My guess is that most readers have seen the recent 10:10 climate video, in which government teachers and other global warming zealots push red buttons that explode school children and adults who don’t toe the global warming line (if you missed the video, you can watch it here
, though beware, there is a lot of, uh, gore.)
Context is important. Had the video been part of a absurdist Monty Python sketch, I probably would have thought it funny. Had the video been produced by skeptics to mock the stridency of the global warming community, it would have been thought to be over-the-top. But this was a video funded by establishment groups, showing those who opposed them being killed in a horrible manner.
After an initial non-apology that basically read, “we’re sorry you have no sense of humor,” folks who are alarmed about global warming have been spinning the video as a fleeting and isolated error in judgment roughly equivalent to a politician’s misstatement in a debate. This doesn’t entirely wash, however — hundreds of people had to be involved in the making of the video over a period of months, from original concept design through post-production. The group involved well-known directors and actors and prominent activists in the 10:10 organization and its partners. The whole effort was underwritten by a number of major corporations as well as the UK government.
I have been a part of the public climate debate for several years, and unlike those helping to spin this video as a regrettable aberration, in many ways I think such a production was almost inevitable. In particular, alarmists have worked hard to portray climate skeptics not as reasonable people who disagree with them, but as evil, bad-intentioned monsters out to destroy the Earth for their own narrow personal gain.
We can see this ad hominem approach in the comments by Joe Romm
in response to the 10:10 video. Romm is prominent global warming alarmist and proprietor of the web site “Climate Progress,” the climate site launched by the Center for American Progress where he is a fellow. Romm quickly distanced himself from the 10:10 video, calling it “beyond tasteless,” but went on to make the tu quoque argument that “individual anti-science, pro-pollution disinformers, of course, routinely promote hate speech.”
What was telling in Romm’s comments was this: “but those trying to destroy a livable climate, well, for them lies and hate speech are the modus operandi.” It is practically an article of faith among climate alarmists in their echo chamber that skeptics are “trying to destroy a livable climate.”
This is absurd. While one could probably find someone on Earth who holds just about any wacky opinion that can be imagined, I know many of the prominent skeptics world-wide and I am confident none of them are motivated by a desire to destroy the Earth.
Space is too short here to run through the breadth and depth of issues skeptics have with the hypothesis of catastrophic man-made global warming. In short, though, most skeptics do not deny that CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas to warm the Earth, or that man is contributing incrementally to CO2 levels. Skeptics, however, tend to deny the catastrophe — in other words, we argue that many climate forecasts are grossly exaggerating future man-made warming and greatly overstating the effects of small amounts of warming in creating adverse weather conditions (for those interested, the science of the skeptic’s position is in part outlined here).
Suffice it to say that there are reasoned differences that well-intentioned people can have with the catastrophic climate change hypothesis. Certainly it is fair for folks like Joe Romm to argue that the end result of what skeptics advocate is an unlivable climate, but it is grossly unfair to argue that skeptics are motivated by destroying the climate. I could as easily argue that Romm is motivated by keeping billions of residents of developing nations in poverty, because I think that will be the outcome of what he advocates, but this would be an equally unfair attack on his motivations.
Romm’s comments really highlight one of the most abused terms in modern discourse: hate speech. Romm seems to accept what has become the defacto definition of hate speech, which is “since I am motivated by saving society / humanity / the planet, then anybody who disagrees with me must be engaging in hate speech, because by disagreeing with me he or she must therefore hate society / humanity / the planet.”
By hammering for years on the motivations, rather than the science, of skeptics, environmental leaders have built a community of supporters who believe to their core that skeptics are actively plotting to destroy the Earth. While no one would consider violence or government action against those who are arguing questions of science in a fact-based manner, it is not a very long step to advocating such extreme consequences for people one thinks are hatching a Dr. Evil-like plot to destroy the Earth.
In fact, it has not been unusual for prominent activists to publicly call for dire punishments of skeptics. In 2008, NASA’s James Hansen, a leading global warming alarmist, used a speech before Congress
to argue that oil company executives should be “put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature” for fostering doubt about global warming. Robert Kennedy, Jr. called coal companies “criminal enterprises” and said that one coal CEO “should be in jail … for all eternity” both for selling a high-carbon product and being publicly skeptical of global warming. Anonymous web posts calling for death to climate skeptics are practically routine, with one blog post (later deleted) at leftish Talking Points Memo asking “at what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers?”
And thus I think we can better understand how a group of probably well-meaning activists and film-makers could create such crazy, totalitarian vision. In many ways, the film reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds,” which is a fantasy film about a group of jewish soldiers killing Hitler and his high command. Viewers are not offended by the bloodshed and brutality, because the fantasy is so delicious. The same must have been true for those who created and screened the 10:10 video prior to its release.
Rather than an isolated aberration, then, the 10:10 video can be seen as the end result of years of ad hominem attacks meant to marginalize skeptics and make it unnecessary to actually address their concerns about the science. Perhaps this video will mark a turning point where we can finally start talking about the science rather than attacking motivations.