The Pathetic New Tactic Replacing Climate Change Denial
You can't really deny climate change is a thing anymore, but you can be a dick about the people trying to stop it.
Rod Liddle (Lorenzo Dalberto / Alamy Stock Photo)
Rod Liddle used his column in the Sunday Times last weekend to rinse his teenage daughter.
A day after protesting against inaction on climate change, along with hundreds of thousands of other school kids participating in the Fridays for Future movement, he pointed out that she was on a flight to Norway for a half-term ski trip with her mum. "I hope she got the irony," wrote Liddle, presumably after calling her up repeatedly to make sure she did.
"DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW THIS IS IRONIC?" asked Liddle (probably), as his daughter slumped back in her chair at Gatwick airport, glanced at the departure board and held her mobile phone a little further away from her face.
How dare these kids continue to live in the modern world when they protest against aspects of it? They should live by their principles! Just like all those ardent libertarians who never drive on roads.
This is, of course, nothing new – climate activists continually face this kind of criticism: "Drink bottled water, do you? Everything you believe is a lie."
It's always galling to see a millionaire eco-warrior fly halfway around the world for a conference on global warming. But the children protesting last week weren’t millionaire eco-warriors. They were people who are worried about their future and angry at being sold out.
Climate change denialism has shifted in recent years. As the climate crisis has become more apparent, those who flat out deny that it's happening have lost credibility; it's hard to say that it’s not getting a lot warmer when Tasmania is on fire.
Groups that for years have sludged all over our TV screens touting the benefits of carbon dioxide are now reduced to complaining about the BBC and indulging in strange conspiracy theories about Greta Thunberg.
The new form of climate denial is more insidious, and for the moment more acceptable in polite society. Rather than rubbishing the science that tells us climate change is happening, these new deniers rubbish solutions and mock those fighting for a better world.
For example, the medical journal the Lancet reported in January that people living in the developed world needed to change their diet to mitigate climate change. This triggered a lot of strange people on Twitter, like Kate Andrews from the right-wing think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, who mocked the journal’s recommendation to eat less meat on the basis that it would "reduce choice".
Livestock is currently responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. If we keep eating loads of meat, emissions will continue to rise and the world will be less able to support life. There will be less civilisation, so there will be less meat. Climate change will reduce choice.
To be in the world today is to be caught between realities; a world where companies and politicians can accept that climate change is real while opposing efforts to address it. Where ExxonMobil can contribute $100 million to an alliance to address climate change while pursuing oil projects that will see its oil and gas production rise by 25 perccent in 2025, compared to 2017 levels.
The reality is that it’s getting to a point where, if you belittle those trying to find solution to our changing climate, you make the worst consequences of climate change more likely.
At least with deniers there was a sense that they believed that fears of climate change were nonsense. Now that denying climate change is man-made leaves you outside of grown up conversation, we get paralysing cynicism towards solutions and smug whataboutery aimed at school children. Which brings us back to Rod Liddle.
Years of inaction mean that urgent and decisive action is now needed to prevent an ecological disaster that would threaten the future of civilisation. We need to dramatically reduce emissions and transition to renewable energy. Ultimately, changes in consumer choice – flying less, eating vegetables in season, walking more – won’t make much difference if fossil fuels continue to power the global economy.
In other words, maybe flying to Norway after protesting climate change is a little ironic. But given everything that’s going on, who really cares? There’s more at stake here. To paraphrase Neville Southall: "Well done, Rod. She’s 13."
Joe Sandler Clarke is a reporter for Unearthed .