By Elizabeth Dangerfield
The trouble with reasonable people is that they are so reasonable. They play by the rules. They tolerate the intolerable. They try to conquer their prejudices and see the best in people. But even more importantly they think about things, they are open to different views. They seek knowledge and will change their minds if the evidence warrants it. They demonstrate the best in human nature.
There is an unwritten rule that reasonable people must always be reasonable – patient, understanding and uncritical of others, gently hoping that reason will prevail whilst unreasonable people, people who are unmoved by reason, demand that their opinion be considered as equally valid to those who have expertise in the matter. And when our inaction on global warming is heading us towards calamity and the end of the world as we know it, reasonable people are supposed to go quietly into the night.
There is a war being waged against reasonableness and it seems in many places that war is being won by the unreasonable at great costs to our planet and our future. The huge volume of evidence that global warming is caused by industrialisation, particularly the use of fossil fuels; all the predictions over the years that have come to be; the meticulous and extensive research that has been undertaken; the scrutiny and examination of the data; the debates and peer reviews; the many comprehensive reports that have been published; the highly regarded institutions, the thousands of scientists and the 6 million protesters around the world, who have come out in support of action on climate change; none of this has had an impact on climate change deniers.
They are immune to such things. Why? Because their views on climate change are not driven by reason but something more primal. They simply don’t want to believe in anthropogenic climate change because they fear it will take away from them something they value, or they arrogantly believe they know best. Reading the comments of climate change deniers gives a glimpse of what underlies their resistance to accepting the fact of climate change and its impact.
Al Gore hit the nail on the head when he described climate change as an inconvenient truth. Inconvenient to people’s comfortable lives and comfortable beliefs. Many influential climate deniers have vested interests in industries that produce or use fossil fuels. Others don’t want to disrupt the current way of doing business. They don’t want things to change because it might threaten their interests, disrupt their lives and challenge their beliefs. Tied in with this is a mindset that has enormous prejudice against environmentalists who they see as the enemy. Renewable energy cannot be any good because environmentalists have been recommending it for years just as they have been warning about the perils of over population, loss of biodiversity, pollution, destruction of the environment and global warming. To turn around and admit that that the environmentalists were correct is just impossible. So, what do they do instead?
They mount campaigns to discredit institutions, groups and individuals who support action on climate change. These campaigns exaggerate, misrepresent, and simplify arguments to support their position. They use sympathetic media and social media to publish and broadcast falsehoods and misinformation on climate change. They lie with impunity. They are waging an online war against those who support action on climate change through thousands of trolls and bots who use disgraceful language and cyberbullying to intimidate and overwhelm those targeted.
Climate deniers at government level stymie institutions or individuals whose work is likely to support action on climate change by abolishing them, reducing funding, gagging them or stripping them of powers. They fill positions in government and other bodies involved in climate change, such as ministers for the environment, with climate deniers so it is easy to suppress information that confirms climate change is happening. When criticism becomes too much, they pretend to be doing something about climate change while not doing anything effective at all. In fact, they cheat, lie and obfuscate. They label those who protest as eco-terrorists. It is surprising how easily people fall for propaganda and marketing ploys.
Influential climate deniers in the media, gain supporters by appealing to people’s prejudices by applying derogative labels to people and groups who support action on climate change. In fact, they demonise such people. They foster a belief in hearsay, innuendo and conspiracy theories. That makes it easy to dismiss all those thousands of scientists who have clearly and respectfully warned us about the perils of climate change – just convince people they are all part of a worldwide conspiracy to scam us – that takes care of them! This is made easy by the wilful ignorance that everyday climate change deniers repeatedly demonstrate. They do not bother to read any scientific reports on climate change research or even summaries, or to check any facts to do with the issue, and they steadfastly refuse to pay any attention to experts in the field. It is easy to dismiss the arguments in favour of climate change if you have never listened to them.
Climate deniers often base their opposition to climate change firmly on ideology and prejudice. They also use religious beliefs to justify their confidence that nothing needs to be done about global warming. And of course, they can delude themselves into believing they are smarter, more knowledgeable and superior than all those who support climate change action.
But the worse thing climate change deniers do is that they refuse to undertake any assessment of the risks associated with acting on climate change compared with the risks associated with not taking any action to reduce the impact on climate change. This is totally unreasonable especially given the time critical aspect of climate change. We know that with our current lack of effective and concerted global action on climate change it is probable that global warming will rise to 2°C by mid-century and 3-4°C by 2100. Even 1.1°C we are experiencing now is having a drastic impact, 2°C will have an extreme impact on the world but 3 – 4°C will create hell on Earth. Millions of people will be displaced, millions and millions of people will die, up to a million species of living things will become extinct. Ecosystems will be irrevocably damaged, and if tipping points are reached the Earth could become an out of control hothouse. The impact of phasing out the fossil fuel industry has nothing on this.
Reasonable people may be reluctant to condemn climate deniers because they recognise that people are the product of their upbringing, education and experiences. They may believe we should try to persuade them gently and respectfully and give up when we cause any upset. In the meantime, unreasonable people sweep reasonableness aside and when confronted with opinions they don’t like resort to swearing, personal insults, false information and subterfuge and do what they want regardless of the evidence. But like drunk drivers, no matter how nice they are when sober, they need to be called to account when their actions cause harm.
Collectively, climate change deniers are condemning future generations to a terrible future which could have been avoided. They are future thieves and they must take responsibility for what they are doing. We should no longer tolerate these unreasonable people who are wilfully ignorant, self-serving and short-sighted and who are having such a huge influence on us already.
I am not saying we should treat them in the appalling way many of them have treated those who advocate for action on climate change. I am happy to have a respectful conversation with anyone who has doubts about climate change and is prepared to be open minded. But that is a very slow process and meanwhile the war on reasonableness continues. So, I no longer intend to politely pass by the incredibly unreasonable comments and assertions made by climate deniers. Such silences sell out future generations. I am now prepared to tell the truth – I don’t agree with you, you are incorrect, in fact you are totally wrong.
We should challenge climate deniers on every opportunity, not by providing them with factual information, we have tried that, but by challenging their motives, their unwillingness to change, their prejudices and unreasonableness, their intellectual laziness, their lack of credentials, their bias, lack of substance and their lack of caring. We should call them for what they are – future thieves and environmental vandals who are committing crimes against humanity. If you think this is harsh, just remember history show us it is unreasonable people who usually kill off the reasonable. We are reaching the end of the road to salvation and climate deniers are blocking the way forward.
References and Further Reading
What the Earth might look like in 80 years if we’re lucky (and we manage to do something effective about climate change) – and if we’re not (and climate deniers prevail)!
Scientists hate to say ‘I told you so’. But Australia, you were warned, Bill Steffen, The Conversation.
I tried to warn Scott Morrison about the bushfire disaster. Adapting to climate change isn’t enough, Greg Mullins, The Guardian.
Former Australian fire chiefs say Coalition ignored their advice because of climate change politics, Naaman Zhou, The Guardian.
UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That, By David Wallace-Wells, NYMag.
A crying shame: humanity sleepwalking to disaster, Ian Bayly, The Age.
I lost my home in the South Coast bushfires. Here’s what I’d like to say to the PM, Nick Hopkins, The Canberra Times.
‘It’s all about vested interests’: untangling conspiracy, conservatism and climate scepticism, Graham Readfearn, The Guardian.
How Murdoch’s myrmidons murdered climate policy, Michael Pascoe, The New Daily.
The Evidence Brief for a Climate Trial Against Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison, Situation Theatre.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!