclusions from the available scientific evidence, who’ve concluded that science is being abused by political operatives, or who’ve noticed that many similar eco-apocalyptic predictions have failed to materialize.
To be a climate skeptic is to belong to a despised minority, one that respectable people think it’s OK to demonize.