Treason in the Air

COPENHAGEN – Discussions about global warming are marked by an increasing desire to stamp out “impure” thinking, to the point of questioning the value of democratic debate. But shutting down discussion simply means the disappearance of reason from public policy.

In March, Al Gore’s science adviser and prominent climate researcher, Jim Hansen, proclaimed that when it comes to dealing with global warming, the “democratic process isn’t working.” Although science has demonstrated that CO2 from fossil fuels is heating the planet, politicians are unwilling to follow his advice and stop building coal-fired power plants.

Hansen argues that, “the first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections, but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash.” Although he doesn’t tell us what the second or third action is, he has turned up in a British court to defend six activists who damaged a coal power station. He argues that we need “more people chaining themselves to coal plants,” a point repeated by Gore.

The Nobel laureate in economics Paul Krugman goes further. After the narrow passage of the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill in the United States House of Representatives, Krugman said that there was no justification for a vote against it. He called virtually all of the members who voted against it, “climate deniers” who were committing “treason against the planet.”