One of the sections of my book A New City of God is to do with the nature of denial and how we should work with people who irrationally deny climate change. In that section I suggest that we treat all opinions with respect, and not criticize people who hold views that fly in the face of reason and consensus expert opinion. Yet here is a venerable and highly respected publication — the New York Times — publishing an editorial by Paul Krugman entitled The Depravity of Climate Change Denial. He is writing about the response to the National Climate Assessment report, written by members of thirteen government agencies.
He pulls no punches, particularly when it comes to politicians who dance around obvious truths. Krugman writes,
. . . the Trump administration and its allies in Congress will, of course, ignore this analysis. Denying climate change, no matter what the evidence, has become a core Republican principle. And it’s worth trying to understand both how that happened and the sheer depravity involved in being a denialist at this point.
Wait, isn’t depravity too strong a term? Aren’t people allowed to disagree with conventional wisdom, even if that wisdom is supported by overwhelming scientific consensus?
Yes, they are — as long as their arguments are made in good faith. But there are almost no good-faith climate-change deniers. And denying science for profit, political advantage or ego satisfaction is not O.K.; when failure to act on the science may have terrible consequences, denial is, as I said, depraved.
Businesses with a financial interest in confusing the public — in this case, fossil-fuel companies — are prime movers. As far as I can tell, every one of the handful of well-known scientists who have expressed climate skepticism has received large sums of money from these companies or from dark money conduits . . .
And these motives matter. If important players opposed climate action out of good-faith disagreement with the science, that would be a shame but not a sin, calling for better efforts at persuasion. As it is, however, climate denial is rooted in greed, opportunism, and ego. And opposing action for those reasons is a sin.
Indeed, it’s depravity, on a scale that makes cancer denial seem trivial . . .climate change isn’t just killing people; it may well kill civilization. Trying to confuse the public about that is evil on a whole different level. Don’t some of these people have children?
And let’s be clear . . . Republicans don’t just have bad ideas; at this point, they are, necessarily, bad people.