Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has an opinion in the New York Times about denialists, aka deniers, those who deny global warming’s reality, its cause (us), or its danger. What he calls them is: depraved.
He notes their association with politics of the Republican party. As Krugman says,
“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.“
Krugman is pretty clear there: denialists aren’t just depraved, they’re sheer depravity. He finds their depravity thus:
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.
The culprits, he finds, are three: money, ideology, and ego. Motives, says Krugman, matter:
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. Smoking kills people, and tobacco companies that tried to confuse the public about that reality were being evil. But 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?
You might agree that “depravity, on a scale that makes cancer denial seem trivial” are some pretty strong words. So are “kill civilization” and “Trying to confuse the public about that is evil on a whole different level.”
Krugman closes with a damning indictment of the Republican party:
And let’s be clear: While Donald Trump is a prime example of the depravity of climate denial, this is an issue on which his whole party went over to the dark side years ago. Republicans don’t just have bad ideas; at this point, they are, necessarily, bad people.
That’s quite a set of strong opinions from Krugman.
Regarding his early thesis, I agree with him that there are almost no good-faith climate-change deniers.
The motives he identifies make sense to me. Certainly money is involved, the Koch brothers and Exxon and BP just start the list of those with a lot on the line. Ideology is also at stake; facing up to global warming means environmental regulations, free-market ideologues don’t like that. And ego? Damn right.
Kill civilization? I hope not. But I realize that it’s possible. And even if civilization isn’t killed, global warming will hurt. A lot. What to do, is an open question. But deny science to avoid having to face it? That’s deranged.
Is it really a Republican-party thing? You bet it is.
So on the whole, I’ll agree with Krugman that “depraved” is an appropriate term.
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