One thing the green movement needs right now like a hole in the head are half-baked, informationally-challenged commentators in left-wing newspapers, journals and websites writing pseudo-academic theses about how, like, totally evil and wrong and in the pay of Big Oil climate deniers are.
It’s just making the whole cause of environmentalism look completely deranged.
Exhibit A – a gazillion word thesis in The Nation trying to argue, in all seriousness, that being opposed to action on climate change is like being against the abolition of the slave trade. The author, Christopher Hayes, graduated from Brown University with a BA in philosophy. Moral: do not, under any circumstances, let your child study philosophy at Brown University.
In the same way that the abolition movement cast a shadow over the
cotton boom, so does the movement to put a price on carbon spook the
fossil fuel companies, which even at their moment of peak triumph wonder
if a radical change is looming around the corner.
Let me pause here once again to be clear about what the point of this
extended historical comparison is and is not. Comparisons to slavery
are generally considered rhetorically out of bounds, and for good
reason. We are walking on treacherous terrain. The point here is not to
associate modern fossil fuel companies with the moral bankruptcy of the
slaveholders of yore, or the politicians who defended slavery with those
who defend fossil fuels today.
In fact, the parallel I want to highlight is between the opponents of
slavery and the opponents of fossil fuels. Because the abolitionists
were ultimately successful, it’s all too easy to lose sight of just how
radical their demand was at the time: that some of the wealthiest people
in the country would have to give up their wealth. That liquidation of
private wealth is the only precedent for what today’s climate justice
movement is rightly demanding: that trillions of dollars of fossil fuel
stay in the ground. It is an audacious demand, and those making it
should be clear-eyed about just what they’re asking. They should also
recognize that, like the abolitionists of yore, their task may be as
much instigation and disruption as it is persuasion. There is no way
around conflict with this much money on the line, no available solution
that makes everyone happy. No use trying to persuade people otherwise.
Exhibit B. This article in Salon explaining: Why climate deniers are winning: the twisted psychology that overwhelms scientific consensus.
There are several flaws in this article, perhaps the most glaring being its failure to consider the most obvious reason as to why climate deniers are winning, namely that the facts are on their side and everybody is starting to realise this.
But my personal favourite moment is the one where the author Paul Rosenberg consults as one of his expert witnesses Australian psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky, author of an infamous 2012 paper suggesting that “denying” climate change is a bit like failing to accept that HIV causes AIDS or that smoking causes lung cancer.
This is a bit like invoking Trofim Lysenko in order to explode the case for Mendelian genetic theory, or Hitler’s 100 Scientists Against Einstein in order to castigate discredited Jewish science, or Johann Joachim Becher to prove the overwhelming case that combustion is caused by a magical substance called “phlogiston.”