If you don’t believe in climate change you’re as bad as Hitler.
There. I’ve just precised a long article which appeared in the New York Times over the weekend with the title The Next Genocide.
Rather worryingly it was the work not of some fruitcake environmental activist but of someone who really ought to know better – a professor of history, at Yale no less, called Timothy Snyder.
It starts dramatically with an Einsatzgruppe commander lifting a Jewish child in the air and saying: “You must die so that we can live.”
This is a classic move from the liberal-left playbook. Sock ’em with an emotive image which lays out the terms of your argument, viz: every time you say you don’t believe in climate change another baby dies. And, oh, by the way, did I also mention it makes you a Nazi?
Well, I suppose Professor Snyder has got to find some way of selling his books. Really, though, if he’d tried to write a bestseller called Little Red Cook: How To Diet The Mao Great Famine Way or Back To The Land: Rediscover Your Inner Peasant With Pol Pot or Dying for Success: 10 No Nonsense Boardroom Tips from Joseph Stalin he could scarcely have misrepresented history to more dubious ends.
Yes, the Nazis were very green. Snyder got that bit right. They passed the first national environmental laws: the Reich Nature Protection Law of 1935. They were big on organic food (Himmler wanted his SS to eat nothing but). They were into animal rights. (In 1933 Goering said that anyone found guilty of animal cruelty or experimentation should be sent to concentration camps. No really). And of course Hitler himself was mostly vegetarian and fiercely anti-smoking.
But where Snyder goes completely wrong is with paragraphs like this:
Hitler spread ecological panic by claiming that only land would bring Germany security and by denying the science that promised alternatives to war. By polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, the United States has done more than any other nation to bring about the next ecological panic, yet it is the only country where climate science is still resisted by certain political and business elites. These deniers tend to present the empirical findings of scientists as a conspiracy and question the validity of science — an intellectual stance that is uncomfortably close to Hitler’s.
His argument is so weird, incoherent and far-off here that you half expect him to go on to explain how it was the Jews who were responsible for the Holocaust and how Churchill provoked World War II.
Certainly, the way he chooses to put “deniers” in the same category as Hitler could scarcely be further off-beam.
As I put it in Watermelons:
There’s only one side of this debate which believes its cause is so just and urgent that it relieves them of the need to observe any standards of decency. There’s only one side which thinks it’s OK to: rig public enquiries, hound blameless people out of their jobs, breach Freedom of Information laws, abuse the scientific method, lie, threaten, bribe, cheat, adopt nakedly political positions in taxpayer-funded academic and advisory posts that ought to be strictly neutral, trample on property rights, destroy rainforests, drive up food prices (causing unrest in the Middle East and starvation in the Third World), raise taxes, remove personal freedoms, artificially raise energy prices, featherbed rent-seekers, blight landscapes, deceive voters, twist evidence, force everyone to use expensive, dim light bulbs, frighten schoolchildren, bully adults, increase unemployment, destroy democratic accountability, take control of global governance and impose a New World Order.
In other words Professor Snyder, it’s your friends the greens who are the true heirs to Nazism. They’re the ones fomenting the crisis of hysteria which has led to so much bad policy, environmental destruction and human misery.
And the good guys – the heirs to the people who stood up to the Nazis – are all those deniers you so casually malign.
They’re the ones who’ve checked their facts, rejected Malthusianism and pessimism, who recognise that the best hope for the planet is by harnessing human ingenuity and energy, not by trying to constrain and curtail it.
But obviously, you’d need to be a serious historian to be aware of these subtleties.