Saturday, February 1, 2020

Karl du Fresne: The absolutism of climate-change ideologues

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 


Ray S said...

Good piece, armchair warriors are everywhere. We would even get comments and in some cases, verbal abuse and threats of physical harm just by openly discussing the perceived poor selection of an all black team.
Your comment that an ideological agenda driving climate-change activists who have seized global warming as an opportunity to overturn the existing economic order is so close to the truth it is frightening.
Keep up the good work.

graham said...

I too am a sceptic, because it seems accepted that the earth has gone through many climate changes over the milennia and earlier versions have definitely not been due to human activity. I also accept that our present activity in the use of fossil fuels isn't helping, so ways of reducing or slowing the impact of change need to be considered. The reality of climate change however is based on factors well outside the capacity of humans to control so in my view it would be better to examine ways we can adapt to it.

Jenny Harrison said...

Let me run this theory by you: at some stage we abandoned religion and in doing so we also abandoned religion’s image of God. We no longer believe in a powerful deity “who made heaven and earth” so what do we put in its place? Man. Ergo, man makes climate change. This has been picked up by firstly a failed politician, Al Gore, and latterly by a schoolgirl who has terrorised her own family into destroying their careers. You are quite right, it is being used by radicals and supported by the unstable and insupportable to tear down centuries of progress and re-build in their own image (sounds like the Soviets? You bet).

Coker said...

I haven't seen the Dom Post letters, but the experience you describe sounds about par for the course. Unfortunately, raising one's head above the climate change parapet seems to be an open invitation to get it cut off — the climate dogmatists think 1984 is a training manual.

Auntie Podes said...

A great article. It pretty much sums-up my own beliefs regarding AGW. By all means clean up our act - in a measured, sensible, non-suicidal manner. There is no nee for all the hysterical hype and downright lies being propagated in the name of AGW.
The climate varies - always has - always will. Our cumulative effect is negligible. It is mainly driven by the activity of the sun and our trajectory around it.

Dave said...

Excellent article and reply comment. I have written opinion articles on a few subjects that have been published, but two opinion pieces regarding my views on climate change that are similar to yours, not questioning its happening but questioning the man made contributions and NZs response of having a carbon neutral goal that will achieve nothing except hurt this country economically and make us more dependent on overseas imports of fuel. Anyway our local NZME paper has refused to publish these articles, I inquired why? and are told "we don't have to give a reason" . Having worked my life in the media I know that the editorial staff are now completely staffed by people of strong left views ie climate change hysteria fanatics and any view that doesn't fit their view will not be published.
Its a very sad place NZ media are in, stifling debate and censoring free speech. We lone voices must not give up at least trying to present a free balanced viewpoint.

Gary Kerkin said...

In some ways, Karl, it is well that open-minded folk are subjected to bitter invective such that they appreciate the depths to which a blind zealot will sink. It now seems to be a truism that those who cannot muster a rational, dispassionate argument will resort to ad hominem invective.

I object, vigorously, to the "denier" epithet because of the insulting perjorative analogy to those who deny the Nazi holocaust and just as importantly, because I do not deny validated evidence.

I, like most of my colleagues, are sceptical of the claim that man made carbon dioxide is responsible for all of the warming of the atmosphere since pre-industrial times as postulated by the IPCC. There is no empirical, real world evidence that the additional (man-made) carbon dioxide which has entered the atmosphere has of itself caused its temperature to increase by any noticeable extent. Indeed the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition is offering a prize, The Augie Auer Prize worth something in excess of $10,000, for such evidence. No applications have been made!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the New Zealand Curriculum should be teaching sound scientific principles such as the scientific method which states that hypotheses can not be proved only disproved by experimentation and unbiased observations. Teaching the science behind vaccination wouldn't go amiss either.