Letter-writers attacking me in The Dominion Post over the past few days have obligingly confirmed everything I’ve been saying about the climate-change zealots’ aggressive intolerance of dissent.
I said in my Dom Post column last Thursday (reproduced on this blog) that the ideology surrounding climate change was capable of being every bit as dogmatic and authoritarian as religious indoctrination, and my critics have done me the great favour of proving me right.
Two correspondents rebuked the paper for giving me space to criticise the recently announced propaganda package under which primary and intermediate school pupils will be subjected to a highly politicised and scientifically contestable syllabus covering climate change.
In the eyes of these dogmatists, the issue is settled and no dissent should be permitted. Their stance neatly demonstrates my point that climate change dissent is the new heresy.
Note that I say dissent, not denial. My column said nothing about whether climate change was real. In fact I’ve been careful to avoid denying it’s happening. But that didn’t stop my critics from charging me with being a denialist – a modern synonym for an enemy of the people, to use a phrase once popular with totalitarian regimes. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the click of Madame Defarge’s knitting needles and the rolling wheels of the tumbrels.
It surely says something that a single, isolated newspaper column should arouse such an angry reaction, given that we're relentlessly bombarded almost daily with stories and opinion pieces that overwhelmingly reinforce climate-change orthodoxy. The message is clear: any heterodox voice that challenges or even questions the presumed consensus around climate change is subversive and must be deterred.
One letter-writer accused me of implying that the climate change programme is compulsory (actually I didn’t, but I confidently predict that many teachers, convinced they’re doing the right thing, will fervently embrace it) and went on to smear me by associating me with “the fossil fuel industry, National and other climate [sic] deniers”. In this person’s rigid, narrow and simplistic world view, there could be no other explanation for my stance than that I have secret allegiances and an ulterior motive. I can’t decide whether she was wilfully dishonest or just thick.
Another correspondent resorted to puerile, schoolyard-level abuse, calling me a dinosaur. That this bigot identified himself with the honorific “Dr” lends weight to the belief that whatever the requirements may be for the attainment of a doctorate, they don't include intellectual maturity or an open mind.
I should exempt from these critical comments a letter in today’s paper by former Labour MP Bill Sutton, who heartily disagreed with my column but avoided insult or misrepresentation. I should also acknowledge a letter from Graham Dick of Masterton (whom I don’t know, despite living in the same town), who correctly observed that what I wrote couldn’t be construed as meaning I was a denier; merely that I objected to the way climate change was being introduced to the school curriculum. Dick characterised the reaction to my column as hysterical and warned against “climate zealot theorists” infiltrating the education system. Amen to that.
Just for the record, I have an open mind on climate change. I remain open to persuasion that it’s happening, and that it’s at least partly man-made. I can even sign up happily to some of the changes we’re being urged to make in the way we live, because they make sense to me regardless of whether we’re hurtling toward a global catastrophe. But I refuse to ignore the large body of evidence that contradicts the doom-mongers (for example, on rising sea levels), I refuse to ignore demonstrably dodgy pseudo-science, and I refuse to ignore the ideological agenda driving climate-change activists who have seized global warming as an opportunity to overturn the existing economic order.
If that makes me a sceptic, fine. Scepticism used to be regarded as indispensable in journalism and it’s an honourable attribute in science too, because the advance of science depends on scientists questioning existing theories. But as the letters attacking me in the Dom Post make clear, climate change is an absolutist ideology that demands 100 per cent buy-in. No deviation will be tolerated.
Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz.