Desperation Breeds Contempt for Free Speech, Freedom Itself
by H. Sterling Burnett
There’s an old legal adage, “When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on your side, pound the table.” Climate alarmists have reached the point where they are not just pounding the table, they are breaking the table and using its pieces to pound on anyone who would dare dissent from the climate orthodoxy humans are causing catastrophic global warming.
Throughout 2015, in our publications and other outlets, I have described instances where alarmists tried to use the force of law to suppress debate, threatening the jobs and very freedom of climate skeptics or climate realists like myself. In the August issue of Environment & Climate News, David Legates discussed how he was removed from his position as Delaware state climatologist for his views on climate science. And earlier this year I described witch hunts launched by members of Congress against climate researchers who have disagreed with the Obama administration, and the institutions employing them, demanding they reveal any and all funding for their work and any emails, research, or exchanges possibly related to testimony they gave to Congress.
This suppression of legitimate dissent is not limited to the United States. The Telegraph recently reported France’s top television weatherman has been fired for criticizing the international climate change experts in a promotional video he produced to publicize his book, Climate Investigation. Author Philippe Verdier, weather chief at France Télévisions, the country’s state broadcaster, says leading climatologists and political leaders have “taken the world hostage” using misleading data. Verdier wrote, “We are hostage to a planetary scandal over climate change – a war machine whose aim is to keep us in fear.” For his efforts to confront climate alarmism, Verdier was suspended. And this in France, the country where just months ago thousands took to the streets to defend free speech in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo assassinations by Islamic terrorists.
Just two weeks ago in Climate Change Weekly I noted alarmists are calling for the International Court of Criminal Justice to settle the science of climate change, while in the United States some researchers are calling for racketeering trials for climate skeptics.
Intimidation and persecution of climate skeptics is not new. More than a decade ago some alarmists started to call for Nuremberg-type trials for climate realists. But lately, the voices have become more shrill, and the use of intimidation and the threat of force become more immediate. I attribute this ratcheting up of the pressure on climate realists to three factors. First, measurable facts on the ground are increasingly undermining the so-called scientific consensus humans are causing climate change. Temperature increases have stalled while atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have grown. In addition, polar ice has recovered and hurricane numbers and intensity continue to fall well below historic averages. All of these facts confound climate models: The gap between climate model predictions and actual temperature measurements grows larger.
Second, polls demonstrate climate realists are winning the battle for the public’s hearts and minds. Fear of climate change ranks at or near the bottom of people’s public policy concerns, and very few people consider a candidate’s views on climate change an important factor when they vote.
Third, the 21st United Nations climate conference (COP 21) is coming up, and like every conference since the 2007 one in Kyoto it seems doomed to fail to produce a binding treaty restricting fossil fuel use and expanding governments’ controls over the world economy.
I long for the days when liberals were liberal. It’s time for climate alarmists and the politicians who follow their diktats like lap-dogs to brush up on their John Stuart Mill:
This, then, is the appropriate region of human liberty. It comprises, first, the inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience, in the most comprehensive sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral, or theological. The liberty of expressing and publishing opinions … [is] almost of as much importance as the liberty of thought itself, and resting in great part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it.
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.