Are climate deniers assholes?

I love the name of our community page “More Trees Less Assholes”, but I realize that it comes across as judgemental. Who are these assholes that I’m referring to? Who should feel targeted? I talk a lot about climate change so let’s take the example of climate deniers, are they assholes?

It depends

There are different types of climate deniers and they all fall on different places on the asshole meter. Obviously, you won’t find peer-reviewed literature on this subject, it’s just my “humble” opinion.

Over-the-top assholes

At the very top level, the biggest assholes, are the politicians who deny climate change and who take money from the industries that emit the most greenhouse gases. The vast majority of these politicians are knowingly lying to the public and are misusing their power. They are supposed to represent the interests of the people who vote for them, but they choose to defend the financial interests of the companies who pay them. I see this as pure corruption, threatening the existence of our species. and this places them on the very top of our scale.

Huge assholes

Right below are the people who are knowingly spreading misinformation on climate change. Here we find the companies who have a direct interest in denying the effects of greenhouse gases, as well as the few scientists, journalists and pundits who are willing to sacrifice their credibility and integrity by spreading these profitable lies. Oil companies were aware of the effects of CO2 emissions long before the public, but they decided to bury their own findings and instead fund think-tanks that spread misinformation and pseudo-science. Despite their actions, I find that they are a little less guilty than the politicians in the first category. These are powerful, but private individuals who are protecting their financial interests, while endangering the lives of everybody else. They haven’t sworn to defend the public interest. It would be nice of them to stop corrupting our democratic institutions and redirect the money they pour into the promotion of pseudo-science towards solving the problems they are creating.

Assholes

The third category of climate denying assholes is probably going to be the most controversial one. I consider that most left leaning politicians are engaged in a form of overt climate denial. They pay lip service to the issue, but they don’t propose solutions that are radical enough. Scientists are telling us that we have a very narrow window of time to enact a dramatic restructuring of our economies. Very few politicians on the left are proposing anything close to the level of the solutions that are needed. Even the Green parties in Europe are pretending that we can fix the problem by changing our light bulbs and by taxing carbon emissions a bit more. I appreciate the fact that they acknowledge these issues, but not their lack of commitment to effective solutions. This, combined with the amount of power they have, puts them in the assholes category.

Fooled by Assholes

I know that many people would be surprised, but I actually don’t consider normal people who are climate deniers to be assholes. Being in denial or being misinformed and poorly educated, doesn’t make you you a bad person. Their beliefs, their personal choices as consumers as well as their choices as citizens, have negative consequences, but they are not in a real position of power. I don’t think that we should blame those people for the beliefs they hold, we should try to find ways to communicate with them, as hard as it might be. Climate change is really scary. Nobody wants to feel even partly responsible for the destruction of the chances of survival of our species. Denial is an understandable reaction, yet very dangerous reaction.

Comfortable inaction

There are many regular people who are well aware of the dangers of climate change, but who don’t react to the threat in an adequate way. I include myself in this category. I’m completely conscious of the severity of climate change and the environmental crisis in general, yet my priorities don’t reflect my understanding. I know I could be doing so much more, as an individual, as a citizen and as a professional every single day, I know that every action matters. I think my inability to act effectively and consistently is also a certain type of denial. Climate change is a very abstract subject, and my brain is not wired to deal with it in an appropriate way, it works much better with more tangible and immediate threats.

In conclusion, you’re not an asshole. I seriously doubt that any politicians or journalists will read this post. We should be mad at the people with power and we should use our compassion and patience to communicate with our fellow citizens. Climate denial is a dangerous belief and the only way to uproot it from our psyche is through communication.

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